15 Years Later: Schatz Returns to Site of His First Ever Sprint Car Race West Fargo, ND-- June 27, 2008-- Fifteen years ago Donny Schatz climbed into a sprint car for the first time at the tender age of fifteen, driving a machine with the No.
15 Years Later: Schatz Returns to Site of His First Ever Sprint Car Race
West Fargo, ND-- June 27, 2008-- Fifteen years ago Donny Schatz climbed into a sprint car for the first time at the tender age of fifteen, driving a machine with the No. 15 on it, in his home state of North Dakota. The first-ever event he raced in was with the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series at Red River Valley in West Fargo, North Dakota., competing against a number of drivers that had been racing longer than he had been alive. He finished that race ironically in the 15th position.
Fifteen years later, he will return to the high-banked half-mile, where he has 11 career victories, as the two-time defending Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion and the current series point leader aboard the Armor All J&J. The race will be the second event of the Gerdau Ameristeel Northern Tour on Saturday, June 28, which is also part of the annual Duel in the Dakotas.
"I do remember that race pretty well, said Schatz of his first career sprint car race in 1993. "It was pretty wild to start racing and go to an Outlaws show. That was pretty intimidating. It was a long time ago. I'll be glad to go back there and have a good time this weekend. We'll get to see all the family, friends and fans from out there."
Schatz competed in a handful of Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws races in 1994 and 1995. He made nearly 20 starts with the series in 1996, before embarking on a full campaign with the series in 1997. He would rack up 19 Top-10 finishes that season en route to claiming the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award. Over the course of the last 12 seasons, in which he has competed with the series full-time, he has competed in nearly 800 World of Outlaws events from coast-to-coast.
"It's always what you dream of doing," he shared of his time spent with the World of Outlaws. "You dream of racing with these guys and being competitive and being an icon and winning championships. You dream of all those things. Dreaming about them and actually doing them and accomplishing them are two completely different stories. I'm a lucky person to get to live my dream every day. Every day I get in a race car, it gets more and more fun. It's exciting to be in my shoes."
Schatz won his first World of Outlaws event in his second full-season with the series in 1998 at Riverside Speedway in Oregon, which is now Cottage Grove Speedway, where the series will compete later this season. Over the years, he has continued to learn intricacies of the sport and hone his skills nights in and night out, winning his fair share of races along the way. He is currently sixth on the series All-Time win list with 77 A-Feature victories. Of those wins, 70 came while driving for his family-owned team, for whom he drove for in every event he competed from 1993-2007.
"It takes a long to get comfortable, especially racing with these guys," explained the North Dakota native. "You don't want to be in the way, yet you want to also be very competitive. The guys that race that much know so many tricks and know exactly what to do with their race cars. They know when, where, what and why to do it. It's tough to learn all of those things. I'm lucky to have a good family that has pushed me and that is kind of what has made the difference."
Over the years at Red River Valley Speedway, Schatz has had plenty of success, picking up 11 total wins, including four with the World of Outlaws. He has nearly 40 Top-10 finishes in his career at his home track. He finished sixth there last season, after picking up a win in 2006. He heads to the half-mile this season in the midst of a streak that has seen him win six of the last 10 World of Outlaws events, including two on half-mile tracks.
"It's a big, fast half-mile," he noted of his home track. "I learned how to race there. The track has had several different shapes. I went and watched a 360-show there the other night, so hopefully we have some good racing there. It's only a one-day show this year so hopefully we make it the best one-day show possible and then sometime it will be back on the schedule as a two-day event. Hopefully we have a great turnout there."
Schatz will have four chances to race in his home state of North Dakota this season, beginning tonight at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks in the opener of the Gerdau Ameristeel Northern Tour, followed by the event at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo on Saturday night. The series will also make their debut at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan in August as well as make their third consecutive trip to Nodak Speedway in Minot, as the two events will put a cap on the Northern Tour.
Adding even more to the pride that he has for his home state, Schatz was recently named the recipient of the 2008 Dakota Award, from the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, given annually to a North Dakotan excelling outside the state. It was the second time in his career he has received the prestigious honor.
"It's very special to go home," Schatz said with a smile. "You get to see all of your fans, friends and family. You feel like you have a little advantage with all of the local support. It's been a lot of fun racing there and they have had great turnouts for all the events. It's great to see that the state can stand behind this sport, with the great crowds and strong car counts. It's an honor to be a part of it, being from that area."
Schatz heads into the trio of events this weekend leading the series championship standings by 55 markers over Jason Meyers, as he chases his third consecutive title. He is in the midst of his first season behind the wheel for Tony Stewart Racing. He leads the series with seven A-Feature wins and is the only driver that has finished in the Top-10 in all 22 events this season.
"These guys definitely work hard," Schatz said of his team. "You are going to have bad nights out here and the key is to minimize the damage and how long it takes to get back on the horse. I think we are a little bit behind from last year as far as finishes, but that's water under the bridge. That is just something to compare to. We've had some opportunities that we have let slip away, and you have to pick up the pieces and roll with it from there. That's what these guys do best. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We're really into it right now. We're excited to be going to race on our home turf and hope to pick up several victories in the next week."
On Saturday, June 28 at Red River Valley Speedway, adult general admission tickets will be $30 if purchased in advance or $32 the day of the race, with general admission tickets for children (ages 6-12) $15, and kids 5-under will be admitted free of charge in the general admission seating. Adult reserved tickets will be $33 in advance or $35 the day of the race, with reserved tickets for children 12-under $15.
Two-day tickets for the Duel in the Dakotas including the event at River Cities Speedway on Friday, June 27 are also available by calling SLS Promotions at: 815-344-2023 or visiting: www.slspromotions.com.