A Heartfelt Win: Donny Schatz Dedicates Victory to Ted Johnson Tucson, AZ--Oct. 21, 2006-- Donny Schatz wants to win every time he takes to the track, but he wanted to win even more on Saturday night at USA Race Park to honor his friend Ted ...
A Heartfelt Win: Donny Schatz Dedicates Victory to Ted Johnson
Tucson, AZ--Oct. 21, 2006-- Donny Schatz wants to win every time he takes to the track, but he wanted to win even more on Saturday night at USA Race Park to honor his friend Ted Johnson, the founder of the World of Outlaws, who passed away on Friday evening.
On a night filled with emotion, Schatz led wire-to-wire and dedicated the win to Johnson and the legacy he created, that will last forever.
"We definitely wanted to win this one," said Schatz, driver of the Parker Store J&J. "Everybody had a heavy heart tonight. I was around ten years ago when Ted was still here. It was just an emotional night for everybody. I don't think anybody wanted to race, but we wanted to go out and do everything that we could."
The night began with a moment of silence at the driver's meeting, which was later followed by another moment to reflect on the life of the charismatic and influential founder of the series, with all the drivers and officials, assembled on the front straight-a-way. An opening invocation followed this tribute. As is tradition, the missing man formation was in-place during the four-wide salute to the fans, to honor Johnson and show respect for all he did for the sport of sprint car racing.
For Schatz, who had grown close to Johnson over the last several years, the win was one that he will always remember. The native of Fargo, North Dakota remembers attending World of Outlaws events as a boy, and dreaming of one day racing with the series and being able to call himself an "Outlaw." This all was made possible for Schatz and countless other drivers by the hard work, dedication, and passion that Johnson had for sprint car racing and life in general.
"I told myself that I would do my best to try to get a clean sweep for him," said Schatz, after making his series best 16th trip to RacinSoles Victory Lane. "I got a little help from him. We came up one spot short in the dash. All in all, it was a good night, and it finishes off a good year. It was heartwarming to go out this way tonight and to have it in his honor."
Schatz began the night by turning the quickest lap in time trials and followed that up by winning the first heat. The current series championship point leader set the stage for a good start in the A-Feature with a very solid second-place run in the dash that earned him the outside front row starting spot.
Schatz took the lead from polesitter Jason Solwold on the initial start in a drag race down the front straight, and opened up a sizeable lead on the second circuit, when the red flag flew, for a scary accident involving Gary Taylor among others. Taylor, whose car went through the wooden billboards and out of the track just off the third turn, was able to walk away from the incident.
Once racing resumed, Schatz again darted to a healthy lead before entering lapped traffic on the eighth circuit. As the race wore on, Schatz had his hands full with the slower cars, as several drivers tried everything they could to stay on the lead lap. This included near contact on multiple occasions that forced Schatz to take evasive action.
"I got beside with a few of them (lapped cars), and they turned left," said Schatz. "You have to be a smart racer. When guys are trying to keep from going a lap down and swerving at you and things like that, you have to do what you have to do. Some of these guys don't race with us everyday and that makes it a little more interesting. They are racing to stay on the lead lap and we are racing to stay in the money and get the trophy. I guess that's the way it goes."
During the red flag for Taylor's accident, while many teams were making adjustments on their cars, Schatz's team led by crew chief Ricky Warner, just checked the air pressure on their tires. Confident with the set-up they had in the car, Schatz credited his crew for helping him pick up the victory.
"We didn't change anything (under the red flag)," said Schatz. "The car felt good and I was just trying to get to where we were going to run on the race track. You can only do that by getting in the catbird's seat, and we never really got in the catbird seat. We just had to move around and get where we could on the race track and see what felt best. We struggled a little to get good everywhere. I just had to be patient and stay on the bottom in the rubber."
Brooke Tatnell piloting the Race Outfitters machine, in his second race back since returning from spending time in his native Australia with his father George, who is battling cancer, made a late charge to get within a few car lengths of the eventual winner. In heavy traffic, he was able to take a look to the outside of Schatz, but each attempt to make a pass was thwarted by a slower machine.
"We came on strong at the end," said Tatnell. "We were 'green' for the first five or ten laps because I think we were on a much harder tire than most guys. That is where the five or ten laps held us up a little. We had a good run. We messed around with a lapped car for way too long. In the end that was the deficit between first and second. We had a real good car. The guys did an awesome job. It's good to be back, and proved that we are right up there. I don't think there is anyone out there with as consistent of a short track program as we have. Last night we had a good half-mile race and that program is just as good as anyone else's."
Right behind Tatnell, was Terry McCarl in the Big Game Tree Stands Eagle. The native of Altoona, Iowa lined up for the 30-lap event in the 14th spot, and charged all the way to a third-place finish. He powered his way up to eighth in the first four laps, and was in the top-five by lap 11.
"I had a great race car tonight because the motor is running so great," said McCarl. "We have a new Wesmar with Brodix Heads. We just needed a yellow flag late and I think we would have had a shot at winning. I could see Donny (Schatz) at the end and the 8-car (Brooke Tatnell) the whole time. The guys gave me a good car tonight. When you have horsepower, it makes this thing fun."
Craig Dollansky in the Karavan Trailers Maxim finished fourth, despite running the last portion of the race with a steadily deflating right rear tire. On top of this, his crew led by Rob Hart, was using the race as a test session to work on a few things for next season. While the car was not quiet as comfortable as the car he is used to, Dollansky was able to steer it through heavy traffic and keep the leaders in his sights all night long.
"We tried an experimental car here tonight," said Dollansky. "We experimented with quite a few things. It's just part of what we are doing here at the end of the season. It didn't really feel good all night long. We're trying to figure out some things for next year. Coming home fourth with what we had going on here tonight, we are happy with that. It was a good run for the Karavan team. With the tire going down like that, we were lucky to finish."
Daryn Pittman, who won on Friday night at Manzanita, rounded out the Top-Five in the Titan Garages & Carports Maxim. It was his 28th top-five finish of the season as he sits fourth in series points.
Joey Saldana was sixth in the Mopar-powered Dodge/Curb Records JEI. Chad Kemenah, who is the current leader in the battle for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by Maxim Racing and ButlerBuilt, finished a very strong seventh aboard the Underground Utilities Inc. Eagle. Jac Haudenschild was eighth in the Wright One Construction Maxim, after running second early in the race. Jason Solwold who won the dash to earn his fifth pole position of the season wound up 10th in the City Wide Insulation Maxim.
After losing a tire at Manzanita Speedway while running second, Tatnell felt he got a little redemption back on Saturday night at USA Race Park. Despite missing five race events when he returned home, his team remained fifth in owner's points, after strong runs by Jeff Shepard and also a win by Mark Dobmeier.
"It was good for the guys," said Tatnell. "I am proud of them. They kept plugging away while I wasn't here, and the guys that stepped in did an awesome job for the team. We'll just keep plugging away until the end of the year and hopefully get a win, before then."
While some drivers may have a tough time hopping back in the car after an extended absence, the layoff did not seem to affect Tatnell's skills, nor did the over 16-hour flight back from Australia to race this weekend.
"When I started racing I jumped in and out of people's cars from night to night to pick up a ride," said Tatnell. "It's not really any different (being out of the car). The reason I feel so comfortable doing it, is that I have so much faith in this whole team. When this deal was put together, I was asked who I wanted as crew chief and I wanted Troy (Renfro.) Troy was our first pick. The reason I wanted him was because I have the faith in him. I'm proud to be back with this race team."
Always keeping his promoter's hat close to his racing helmet, McCarl was thrilled at the hard work of the staff at SLS Promotions to put on a great show for the fans. With his charge through the field, the fan favorite deserved some credit as well for keeping the fans on their feet.
"Larry Hillerud (from SLS Promotion) gave us a great race track tonight," said McCarl. "You could run all over, high, low, and middle. This place gave another great race like it did in the spring. The fans get their money's worth in Tucson."
The World of Outlaws Sprint Series wraps up a very competitive 2006 season next weekend at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 27-28.
USA RACE PARK NOTEBOOK
* FAST QUALIFIER: Donny Schatz paced the 54 cars that took time with an AMB i.t.-timed lap around the 3/8-mile semi-banked oval at 13.609 seconds. For his qualifying effort, Schatz earned five bonus points. The next four fastest qualifiers also earned bonus points, including Jac Haudenschild (4), Brooke Tatnell (3), Randy Hannagan (2), and Jason Solwold (1).
* QUALIFYING EVENT WINNERS: Heat race winners included: Jeremy Campbell, Chad Hillier, Dion Hindi, and Donny Schatz. ...Jesse Baker won the C-Main. Randy Hannagan won the B-Main. ... Jason Solwold won the dash.
* UP NEXT: A very competitive 2006 season wraps up for the World of Outlaws Sprint Series with a two-day show at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 27-28.