2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: October Concord, NC--Dec. 29, 2006 -- With the season winding down, six events remained on the World of Outlaws schedule as the calendar turned to October. An unseasonably warm day greeted the competitors...
2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: October
Concord, NC--Dec. 29, 2006 -- With the season winding down, six events remained on the World of Outlaws schedule as the calendar turned to October.
An unseasonably warm day greeted the competitors at the famed Knoxville Raceway on October 7 for Budweiser Night, which was originally postponed by rain in April. With 43 cars signed in, an exciting night of racing was on tap.
The day started out for Donny Schatz with an induction onto the Knoxville Nationals Wall of Champions, for him and his parents, who are his car owner's, after their win in the famed event in August. After the ceremonies were concluded, it was back to business for Schatz.
He took a big gamble in the A-feature that evening and it paid off in the form of his 15th A-Feature win of the season.
While everyone was running the low side of the track, Schatz searched the middle and high side of the racing surface for a line that no one else was running. He found it on the high side of turns three and four, and used a bold pass on the cushion coming off turn four on lap 16 to sweep around first Randy Hannagan who was running second, and then leader Craig Dollansky.
In the matter of a couple hundred feet, Schatz went from third to the lead and then weaved his way through traffic to make another stop in RacinSoles Victory Lane.
Dollansky, who led the first 15 laps of the race, closed back up on Schatz with five laps to go, but got bottled up by lapped traffic and settled for the runner-up spot. Hannagan, who started from the pole, finished third as he continued to chase his first win of the season. Terry McCarl was fourth, with Daryn Pittman fifth.
"I'm happy to get back to victory lane," said a triumphant Schatz. "It doesn't matter if it's win (number) five or fifteen. We try to win as many as we can and get this championship wound up."
Schatz continued to hold a 300-plus point lead in the championship standings, as the series headed back to Wilmot (Wisc.) Speedway the following week, for an event that was postponed by rain in late September.
As was expected a very chilly night awaited the drivers, but what followed was one of the most thrilling races of the season, before a very large and enthusiastic crowd that braved the elements. Mark Dobmeier filling in for Brooke Tatnell who was back in his native Australia with his father George, who is battling cancer, kept the crowd on their feet.
Dobmeier had never seen Wilmot Speedway until the afternoon of the race. He also never had sat in the No. 8 car that he would be driving until Saturday afternoon. Last but certainly least he had never won a World of Outlaws event until Saturday evening. He did not know until Thursday that he would be driving the car. The native of North Dakota, edged rookie Jeremy Campbell and Daryn Pittman, by mere inches in a thrilling last lap battle to earn the victory.
The trio raced side-by-side down the back straight-a-way trading the lead several times on the white flag lap. The lap began with Pittman in the lead, until Campbell inched to the front in turn three, then Pittman charged back to retake the lead in turn four, and finally Dobmeier squeezed by both of them right under the checkered flag, with Campbell coming home second and a spinning Pittman crossing the finish line backwards to take the third spot. Craig Dollansky was fourth with rookie Justin Henderson fifth.
"I can't even put it in perspective yet," said a smiling Dobmeier, surrounded by family and friends. "It doesn't seem like it is real yet. It's incredible. I think it will take about a month for this to sink in."
A solid sixth-place run helped Schatz maintain a sizeable cushion in the point standings, as the series headed to Arizona for the Outlaw Desert Classic, where Daryn Pittman looked to return to the winner's circle.
All week long, all Pittman could think about was how close he was to winning at Wilmot (Wisc.) Speedway. He entered the race on October 20 at Manzanita Speedway with one thing on his mind, and that was to pick up that win that he feels he let slip away.
Pittman used a dominating performance to pick up his fifth World of Outlaws A-Feature win of the season, leading wire-to-wire in the 30 lap contest, as he earned his first trip to Racin Soles Victory Lane at the storied half-mile, in the opening night of the Outlaw Desert Classic.
Pittman held off a charging Donny Schatz over the last two laps to pick up his 19th career series win. Schatz closed to within a few car lengths but came up just short. Craig Dollansky, Terry McCarl, and Joey Saldana rounded out the Top-Five.
"We're excited about the win," said Pittman, who is fourth in series championship points. "It was a good win."
Heading to USA Race Park in Tucson, Schatz was closing in on his first series title, but that took a back burner after he and the rest of the series learned of the passing of series founder Ted Johnson at his home in Texas on October 20.
Schatz is determined to win every time he takes to the track, but he wanted to win even more at USA Race Park to honor his friend Johnson.
On a night filled with emotion, Schatz led wire-to-wire and dedicated the win to Johnson and the legacy he created, that will last forever. Tatnell was second, with McCarl third, Dollansky fourth, and Pittman fifth.
"We definitely wanted to win this one," said Schatz. "Everybody had a heavy heart tonight. I was around ten years ago when Ted was still here. It was just an emotional night for everybody. I don't think anybody wanted to race, but we wanted to go out and do everything that we could."
The night began with a moment of silence at the driver's meeting, which was later followed by another moment to reflect on the life of the charismatic and influential founder of the series, with all the drivers and officials, assembled on the front straight-a-way. An opening invocation followed this tribute. As is tradition, the missing man formation was in-place during the four-wide salute to the fans, to honor Johnson and show respect for all he did for the sport of sprint car racing.
For Schatz, who had grown close to Johnson over the last several years, the win was one that he will always remember. The native of Fargo, North Dakota remembers attending World of Outlaws events as a boy, and dreaming of one day racing with the series and being able to call himself an "Outlaw." This all was made possible for Schatz and countless other drivers by the hard work, dedication, and passion that Johnson had for sprint car racing and life in general.
"I told myself that I would do my best to try to get a clean sweep for him," said Schatz. "I got a little help from him. We came up one spot short in the dash. All in all, it was a good night, and it finishes off a good year. It was heartwarming to go out this way tonight and to have it in his honor."
Heading into the season finale weekend at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway, all Schatz had to do was sign in at the pit gate and take the green flag to claim, the title, but he raced as hard as he could every lap until the final checkered flag flew.
After returning the previous weekend and coming home second at USA Race Park, Brooke Tatnell was determined to pick up a win before the season was over.
Tatnell had made it a tradition to call his father George, who lives in their native Australia, before every race. Friday was no different as he picked up his cell phone, to speak with the man who taught him everything he knows about racing. On a sunny afternoon that turned into a very pleasant evening, Brooke had a good feeling and told his dad during their chat, that he would win for him.
After 25 laps of preliminary feature racing for the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, Tatnell was true to his word as he rolled into RacinSoles Victory Lane. For Brooke, who returned to his native land a couple weeks ago to be with his father, as the elder Tatnell battles cancer, the victory was extra meaningful.
Tatnell slid around Danny Lasoski on the low side of turn two on lap six, and withstood a lap 17 restart, holding off a hard charging Craig Dollansky, to claim his first preliminary feature win of the season. Paul McMahan came home fourth, with Joey Saldana in fifth.
"It was an awesome night, for an awesome team," said Tatnell. "These guys have been doing a great job all year. This is a tribute to the whole team...I called my dad and said we were going to win this one. I just had that gut feeling."
Tatnell would be a contender for the final checkered flag of the year along with Schatz who looked to cap off his title winning season in style.
Schatz didn't look at the World of Outlaws Sprint Series championship point standings very often this season. In fact you could probably count on one hand the number of times that he did glance at them. The only number he cared about on the stats sheet was the number of wins that he had. He believed that as long as he kept winning races, the points would take care of themselves.
Schatz picked up his first win of the season on March 9 at The Dirt Track
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the same day he took the lead in the point standings. This was a lead that he would never relinquish through the remainder of the season en route to claiming the 2006 World of Outlaws Sprint Series title.
The native of Fargo, North Dakota capped off his title winning season by picking up the final checkered flag of the season at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway, for his series best 17th A Feature win of the season.
He began the night by setting fast time of the 39 cars that took time on the spacious half-mile. Schatz backed that up with a very solid second place run in his heat race that qualified him for the dash, where he would earn the sixth starting spot in the A-Feature.
Schatz started sixth on Saturday night, and quickly made his way to fourth on the first lap, and then worked his way into the runner-up spot. After running second for a couple laps, he looked low on Brooke Tatnell on the eighth lap and briefly took the lead in turn two, but Tatnell powered his way back around Schatz to retain the lead heading down the back straight-a-way. On the following lap, Schatz used the exact same move on the low side of turn two to make the pass for the lead and ultimately the win. He then weaved his way through traffic to make his way to RacinSoles Victory Lane.
Behind Tatnell in second, it was Pittman, Saldana, and McMahan.
"This is what we were shooting for," said Schatz, the 1997 series rookie of the year. "You have to set yourself high, and we set ourselves high for a lot of wins and we got a lot of wins. You always want more, but it was a great year and we did what we wanted to do. We finally won a championship and did it in style. We did it winning races, and had a little luck too. We were very consistent and that is what makes it fun."
Schatz's final championship point total was 8,314. Dollansky finished second, with Saldana third, Pittman fourth, and Jac Haudenschild fifth. For his title, Schatz earned $200,000 and also was presented with the champion's trophy and inaugural ring at the World of Outlaws Award banquet at The Bally's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, to close out the season.
The 2007 World of Outlaws season kicks off with the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Mopar Speed Shop February 9-11 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida.