A DYNASTY IN THE MAKING? Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Seeking Fourth Straight Outlaw Crown INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 3, 2009) -- Championships certainly don't come easy. Repeating the feat is the first goal most champions shoot for after reaching...
A DYNASTY IN THE MAKING?
Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Seeking Fourth Straight Outlaw Crown
INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 3, 2009) -- Championships certainly don't come easy. Repeating the feat is the first goal most champions shoot for after reaching the top of the mountain. The ability to stay on top three consecutive times usually has historical implications. World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint car star Donny Schatz may not realize the magnitude of winning the last three WoO championships, but the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) driver is confident he knows what it takes to continue performing at the optimal level.
This week, Schatz embarks on another season of criss-crossing the country racing Sprint cars on dirt tracks throughout America in search of his fourth consecutive WoO title. Ironically, it all begins at Volusia Speedway Park (VSP) in Barberville, Fla., the same location his three previous championship campaigns have commenced.
The Fargo, N.D., resident returns to the cockpit of TSR's No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J on Tuesday, beginning a stretch of six consecutive nights of racing on VSP's half-mile dirt oval. The first three races are All-Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC)-sanctioned events, and Friday's WoO race marks the first of three consecutive nights that kick off the 2009 WoO season.
It was Feb. 8, 2006, when Schatz scored his first career ASCoC feature win at VSP. There were many firsts that followed that season, including Schatz winning the sport's signature event, the Knoxville Nationals, for the first time. Twenty other victories during the season led to his first WoO series title.
The following February, he started the WoO season by winning the first race of the year at VSP and went on to cement his champion status by becoming the first Sprint car driver to win the Knoxville Nationals, Kings Royal, Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup, Williams Grove National Open and Summer Nationals all in the same season.
Last February, he made a memorable debut with the TSR team by winning the opening-night ASCoC feature at VSP on Feb. 5, 2008. He won a second race at VSP two nights later before adding 18 WoO feature wins during the season and continuing his winning streak at the Knoxville Nationals.
The numbers Schatz has put up since that first VSP win back in February 2006 are staggering. He's competed in 212 WoO feature races, winning 56 times -- 26.4 percent -- a number that eclipses the percentage of wins that three-time-defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has scored during his current championship streak (22 wins in 108 NASCAR Sprint Cup races).
The 31-year-old driver will be the first to admit that it's the people around him who have helped etch his name into the history books. His parents, Diane and Danny Schatz, owned the race team he won 121 races with during the first 15 years of his career. TSR director of racing Jimmy Carr was instrumental in bringing Schatz to the TSR team following his 2007 WoO title. Crew chief Ricky Warner has won two WoO titles with Schatz, and crewman Shane Bowers has been with Schatz for all three of his titles and played a part in 56 WoO wins, two All-Star victories, one ASCS win and three consecutive Knoxville Nationals triumphs.
Schatz concluded the 2008 season by winning the VAULT World Finals feature at the Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway last November in dominating fashion. The win punctuated a successful first year with TSR and provided sponsors Armor All and Chevrolet their first WoO championship. During the three months since his 87th career WoO win, he spent time testing with the TSR team and raced in nine Sprint car events in Australia. He won five of those, including his final race, the Australian Sprintcar Open title in Brisbane, where he lapped the field.
The accomplishments have been plentiful during the past three years, but just as Bill Murray's character, Phil Connors, realized in the movie Groundhog Day, it's all about what you do from today forward that matters. It's a philosophy that has proven successful for Schatz, who is a firm believer that his next race is the one that matters most.
Donny Schatz, driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
You've proven during the last three years that you are capable of winning a championship in different ways. As you chase your fourth consecutive crown, do you feel just as confident as you have in the past?
"I've always believed that winning something the first time is always the hardest. It doesn't matter what it is, your first race of the year, a championship, or the Knoxville Nationals. Once you do it, the doubt in your mind is gone whether you can or not. Nothing is easy, and things always change. I've been fortunate to have a core group of people around me the past few years who have really helped me stay focused on the task at hand.
"One of the great philosophies that Tony (Stewart) and all the people at TSR follow is to identify good people for certain positions and let them do their job. It's a proven formula for success, and I'm excited that they chose me to drive this Armor All car.
"Each year has been different and we've had to roll with the punches, so to speak. In 2006, we had to deal with the split in Sprint car racing. The next year (2007) we had some personnel changes on the team that we had to adapt to, and last year we joined Tony Stewart Racing. To be honest, this year is the first time in the past couple where we haven't had major changes in the off-season. Everybody at TSR is really motivated to keep us on top and, hopefully, we'll be battling it out with (TSR teammate) Kraig (Kinser) every night."
Having won three consecutive titles, is there added pressure to make it four and keep the streak alive?
"We look at each year by itself, so it's never a burden of continuing something we did in the past. Honestly, there isn't any pressure to win another championship. We continue to set our goals high and each night we're going to go out and try to win the race. After we finish that night, we'll move on to the next one and give it our best shot. We're just going to try and win as many races as we can and see where everything shakes out at the end of the year."
The last three years, you've started your season in Florida. What are the biggest challenges to racing at Volusia Speedway Park?
"The biggest thing is getting that first night under your belt. The crews do a great job of getting you ready to start the season and there's nothing better than going out and getting a win right away. It really keeps your guys pumped up.
"There are a lot of variables like the large car count and weather that tend to make the tracks change dramatically. You have to pay attention as the night and week goes on. We've seen the track go slick, stay heavy, and sometimes both throughout the night. It's also a lot of races at once. I don't think there is another time during the year when we'll race six straight nights. We've got a new crewman (Keith Turney) joining us this year, so it will be a great time to get him up to speed on how we do things at the track, too."