BRISTOL, TN - When Donny Schatz arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway last June, he had a lot of weight on his shoulders. His crew chief has just left along with another crewman, so it was up to Schatz and crewman Shane Anderson to master one of the...
BRISTOL, TN - When Donny Schatz arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway last June, he had a lot of weight on his shoulders. His crew chief has just left along with another crewman, so it was up to Schatz and crewman Shane Anderson to master one of the most intimating race tracks the Pennzoil World of Outlaws have ever tried to conquer.
Schatz didn't show any signs of concern last year as he finished second in the preliminary program and led the first 12 laps of the Channellock Challenge "A" Feature before an engine failure put him out of the race. Heading into this year's event, he's riding one of the best streaks he's ever put together in his five-year WoO career, and he's got Kenny Woodruff handing the crew chief duties.
"What a difference a year makes," said Schatz, the 23 year-old driver from Minot, ND. "I know we were behind the eight-ball last year, but it gave us a lot of confidence in ourselves. We were probably more surprised than anyone that we did as well as we did. This year we expect to be challenging for the win, and there's certainly a difference in mindset this year."
Schatz and his ParkerStores team have jumped to seventh in the WoO point standings thanks in large part to nine top ten finishes in the last ten WoO races. They've won three races ("A" Features at Huset's Speedway and Lebanon Valley Speedway and a preliminary at Williams Grove) during that stretch and seemed to have found the magic chemistry with their J&J Auto Racing sprinter that is powered by Shaver Engines and runs on Goodyear Tires.
The recent success is a reflection of the good working relationship between Woodruff and Schatz. The duo's success at Eldora Speedway, which probably resembles Bristol more than any other track, is reason for optimism this weekend. Schatz qualified third and finished fourth in last Saturday's "A" Feature backing up his fourth place finish in April at Eldora. Woodruff has won a number of big races at Eldora and putting a fast car under a driver at high-speed race tracks seems to be his specialty.
"I wasn't here last year, so I am really looking forward to it," said Kenny Woodruff. "The faster the better as far as I'm concerned. We should be pretty good. Donny knows how to mash the gas pedal and at a high speed track like Bristol, that will be a big plus."
Schatz qualified sixth in the opening night last year and charged from 10th to finish second behind Mark Kinser. In the Channellock Challenge "A" Feature, Schatz took the lead from the drop of the green led the first 12 laps. On the 13th lap, the motor in the ParkerStores #15 gave up and ended their race. The team later determined that something punctured a hole in the radiator, which drained all of the water out of the engine and it simply quit because of too much heat.
Schatz admitted that the intimating half-mile can be a hand full at times behind the wheel. "Last year, it was kind of tricky because you had to drive the car into the turns a little further than others. Once you were in the corner deep, you had a lot of momentum which really helped you get out of the corner. I'll be interested in seeing how the track is different this year. I've heard that they took some bank out of it. It's still going to come down to who's car is working the best. We've missed out on some TV time in the last few weeks, and we'd like to make up for it this weekend."
Both Friday and Saturday's program's will air live on TNN: The National Network. The programs will begin at 9:00 PM (et).