Donny Schatz , a 23-time event winner in 2013, has picked up where he left off, driving from 11th to victory Saturday in just the second night of the 2014 World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series season.
Schatz powered past leader Cody Darrah on lap 23 and pulled away over the final eight laps to capture victory during the DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park.
Kasey Kahne Racing teammates, Darrah and Daryn Pittman, battled for the lead early in the race, with Pittman out front for the opening 11 laps and Darrah the next 11. Darrah held on for second with Pittman taking the final spot on the podium. Paul McMahan registered his third consecutive top-five finish at the DIRTcar Nationals going back to Thursday night.
Schatz started 11th but wasted little time moving forward. In two laps he already was seventh and looking for more. He stalked his way through the field, taking sixth on lap seven before a caution flew on lap 11 for a spinning Rico Abreu.
On the restart, Darrah stuck the Ollie's Bargain Outlet to the middle of turns one and two to power around Pittman for the lead. Meanwhile Schatz picked up a pair of spots to get to the fourth position. Darrah put a healthy lead on Pittman early, while Schatz continued to work the bottom.
Schatz worked into the top three on lap 17, passing McMahan, and began to close on Pittman. Schatz eliminated the gap by lap 20 and on lap 22 took the position. The next lap, the STP Armor All machine of Schatz stole the lead from Darrah and cruised to the win and earned the KSE Hard Charger award in the process.
"It was a lot of fun and you kind of had to pass everywhere," said Fargo, N.D., resident Schatz. "We didn't have the greatest night last night, but you'll have that in racing. It's how quick you rebound. Every time we made changes we went in the right direction. It was a fun race, it was awesome fast and sometimes I didn't know where I was going to end up."
Darrah sat on the outside of the front row in the Kasey Kahne Racing #4, and after running second to teammate Pittman, took the lead before succumbing to the charging Schatz.
"I was a little unsure if I could get the lead after the first start did not really go my way," said the Red Lion, Pa., native Darrah. "Then we had the caution and I was confident about the top. I had a good start and we went to the middle of one and two. They were running the bottom real hard and it left a lot of dirt out there and gave us enough grip to get by Daryn on the start to get clean air."
A minor miscalculation by the young driver gave him an uphill battle late, "We got into lap traffic and I had my wing back a little too much which made us a little too tight."
2013 World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Champion, Daryn Pittman, led the event early in the Great Clips #9, and would finish the night in third place.
"I just didn't get a good enough corner in one and two," said the Owasso, Okla., native Pittman about the lap 11 restart. "I knew the bottom was faster than top, but I just did not expect Darrah to sail through the middle and stick like that.
Pittman knows it will take more to repeat his championship success of last year, "One of my main goals this year is we have to win more races when we put ourselves in position and start in the first couple rows. To start on the pole and finish third tonight does not sit real well right now."
Through two nights of racing McMahan leads the World of Outlaws Championship with 193 points. Sweet and Pittman run second and third early in the season.
World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car