Schatz, Parkerstores Team getting closer to first win in 2002. FARGO, ND - Winning races is the goal for every racer, but having a chance to win is the first step to knowing your team is on the right track. In the rugged Pennzoil World of...
Schatz, Parkerstores Team getting closer to first win in 2002.
FARGO, ND - Winning races is the goal for every racer, but having a chance to win is the first step to knowing your team is on the right track. In the rugged Pennzoil World of Outlaws sprint car series, winning races is just as difficult as in any circuit. Last weekend at the Talladega Short Track, Schatz drove the #15 ParkerStores/Featherlite J&J to the lead in Saturday's finale for 26 laps, but traffic problems late in the race kept him from getting that elusive first WoO of 2002.
"We struggled at the beginning of the season, but Kenny (Woodruff) and Shane (Anderson) have worked really hard, and maybe I've been lacking a little bit on my performance," claimed Schatz, following his second runner-up finish of the 2002 season. "Now that the weather's getting warmer, we're getting back on track. We really need to get that first win to feel completely better. I thought I had it tonight."
One year ago, Schatz and the ParkerStores team found themselves in a similar position searching for their first win of the season after 19 races. In 2001, Schatz had five Top Five finishes and 11 Top Tens and their best finish was a second place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This year, the team has five Top Five finishes, 12 Top Ten finishes, and two runner-up finishes: first at Houston Raceway Park by a mere .012 seconds and then last Saturday at Talladega.
A tenth place finish at Lakeside Speedway on April 24, 2001 was followed by a trip to Knoxville Raceway. The team struggled in the opening night qualifying 33rd and were forced to use a provisional to make the preliminary feature. The following night a 19th place qualifying effort started them 21st in the feature event and he finished 16th.
"Last year at Knoxville in April, I was really feeling like we were in trouble," said Schatz. "Kenny and I talked a little bit and we went to Huset's (Speedway, Sioux Falls, SD) and really got things going in the right direction. We started 11th and were running about eighth when I decided to try something that no one else was doing (running the high line). It worked and we drove away from everyone and won the race. That really got us going. I had that same kind of feeling last Saturday, but just came up a lap or two short."
Following his victory at Huset's last April, Schatz and the team won five races in their next 15 starts. They experienced better success when the team returned to Knoxville in June as he raced from sixth to lead five laps in the preliminary feature before finishing second.
By the time the team returned for the Knoxville Nationals, sprint car racing's biggest event, they were in the middle of another winning run having won three races and finishing second twice in seven starts before the Nationals. That success continued at the Nationals as Schatz qualified fifth, won his heat from 10th starting spot and also won his first ever feature by claiming the preliminary feature. All of which earned Schatz the most points from his qualifying night, and after advancing five spots the following night he earned the pole position for the Nationals. As a capper to the first two nights of the Nationals, Schatz stormed from 15th to win the Kele World Challenge race.
Schatz was set for the Knoxville Nationals "A" Feature to be his signing moment in sprint car racing, but a left tire problem on the first lap never gave him a chance. "That one is one that we'll always think about," said Schatz referring to last year's Nationals. "You'll never forget it, but we've got to start thinking about this year's race. The best thing for us to do that is to have two good nights at Knoxville this weekend. Sure, it won't make us forget what happened last year, but we'll know that we're on the right track. We've got a ton of races before August, and we want to be as competitive as we can every night."
Three of those races will be this week as Schatz and the ParkerStores team will be at Lakeside Speedway on Wednesday for a single-night program before heading to Knoxville for a Friday and Saturday night program.