2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: August Concord, NC--Dec. 26, 2006 -- As August rolled around, World of Outlaws drivers began to focus on the Knoxville Nationals which were just around the corner, but before they could embark on the biggest...
2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: August
Concord, NC--Dec. 26, 2006 -- As August rolled around, World of Outlaws drivers began to focus on the Knoxville Nationals which were just around the corner, but before they could embark on the biggest event of the season, they had three point paying races over a four-day period before they headed to the mecca of sprint car racing.
Butler Speedway in Michigan was first up on the docket, as the series returned to the track for the first time in over 20 years. With three months of racing left, Joey Saldana and Craig Dollansky were trying their best to track down Donny Schatz in the overall season championship standings.
Dollansky had two fierce competitors chasing him at Butler. One was Terry McCarl who used a late race charge to keep him in his sight. The other was a fast approaching storm. In the end, Dollansky outran both and picked up a $10,000 pay day in the process. McCarl settled for the runner-up position, and the storm began to pelt the track with rain just seconds after the checkered flag flew on the race.
For Dollansky, it was his fourth win this season as the World of Outlaws took on the All Star Circuit of Champions. Terry McCarl finished second with Chad Blonde in third, marking the best finish of his career in a World of Outlaws event. Dale Blaney and Daryn Pittman rounded out the Top-five.
"It definitely feels good to get a win here tonight," Dollansky said. "We're trying to get ready for the Knoxville Nationals, and get some momentum going here, and keep on it."
Dollansky remained third in points after his win, but was able to cut 34 markers off of Donny Schatz's lead as the series headed to Eldora Speedway.
After winning the Kings Royal only a couple weeks before, Joey Saldana could not wait to return to the wicked-fast half-mile.
Saldana saved his best for last, as he powered by Schatz in traffic with just two laps to go in the 30-lap event that pit the World of Outlaws against the All Stars. Saldana started on the pole of the A-Feature to earn the win.
"That was huge for us," Saldana said. "We've had some problems with traffic where Donny (Schatz) has beaten us. It's pretty nice to finally get something back in return. Lapped traffic worked good for me tonight. There had been times this year when traffic has worked bad for me. We had a good car. We put a little harder of a tire on because we thought it would lay rubber, so that may have hurt us some. All in all, it was a very good night for us."
Schatz extended his point lead to 246 over Saldana, after a runner-up finish. Dollansky finished third, with Brooke Tatnell fourth and Chad Kemenah fifth.
Before heading to Knoxville the series thundered into K-C Raceway for a 40-lap event on August 5. After finishing second at Eldora, Schatz was determined to return to the winner's circle.
At K-C Raceway Schatz shot from fourth to second early in the race. He the charged to the rear bumper of leader Dale Blaney, eventually going side-by-side, and finally grabbing the lead with a bold move to the outside of Blaney on Lap 17 as they exited Turn 4.
Blaney tried to slide back to the front, but Schatz was gone. He weaved through traffic and held off Blaney as he won for the second consecutive year at K-C Raceway. Daryn Pittman was third, with Brooke Tatnell and Rob Chaney behind him.
"We were good most of the night," said Schatz. "We were fast in hot laps, fast qualifying, and it just went the same way all night long. We kind of misjudged the rubber a little bit. We didn't expect it to lay rubber that good, but at least we put hard enough tires on that we were able to go the distance. I was glad to see the checkers."
As he prepared to head west to Knoxville, Schatz held a commanding 264-point lead over Saldana in the yearlong battle. After four second-place finishes at Knoxville in the past, Schatz entered the race having won 11 World of Outlaws A-Features on the season, and was by far the favorite in the richest and most famed event in sprint car racing.
After accumulating the most points in preliminary action, Schatz had earned the pole position for the 46th running of the Knoxville Nationals.
Four times in the most prestigious sprint car race in the world, Schatz saw the checkered flag wave from the runner-up position. He finally let those bottled up emotions loose with a double fist pump in Knoxville Raceway's Victory Lane after winning the 30-lap main event aired live on television. Schatz started on the pole and raced back and forth with fellow Outlaws competitor Joey Saldana. The two swapped grooves high and low before Schatz slid in front on Lap 13 and drove away, leaving no doubt on a final 10-lap sprint to the finish whose name should be written on the $140,000 winner's check.
Saldana battled Jason Johnson to finish second. Johnson, who won the second qualifying-night feature was third followed by Danny Lasoski and Jason Meyers.
"It hasn't really hit me," said Schatz after his historic win. "I'm as excited as I've ever been in my life. This is one of the defining moments of my life. It honestly has not hit me yet. When you put the helmet on it's time block everything else out and I feel like I still have to take the helmet off and let the emotions go. I'm normally an emotional person and I tried to block out all the emotions this weekend. This is it. It doesn't get any bigger than this. It doesn't get any better."
After having a couple days to celebrate Schatz along with the rest of the World of Outlaws were back in action at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota on August 17.
Schatz could have easily overlooked the event at Black Hills Speedway on Thursday night. After all, he was coming off a convincing win in the Knoxville Nationals just a few days before, and he was getting ready to head to his hometown of Minot, North Dakota two nights later, as the series prepared for their first ever visit to Nodak Speedway.
The competitor in Schatz did not miss a beat though, as he kept the momentum he entered the race with, rolling picking up his series leading 12th A-Feature win of the season, and taking home yet another trophy.
Schatz lined up second for the 35-lap event and quickly darted to the lead with a power move to the high side of Brooke Tatnell coming off turn four on the first lap of the race.
While Schatz was leading, Jac Haudenschild moved up to third and set his sights on Tatnell. After battling for a couple laps, the native of Wooster, Ohio moved into the second spot and set his sights on the leader.
Haudenschild caught Schatz in traffic on lap eight and used the high side of the track to take the lead. He would lead laps 8-24, before encountering heavy traffic that gave Schatz the opening he needed to slip back into the lead. Schatz made a daring three-wide pass in traffic to get around Haudenschild on the low side of the track. The two staged an entertaining battle for the next few laps, until Haudenschild jumped the cushion in turn two negotiating lapped cars.
"It was a good race," Schatz said. "Traffic cost us the lead and then we got the lead back in other traffic. It's just the way it goes. We obviously had a good car, even when Haudenschild got by us, behind him we were real good. It was just a matter of biding your time and getting in the right place at the right time. We hated to see the yellow come out. It was getting awfully thin up there in (turns) one and two on the top, and we had to start moving around a little bit. I'm just glad we did. We had the right tires on and everything. These guys did a great job all night and got us to victory lane"
Schatz's win helped him extend his lead in the point standings to a season-best 278 over Saldana, as the series headed to Nodak Speedway in Minot, North Dakota, where he was born and raised. He along with Terry McCarl would thrill the crowd on-hand.
McCarl knows a thing or two about promoting races. For the past couple of seasons, he has donned the promoter's hat in his native state of Iowa. The always jovial driver knows that the best way to get people in the stands is to put on a great race on the track. That is exactly what he did in the driver's seat on Saturday night at Nodak Speedway, as he battled Craig Dollansky and Schatz, before a standing room only crowd, the largest ever in the 51 year history of the oval.
McCarl saved the rubber on his Hoosier tires for a final charge to the checkered flag as he won an A-Feature event for the second time this season.
Dollansky jumped to an early lead before McCarl busted into the top spot for a lap all the while Minot native Schatz charged from 14th to the top three. When McCarl and Dollansky made contact on Lap 22, Schatz drove by them both to grab the lead. But the soft tire compound Schatz had on the right rear couldn't handle the heat and finally expired on Lap 28.
That put McCarl back in front on the 3/8-mile oval, and he held off Dollansky down the stretch for the victory with Dollansky in the runner-up position. Afterward, though, Dollansky's machine, with a right rear tire that had gone flat at the checkered flag, didn't meet the 1,375-pound weight requirement and he was dropped to 24th.
"That was a knock down, drag out race," said McCarl. "We really needed this one, the team needed it. It feels really good."
With his third-place finish, Saldana was able to cut a few points off of Schatz's lead as they headed to Skagit (Wash.) Speedway.
Schatz had set fast time on six different occasions during the season, but knew he had a chance to bypass qualifying on Saturday night for the $25,000 to-win finale at Skagit Speedway. All he had to do was finish in the top-four on Friday night to secure a spot in the first two rows of the dash on the final night of the two-day event. The competitor in him took it one step further.
He started first and finished first in the 30-lap World of Outlaws Sprint Series preliminary feature on Friday night. Schatz took the lead from Becca Anderson on the second lap of the race, and never looked back, holding off a hard charging Tatnell to make the trip to RacinSoles Victory Lane. Dollansky, Daryn Pittman, and Chad Kemenah rounded out the Top-Five.
Schatz won the dash for the finale on August 26 to earn the pole position in the $25,000-to win A-Feature, where he would have a torrid battle with Tatnell.
Tatnell had plenty of motivation entering the event, with it being right in the backyard of his car owners Tim Hanson and Bob Campbell. He also wanted to pull out a win for his crew chief Troy Renfro who had been battling the effects of pneumonia all week, including a stint in the hospital. Also, a check for $25,000 was waiting for the winner at the end of the night.
To add even more to the puzzle, the native of San Souci, NSW, Australia suffered a broken left front brake line early in the 40-lap feature on the tight and racy 3/10-mile high-banked track. An open red flag on lap 16 gave Tatnell and his crew a chance to assess the problem on the car. While the team worked on the car, Tatnell sprinted on foot, all the way back across the track to the pit area, to get some parts from the team's trailer to help aid the crew.
At the initial drop of the green flag, Tatnell used his outside front row starting spot to his advantage to take lead from Donny Schatz in the first turn. Schatz shadowed Tatnell early in the race before beginning a spirited battle with Craig Dollansky for the runner-up spot.
Tatnell used patience and caution in traffic as he sliced his way through the slower cars, separating himself from Dollansky and Schatz. A couple of very timely cautions bunched the field up and more importantly gave Tatnell clean race track in front of him, and he was a master of restarts all night long. Dollansky was third, with Pittman, and Chad behind him.
"This was a total team effort," a smiling Tatnell said. "Rush Racing got it done tonight. We had a good car even before we went out there today. We got this one, it's ours. There's not a more fitting place to win, than right here in our car owners backyard. I'm just proud of this team. Troy (Renfro) is definitely sick and shouldn't be here. I appreciate his dedication to this team."
With one more night of racing on tap in the Pacific Northwest, Schatz extended his point lead to 294 over Saldana, as the series headed to Southern Oregon Speedway on August 30, where Danny Lasoski would start a string of strong runs.
Lasoski slid past Schatz in heavy traffic at Southern Oregon Speedway and drove to his second World of Outlaws Sprint Series victory of the season.
Lasoski charged from the outside of the third row and used the bottom lane to work his way forward in the Outlaws first visit since 1999 to the 3/8-mile oval in Medford, Ore. Schatz, who set the quick time of the night, started on the outside of the second row and quickly surged to the front at the completion of Lap 9, riding the top groove but eventually settling for a fifth-place finish. A hard charging Jac Haudenschild finished second, with Dollansky in third and Paul McMahan in fourth.
"I'll tell you what, that was exciting," said Lasoski. "The track was racy. The track got heavier all night. When we run in the Midwest a lot, we don't get a lot of sticky places, so it took us a while to get dialed in. When the main event came around, we got it done. That is a tribute to Dennis Roth for giving us a great team, and a lot of guys that believe in us."
With his strong finish and some bad luck that befell Saldana, Schatz was able to extend his point lead to a robust 321 as the month wrapped up.
Up Next: A review of the World of Outlaws Sprint Series events from the month of September.