Looking for a Three-Peat: Donny Schatz Ready for National Open Mechanicsburg, PA--September 26, 2006 -- It's no secret that Williams Grove Speedway is one of Donny Schatz's favorite tracks. After all, he won the National Open the last two years...
Looking for a Three-Peat: Donny Schatz Ready for National Open
Mechanicsburg, PA--September 26, 2006 -- It's no secret that Williams Grove Speedway is one of Donny Schatz's favorite tracks. After all, he won the National Open the last two years and has been victorious in the famed event three times so far in his career. In his 10 seasons of being on the road with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, Schatz has won five A-Feature races at the track, including one each for the past three years.
In five events so far this season at Williams Grove, including preliminary features, Schatz has finished in the top-five in every race, including two second place runs.
The native of Fargo, North Dakota, is ready to take to the track this weekend, as he leads the World of Outlaws Sprint Series into the half-mile to battle the always tough Pennsylvania Posse. The winner on Saturday night will take home a hefty check for $50,000.
"We're excited to get there," said Schatz, driver of the Parker Store J&J. "We have a great race car, and our motors are unbelievable right now. I just can't wait to get there and get it going on, and see if we can't get this thing to victory lane and get that 50-grand."
Winning at Williams Grove is no easy task, as many drivers battle their entire careers and never step foot in victory lane at the hallowed track. Schatz knows the history and aura of the track and the legends that have raced on it and more importantly won at it, and that makes him even more proud to have his name mentioned in the same breath as them.
"Anytime you can go to Williams Grove and get a victory, it's unbelievable," Schatz said. "It's one of the toughest of the places in the country to figure out the race track. The locals are damn tough. To go there for the National Open, being a three-time winner is great, and there is one guy that has won it four times, and he is not going to be there obviously. We just have to go there and try to win."
Schatz won his first National Open in 2000. In fact, that was the first A-Feature event he won at Williams Grove. He knows that it will take a very fast car from the time he hits the track on Friday for hot laps until the time the checkered flag falls on Saturday night to have a chance at the big pay day. It also will take a little luck as well, with a stellar field of car expected.
"There's really no pressure after the first time you win something," said Schatz. "The first one was tough and they have come a little easier since then. I hope we are in a good position when we go in there. We're thinking about the 50-grand, not the name of the National Open, because we have been pretty lucky to win them a couple of times."
While he has had plenty of success at Williams Grove, Schatz has also had his share of bad luck, and remembers early in his career coming to grips with the one-of-kind track. He and his crew have learned a lot about the half-mile in the last couple of seasons, and have been able to hit on a set-up that suit Schatz's driving style very well. He still learns new intricacies of the track every time he turns laps on it.
"I think I am fast over there because of all the times I was so bad over there," Schatz said smiling. "As a driver you have to adapt to a lot there. When it gets slow, you have to totally re-illustrate the way your race car rolls through the corners. That's what we have been working on. We haven't won a race there yet this year. We're looking forward to hopefully getting to victory lane at Williams Grove before the year is out."
While Schatz pocketed $140,000 for his Knoxville Nationals win this year, he feels like he should have picked up a few more victories in high paying events. He finished second at the Kings Royal that paid $50,000 to-win at Eldora Speedway earlier this season, and was also second at Skagit (Wash.) Speedway last month in an event that paid $25,000 to-win. To date, Schatz has won over $320,000 in World of Outlaws competition.
A few weeks back at the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway, he escaped a very scary accident on the opening night of the three-day event to finish 8th in the A-Feature on the final night, a race that also had a $50,000 winner's share, the same as the National Open will have this Saturday night.
"That $50,000 check would be a big bonus to me," he said. "I feel like we had a chance to win a couple of the big races. At Skagit, we lost out a little, and the Gold Cup we had an all around bad weekend. To be able to get back there and be in contention will be a good thing."
Only two days after his wreck at Silver Dollar (Calif.) Speedway, in which he sustained burns to his face and neck, Schatz was back in the car and stated 25th in the 53rd Annual Gold Cup and in only 40 laps on the quarter-mile track, he charged to an eighth place finish.
Showing no ill effects, he was back on track the following weekend, and swept events at the 1/3-Mile Short Track Nationals at Eagle (Neb.) Raceway, and also on the spacious half-mile at Jackson (Minn.) Speedway.
This past Sunday, the always popular driver started 16th at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway and weaved his way up to third when the checkered flag flew on a 40-lap event on the tight quarter-mile. The race went non-stop from the green flag to the checkered flag, making Schatz's charge through the field even more impressive of a feat.
"I was back at full strength last weekend (at Eagle Raceway and Jackson Speedway)," said Schatz. "Cosmetics are only skin deep, and we've had a few blemishes, but everything is pretty well healed up. I'm been home the last couple weeks, during the week and got rested up. I got back in the swing of my normal life at home. That is good, and that is probably what someone needs more than anything. It's more mental than physical. I'm 100 percent."
With eight race dates left on the calendar for the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, Schatz and his team have a simple goal. They have finished in the Top-10 in 43 of the 50 A-Feature events run so far this season, with 37 of those being Top-Five finishes, as he seeks his first ever series title.
"To be in victory lane eight more times is the goal, but I don't think we will be able to do that," he said. "We're going to give it our best shot and see what happens. We really have to make a big mistake to lose the championship. Anything can happen though. We know that. We want to go out on top, and hopefully we can pick up a lot of victories between now and then."
That quest for victories starts for Schatz on Friday night as the two-day National Open takes the green flag at one of his favorite tracks.
For ticket information about the National Open, visit: www.williamsgrove.com, or call 717-697-5000. On Friday September 29 adult reserved tickets will be $30, with general admission tickets $28. Tickets for students will be $15, and children 12-under will be admitted free.
On Saturday September 30, adult reserved tickets will be $35, with adult general admission tickets $30. Tickets for students will be $15, while children, 12-under will be admitted free.