2007 World of Outlaws Preview: Donny Schatz Concord, NC -- Feb. 7, 2007 -- Last season was the year that Donny Schatz had been preparing for his entire career. In his tenth full-season on the road with the World of Outlaws, he claimed his ...
2007 World of Outlaws Preview: Donny Schatz
Concord, NC -- Feb. 7, 2007 -- Last season was the year that Donny Schatz had been preparing for his entire career. In his tenth full-season on the road with the World of Outlaws, he claimed his first series title in impressive form, winning 17 A-Feature events as well as two preliminary features. He also claimed the victory in the Knoxville Nationals, after finishing second in the famed event four times.
In 2006, Schatz led the series in most statistical categories, as he racked up over $372,000 in season winnings. He led 441 laps on the season, over 150 more than the next closest driver. In time trials, he stopped the clock first nine times, to lead all drivers, while setting new track records at Orange County Fair Speedway in New York, as well as Southern Oregon Speedway. Schatz also tied for the series lead with eight dash wins that earned him the same number of pole positions.
After receiving the World of Outlaws trophy and inaugural Champion's Ring in Las Vegas, the awards and accolades continued to pile-up for the native of Fargo, North Dakota. He was named the North American Sprint Car Poll 410-Driver of the Year. He also was voted a first team All-American by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association for the first time in his career.
Looking to keep that momentum rolling into the New Year, he went to Australia to compete against many fellow World of Outlaws competitors to open the season. He won his first five starts at Parramatta City Raceway including the Bevelite Glass $50,000 Classic for the sixth time in his career.
"Australia has been very good to me the last several years," said Schatz. "We've used it as kind of a springboard. It keeps me fresh and allows my guys to keep me away from them all winter and keep motivated and going. It gets them even more pumped up when I am over there winning races. It's good for the mental aspect and the motivation aspect."
While he will always savor the title he won in 2006, Schatz is quick to point out that with the demanding schedule the World of Outlaws run, that one's luck can change in an instant and hard work and perseverance are vital to having success on the road. In essence, he was already preparing for the 2007 season when the final checkered flag flew on the 2006 campaign.
"It's one of those things that is over with," he commented. "The first time I got in the race car after Las Vegas in Australia, it's done and over with. It's one of those things that you have to forget about, but yet you always keep in the back of your mind that you are a champion. You like to think with that status that things will come easy for you, but they don't, and that's just the racing world. It's nice to have won it."
With nearly 90 races on the schedule this season, beginning with the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Mopar Speedshop, at Volusia Speedway Park, February 9-11, Schatz is ready to hit the track again in North America, and looks to add to his 51 career World of Outlaws A-Feature wins, which have him eighth on the all-time list.
"Obviously we have more races on the schedule and that will benefit us," Schatz said. "That's really what we wanted to see last year. We're glad to see that. I can't wait to get going."
After winning the World of Outlaws title and the most prestigious event in sprint car racing last season, Schatz accomplished two of the biggest goals he had on his list of feats he wanted to attain during his career.
"There is nothing that I have to prove," he explained. "I know what I can do now. We won a championship, and we won the Nationals. We won every big race other than the Kings Royal. There is no pressure. There are a lot of guys out there that will never win some of those races that we won."
Schatz will open the season with a new crew chief at the DIRTcar Nationals. Dave Lawrence, a native of Pennsylvania will take the reigns of the team, as they embark on the nine-plus month schedule that will take them across the country a few separate times, and into Canada as well for three events. The crew has been busily preparing the entire off-season and believe they have all the pieces of the puzzle in place.
"They are all working together great," said the 1997 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year, of his Dave Lawrence led crew. "I am looking forward to getting to the first race with Dave. He is very organized and very intelligent. He is obviously very motivated and that is something that is very important out here."
Schatz and his fellow drivers will have plenty of added exposure worldwide this season, as ESPN2 will broadcast eight races as part of the "Summer of Money" beginning on June 17. In addition to this, SPEED will broadcast 12 World of Outlaws events over the course of the season.
"Having ESPN2 helps us with national coverage and the marketing strategies that will be out there are just phenomenal," he commented. "They have the viewership, and DIRT has the following it needs to have that kind of viewership. They have a great viewership and there are a lot of people from the corporate world and the fan world that are excited for it. Whatever we can do to make the fans and the corporate people happy, that is what we want to do, as well as ourselves."
A return to his home track Nodak Speedway in Minot, North Dakota on August 14th has the reigning champion excited. He put on a thrilling show for the fans there last season, as he charged from the 14th started spot to take lead, before suffering a flat tire. He also will get to take to the track at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, North Dakota, where he swept both nights of racing last season.
"To be able to win in my home town would be great," admitted Schatz. "We obviously gotten the win in Fargo, where I reside now. Minot is a great place and they have a great following. The people had a great opportunity to have a World of Outlaws show, and now they will get their second one. They made a great event out of it last year. They had more people in the stands that what it seated. Anytime you get that, it's a big accomplishment. I'm glad to go back to Minot and glad to be coming back to Fargo."
With nearly 30 cars starting the season off full-time with the World of Outlaws, at the DIRTcar Nationals, as well as competitors from the All Star Circuit of Champions and many drivers from Pennsylvania, every time the cars hit the track at Volusia and all season long for that matter, will be important. For Schatz, who thrives on competition, he welcomes the added competitors and plans to be on his game every night.
"Obviously with more cars, the racing will get tougher," he said. "Only the strong will survive, and the cream will rise to the top. It's just one of those things where there is never any part of the night that you lack on. We're looking forward to it, and we're glad to have that many cars."
Schatz is ready to begin his quest for a second straight World of Outlaws title, and he knows that will be no easy task. With the team he has in place led by Crew Chief Dave Lawrence, he is confident they have the tools to compete night in and night out for wins. Schatz is a firm believer that is you win enough races, the points will take care of themselves, and thus he rarely looks at the standings during the season.
"It's going to take consistency like we had last year," Schatz said. "It's going to take the most wins and quick times. A guy is going to have to be consistent each night and have no DNF's (did not finish). It's going to take a lot of things. It's all things that are inside of our team. It's not going to take anything that has to do with anyone else. It's no effect on who is racing with us day in and day out. It has to do with what we do here, and that ultimately effects what we do on the race track. We're looking forward to that. It's going to be an exciting year."