By Richard Day Late in sprint car racing's "Month of Money" when the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series headed to the Amoco Knoxville Nationals, Donny Schatz hired Kenny Woodruff as his crew chief. Schatz, the series' hottest driver the...
By Richard Day
Late in sprint car racing's "Month of Money" when the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series headed to the Amoco Knoxville Nationals, Donny
Schatz hired Kenny Woodruff as his crew chief. Schatz, the series' hottest driver the last two weeks of the 1999 season, had a tough time before Woodruff arrived. Crew chief Dave Yingst and crewman Todd Devnich left Schatz Motorsports in early June, leaving Shane Anderson and Donny to maintain and drive the #15 Parker Stores J&J. "KW," who has been with the series since it's inception 22 1/2 years ago, owned the car Jimmy Boyd drove to victory at Devil's Bowl Speedway in the series' inaugural "A" Feature. "We talked to him for a couple of weeks before he joined us," Schatz said Tuesday. "He wasn't sure if he wanted to go on the road any more. I just called the Monday before The Historical Big One and said, 'I need help; if you get the car right, I will win races with it.' He met us in Knoxville (at the Amoco Knoxville Nationals) and he's been with us ever since. "I'm thankful that Shane Anderson stayed with me. He worked his butt off for me. He's only 21 years old. He drove the truck and I drove my motor home, we both worked on the car and we actually had some good races. Most of all -- the thing that's ironic about it is -- we had fun. We had a lot of fun. That's what sparked us to get going again. We really didn't know what we were doing, but we had fun racing. Then we hired Kenny and things have gotten better." Schatz, who finished in the top 10 only 12 times in the first 41 events, led 24 laps and finished second at the Nationals. Since then, 12 top-10 finishes, including five in the top five and a victory in the prestigious Williams Grove National Open, pushed him into the top 10 in the point standings briefly. He's only 26 points behind 10th- place Jac Haudenschild with three double-feature events remaining on the 2000 schedule. "KW" would like the car to be a J&J Chassis with Shaver Engines, the same combination Bobby Davis, Jr., and Dave Blaney won Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championships with in 1989 and 1995 when he was crew chief for Casey Luna. Schatz has run that combination once -- in the TALK.com Outlaws Championship at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- but still uses Ott Engines almost exclusively. "The J&J switch was something I had asked Kenny about before he ever came to work for us," Schatz said Tuesday. "We put one together for I-80 and we felt comfortable with it, so we've been running that ever since. We're going to stick with the J&J. Kenny is obviously comfortable working with Jack Elam and his employees and Ron Shaver as
well. Ron Shaver has helped me out a bunch. There aren't many motor builders who are actually at the track telling you what you need to do, but he's done that sometimes. We're going to finish the year with what we have, but we might switch to Shaver next season. "That's been a good combination for Kenny. I'm just going to do whatever I have to do to win a championship for myself, Kenny, J&J and Shaver. I hope I can fit in that elite group (Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series champions) some day. "We're just going to finish the year the best we can and do the hard work this winter. Hopefully, we'll come out of the box just the opposite of the way I did this year." Only Mark Kinser, Danny Lasoski, Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell have scored more points than Schatz in the last 16 events. Mark, the series' defending champion, has won four main events. He has also earned 11 Vivarin Fast-Time Awards and set eight single-lap records in that span. Lasoski has recorded 14 top-10 finishes, including 12 straight. Three $20,000 victories helped him earn more than $150,000 in the last 10 weeks. Swindell has won three Preliminary Features and six CHANNELLOCK Dash races. His battle with Mark Kinser for second place should go down to the final turn of the season's final race. Only six points separated them after the O'Reilly Texas Showdown at Texas Motor Speedway. Seven top-five finishes and two "A" Feature victories since early August have "The King of the Outlaws" on the verge of clinching his 16th series championship. "We've run good all year," Kinser said recently. "We've been right there in the top three just about every night. We slacked off a bit for a few races, but we've had a good year and we're looking forward to finishing off strong. "The Quaker State crew has done a terrific job of keeping the car together. We haven't had a lot of motor problems and that's kept us in a lot of races. The thing we're most happy about is that we're capable of winning every night. I think we've had the fastest car night in and night out. There's not very many race cars that have been able to run in the top three about every night. The fact that we've been able to do that puts us in a good position. "When you're battling for that first spot, you have to stay at it pretty hard. You could have four or five bad races and lose every bit of your lead. There is never a comfort zone until you get down to the final races, but at this point we've got to race every night like we're behind in the standings and trying to catch up." The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series will sanction the Lone Star Classic at Houston Raceway Park Friday and Saturday, then run the 27th Annual Winter Nationals at the Devil's Bowl October 27-28. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host the 2000 season finale October 31-November 1.