HOME SWEEP HOME: Donny Schatz Rolls to Duel in the Dakotas Title West Fargo, ND -- June 17, 2006 -- Donny Schatz brought a broom with him to Red River Valley Speedway on Saturday night and made it a clean sweep of the Duel in the Dakotas. The ...
HOME SWEEP HOME: Donny Schatz Rolls to Duel in the Dakotas Title
West Fargo, ND -- June 17, 2006 -- Donny Schatz brought a broom with him to Red River Valley Speedway on Saturday night and made it a clean sweep of the Duel in the Dakotas. The hometown crowd was on its feet for most of the thrilling feature from the first lap, when Schatz took the lead entering Turn 1. From there he set sail and never looked back, withstanding a few late cautions.
Schatz was able to maneuver the ParkerStore J&J wherever he wanted on the track as he picked up his series leading sixth feature win of the season. He made a couple of bold moves by splitting two cars in traffic to distance himself from the other lead pack cars.
Tyler Walker and Joey Saldana staged an epic battle for the runner-up spot, reminiscent of the battle in the dash on Friday night between Saldana and Schatz. On Saturday night, Saldana and Walker traded the second spot countless times, with each using text book slide jobs as well as power moves down the straightaways.
Walker in the Volcano Joe's Coffee/Wirtgen Maxim started from the pole and finished second for the second consecutive night while Saldana in the Mopar-powered Dodge/Curb Records JEI crossed the finish line in third after a race-long duel with Walker.
When the checkered flag flew, Schatz had led all 30 laps of the event and pocketed $12,000 for his efforts, in addition to the $5,000 he won on Friday night by picking up the victory in the preliminary feature in the co-sanctioned even with the All Star Circuit of Champions and the Northern Outlaw Sprint Association.
"This team worked awful hard," Schatz said. "A lot of people have stood behind us for a lot of years and they're finally starting to reap the rewards. We just try to win everything we can and there's nothing better than coming home to Fargo and winning."
Schatz continues to hold the lead in the season standings. Winning in front of his hometown crowd capped a very emotional day for Schatz, as well as the rest of the sprint car and racing community, which mourned the passing of long-time sprint car promoter Fred Brownfield.
"To get in victory lane here at home, there is nothing more exciting," Schatz said. "We fell a little short last year and tried to make up what we could this year. We raced today with heavy hearts. The loss of Fred Brownfield was a shock to the racing world. Life has to go on for us, and we send our sympathies to his family."
At the start of the race, Schatz got a good jump on Walker and made the high groove work to his liking. Both he and Saldana were locked into the dash by virtue of their top-four finishes on Friday night in the preliminary feature so they did not have to run the heat races, nor did Walker or Craig Dollansky.
"I tried to go as quick as I could," Schatz said. "The track got slick all the way to the top, and I knew I could get a good run there. Obviously he beat me that way in the dash to the top. If he'd of run second in the dash, it may have been a different situation. We ran second in the dash and got that outside start. Just glad to get to victory lane here."
Schatz, who is in his 10th year of competing with the World of Outlaws, knows that at certain times a driver has to take risks, especially when fighting for a win -- and he was determined to win for the large crowd that came out to cheer him on. He knew he was competing against some tough competition not only from the Mean 15, but also from the All Stars.
"The car was awesome," Schatz said. "I may have pushed the envelope there, but when you race against the World of Outlaws, you have to go to the envelope and sometimes overboard. I saw an opportunity to split two cars and I did it. Becca [Anderson] may have had to get on the brakes, but that's the way it goes. I did what I had to do to put some room in between the second place car. I think that's what helped us win the race."
Schatz now has an amazing 16 top-five finishes. Along with his sweep this weekend, he also had won on the half-mile at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and looks to extend that as the series heads on Friday and Saturday to the famed Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway for the Mediacom World of Outlaws Shoot-Out Presented By Sonic, America's Drive-In.
Walker who won his first race of the season on Thursday night in an unsanctioned event, continued his strong string of runs with the World of Outlaws. He backed up his second place run on Friday night in the preliminary feature with another runner-up finish in the 30-lap finale. He battled with Saldana lap after lap as the two tried to keep Schatz in their reach. In addition, he won the dash to earn the pole position for the feature event.
"Second is not the win, but it helps get us to the next race," said Walker, of Los Angeles. "We'll take it. We learned a lot. Since Guy [Forbrook] and I started working together again, we want to win. We're not happy with second but we'll take it anytime because it's better than third."
Walker is still getting the feel for sprint cars again, after spending a large portion of the past two seasons competing in the NASCAR Busch Series. He has six career feature wins with the World of Outlaws and believes number seven is just around the corner.
"We didn't hurt anything on the cars," said Walker. "Larry Woodward from Volcano Joe's was out here and he got to have some fun. It's just fun to be back out here. The more Guy and I race together, the better we're going to get, and these guys will be in trouble here soon."
Saldana gave it everything he had during his spirited battle with Walker. The two used up most of the track as they traded the position countless times including many instances on the same lap.
"Tyler and I had a good race," Saldana said. "I wish we would have been racing for the win. Donny Schatz was really good this weekend. I felt like we gave the race away last night, but we weren't good enough tonight. We hung in there and bounced back. It's better than not finishing."
Saldana, who hails from Brownsburg, Ind., has finished outside of the top-10 only once since the beginning of June. He currently sits solidly in the top-five in the season standings.
"Two top-fives with these guys is really good," Saldana said. "Tyler is obviously strong. They have a good program. Like I said, Tyler and I had a great race, but we were racing for second. We just have to get better if we are going to get Schatz."
Saldana brought out a new car a few races ago as he and his Willie Kahne-led crew continue to make adjustments as they seek their third win of the season. Not having to compete in a heat race on Saturday night left the team guessing on the set-up, especially after the track was reworked before the dash rolled out.
"The track turned out pretty good for what we got," Saldana said. "Even though it laid rubber, it was pretty fast, on the top and wherever. It was really good racing."
Brooke Tatnell in the Race Outfitters/Castrol Eagle had one of the strongest cars late in the finale of the Duel in the Dakotas, surging from the 12th starting spot to get around Craig Dollansky on the final lap to secure the fourth spot for his 10th top-five of the season. He worked high and low and used some well-calculated moves for one of the best drives of the night.
Tatnell, a native of San Souci, NSW, Australia, was able to share his joy after the race via telephone with his father, George, who is in Australia recovering from some medical problems.
Craig Dollansky put together another strong run as he came home in the fifth spot. The native of Elk River, Minn., made some gutsy moves during the race as he battled to keep Schatz and the other leaders in his sights. He was up to second on the first lap of the race and battled side-by-side with Walker on both the high and low side.
"We definitely were trying to shoot for the win," Dollansky said. "Once Donny got a couple of lapped cars behind him, and we approached them, they started racing like they were racing for first. It really cost us a lot. I tried to go to the bottom and just lost a lot of time and a couple of positions. We weren't going to settle for a second, third or fourth. We we're going for the win and we'll head to Knoxville."
Justin Henderson in the Jolt Energy Gum/Protected by Data Dots Schnee finished in the sixth spot after being the fourth quickest qualifier on the night. He is one of the contenders for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by Maxim Racing and ButlerBuilt.
"Our car is feeling real good right now," said Henderson, of Sioux Falls, S.D. "Our motors are always running good. I am afraid I may have hurt this one tonight, though. We just got a brand new car from Schnee and it's really acting the way we want it to. Hopefully it will stay together."
Henderson and his team are very confident heading to another half-mile track they know very well, Knoxville Raceway. Henderson has competed at the famed track in the past in their weekly program and knows what it takes to get around the track.
"Knoxville is one of my home tracks and I'm real happy to go back there," Henderson said. "We're going to put a motor in the car that we use only on the bigger tracks. I'm looking forward to going there and hopefully getting quick time."
Randy Hannagan came home seventh in the Penthouse Magazine Maxim. He set fast time of the 30 cars that went through time trials. He also won the first heat of the night in a very convincing manner to earn a spot in the dash.
"My car was working great tonight and my guys did a good job," Hannagan said. "They threw us a curveball before the dash by prepping the track and we just got a bad read on the main event track. It had been quite a few years since I had been up here, and I should have known better. Seventh is better than eighth and we'll take that home."
The rest of the Top 10 in the Duel on the Dakotas finale included Daryn Pittman in eighth in the Titan Garages/Hop-n-Sack Convenience Stores Maxim, ninth-place Dion Hindi in the Realtruck.com J&J, and 10th-place Jac Haudenschild in the Wright One Construction Maxim.