FAMILIAR GROUND Two-Time World of Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz Returns to a Pair of Tracks Where He Was Victorious in 2007 INDIANAPOLIS (April 22, 2008) -- Experience is one of the key ingredients to being successful in most competitive...
Two-Time World of Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz Returns to a Pair of Tracks Where He Was Victorious in 2007
INDIANAPOLIS (April 22, 2008) -- Experience is one of the key ingredients to being successful in most competitive arenas. In Sprint car racing, there aren't many drivers who win races at Huset's Speedway in Brandon, S.D. or Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway the first time they compete there.
Fortunately for two-time Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series champion Donny Schatz, he has logged many laps at both tracks where he will race this weekend, driving the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J, first on Friday night at Huset's, then Saturday night in Knoxville.
The Fargo, N.D., racer won WoO feature events at both tracks in 2007, winning the Knoxville season opener in April and the annual July 3 Outlaws race at Huset's. Schatz also won his second consecutive Knoxville Nationals last August at the famed half-mile dirt oval.
As a teenager, Schatz took his lumps racing around the Midwest, including many on Sunday nights at Huset's. In the spring of 1995, he won his first two races at the three-eighths-mile dirt oval, ironically on Mother's Day and Father's Day. He spent the first 15 years of his career racing a family owned Sprint car before joining TSR for the 2008 campaign.
Schatz has 18 career WoO starts at Huset's, and has won two of those feature events. One of his more memorable nights came in April 2001 when he raced from 11th to win the 35-lap feature event. In last year's race, he took the lead on lap seven and went on to win his 61st career WoO triumph. The victory kicked off an incredible July, which saw Schatz win five times, including the Kings Royal, Silver Cup and Summer Nationals.
Saturday's appearance at historic Knoxville Raceway will mark the return to the scene of Schatz' most lucrative victory. Last August, he picked up $150,000 for winning his second consecutive Nationals crown and continued his string of top-five finishes at the track to eight.
Before his dominating performances at the track the past couple of years, the big half-mile oval was a tough puzzle to solve for Schatz. He scored his first top-five finish in the 1998 Nationals by finishing fourth and backed it up the following year by finishing second in his Nationals preliminary feature. A second-place finish in the Iowa Ethanol Classic in July 2000 turned out to be a preview of his runner-up finish in the Nationals to Mark Kinser one month later.
In August of 2001, he won his first Knoxville feature by dominating the second preliminary night feature at the Nationals. But his first-lap crash two nights later cost him a chance at the sport's biggest prize. In 2002 and 2003, he once again scored preliminary feature event wins at the Nationals, but came up second in the finale. Another second-place finish at the Nationals in 2005 made it four second-place finishes in five years.
Finally, in August of 2006, he broke through and added his name to the list of greats in the sport by earning a Knoxville Nationals title. Two months later, he returned and won his first career WoO "A" feature at the track and continued his winning streak with a victory last April.
Early in the 2008 WoO campaign, Mother Nature has been difficult to beat as the traveling Sprint car stars have lost seven nights of racing because of weather. In the six events that have been contested, Schatz has four second-place finishes and two eighth-place runs.
Schatz currently holds the third position in the WoO standings with 857 points, trailing leader Craig Dollansky by 36 points entering this weekend.
The Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series programs at Huset's Speedway, located near Sioux Falls three miles south of I-90 on State Road 11, and Knoxville Raceway, which is located on State Route 14 on the Marion County Fairgrounds, will be the first of multiple visits to each track by the Outlaws. Schatz and his TSR teammate, Kraig Kinser, will return to Knoxville for a two-night program on June 5-6, and then again for the Nationals on August 6-9. The teams will return to Huset's on June 13 and July 3 for single-night programs.
On Friday at Huset's Speedway, pit gates will be open all day and grandstand gates open at 4 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are tentatively scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
On Saturday at Knoxville Raceway, pit gates will open at 4 p.m. CDT with the grandstand gates opening at 6 p.m. Hot laps are tentatively scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m.
Tickets for the Huset's event can be purchased by calling (605) 582-3536, or by visiting the track's Web site, www.husets-speedway.com.
Knoxville tickets can be purchased by calling (641) 842-5431 or by visiting the track's Web site, www.knoxvilleraceway.com.
Race fans can also listen to all the action from the weekend on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Visit www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other fans listening to the action.
Donny Schatz, driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
You spent a lot of time learning your craft at Huset's Speedway early in your career. How did racing there help you become a better driver?
"I said last summer when we won there that Huset's has always been a place near and dear to me. I felt like there have been some times that I should have won that I didn't, so that made winning last summer pretty gratifying. I learned a lot racing there on Sunday nights. When you are just trying to figure things out and guys like Danny Lasoski and Terry McCarl pretty much owned the place, it was tough. When you considered everything from the quality of competition to shape and size of the track, you really had to learn how to drive, whether it was being able to qualify or dealing with traffic. When you get 24 cars out there, it doesn't take long to get to lapped cars. You learn how to read cars in front of you and know where they were going to go. You have to learn how to make your car work all over the track, not just on the bottom or top.
"The race in 2001 was a perfect example. Terry McCarl was leading and everyone was pretty much freight training it around the bottom. I about ran over Mark Kinser a couple of times and then just said 'I'm not going to sit here and ride around another 20 laps,' so I moved out and tried to make the top work. Within about four laps we went from running 10th to being in the lead and checking out."
For about the past six years you've been really good at Knoxville. Did finally winning the Nationals in 2006 relieve some pressure?
"I always liked going to Knoxville because it's big and fast. My home track was Red River Valley in Fargo and it's a high-speed place, too. So, naturally, I like racing there. It took us a while to get the place figured out. And then in 2000, we really started to figure it out. Finishing second all of those times played some on me, mentally, but I've always tried to only think about the race in front of me. Just because we ran second in the Nationals all those times, it didn't guarantee us anything. At the Nationals the past two years, we've been able to put it all together by qualifying well, getting through our heat and having a podium finish on preliminary night. That's what sets you up for Saturday night.
"During the regular Outlaws shows, it's got to be the same mentality. First things first: get qualified well and then make it through your heat. Racing 25 laps isn't that long, so you have to be near the front to have a chance. In our last race, we qualified well at Eldora and were able to get a starting spot up front, and we spent the entire feature close to where we wanted to be. We didn't end up where we wanted to and that's the goal this weekend. We want that first Outlaw win for Tony Stewart Racing, Armor All, Chevy and ParkerStore. Everyone involved with this team is going to work as hard as we can."
For complete Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series results, log on to www.worldofoutlaws.com. For information regarding TSR, Schatz, Armor All, Chevy, or ParkerStore, log on to www.tonystewartracing.com, www.donnyschatz.com, www.aa-ownercenter.com, www.chevrolet.com, or www.parkerstore.com.