WSS: Schatz wins classic

Donny Schatz returned to Australia this January on a mission. There was unfinished business from his last trip, which began by him winning six races in a row in Australia's 1999-2000 World Series Sprintcar(WSS) tour and ended with Schatz missing...

Donny Schatz returned to Australia this January on a mission. There was unfinished business from his last trip, which began by him winning six races in a row in Australia's 1999-2000 World Series Sprintcar(WSS) tour and ended with Schatz missing out on winning the "big" races last January. The World of Outlaws star changed his plan of attack for this year's "Survivor-like" Australia tour racing only in January instead of competing in the two-month WSS schedule.

Schatz wanted his edge to be sharp when this year's Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic pushed off. His plan paid off because the "Minot Missile" was dominant in the two-day "Classic" at Premier Speedway in Warrambool, Victoria, Australia, leading 23 laps of the 25-lap preliminary feature on Saturday night before overtaking fellow American Danny Smith, a six-time Classic champion, on lap 13 for lead on his way to victory lane in Sunday's 40-lap Championship Feature.

"It wasn't my best drive, but I've won the Classic," an elated Donny Schatz said following the victory. "That's all that matters. I've won the Australian Classic. We came down here to win races, and I owe this victory to Luch Monte and my crew who did a hell of a job out there tonight and especially my dad who made the call to change the gears again on that second red light stoppage."

A blistered right rear tire in Saturday's preliminary feature cost the Minot, ND native the weekend sweep and also a shot at the pole position for the Sunday's Classic Feature. On Sunday, Schatz finished third in his heat race, earning the third starting position in the field.

Smith took the early lead ahead of Skip Jackson, and it didn't take Schatz long to reel in Jackson and take second. An early red flag allowed Luch Monte's #15 crew a chance to make changes in the rearend gear ratio, but Schatz admitted later that they made the wrong decision. During the next ten laps, Schatz closed in on Smith, and on the 13th circuit he took the lead, but he didn't get too far away from Smith as he was stuck in heavy traffic. A second red flag allowed the #15 crew a chance to make another adjustment to the rearend, and this time they made the right call as Schatz maneuvered his way through lapped traffic to claim the win.

"This is just a great feeling to win this race, the is a lot of prestige that goes with this race throughout the world," said Schatz. "Last year I narrowly missed out on winning the world's biggest Sprintcar race, the Knoxville Nationals and although this isn't the Knoxville Nationals it is the Australian equivalent."

"Now I have to go win the Nationals, and I will feel like I would have fulfilled my dream."

The victory was Schatz's third in eight nights of racing in Australia. He'll conclude his "2001 Down Under Tour" at Parramatta City Raceway for the $50,000-to-win Gough & Gilmour Cat event this weekend.

-BILL KLINGBEIL

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About this article
Series Sprint , World of Outlaws
Drivers Donny Schatz