CONCORD, NC - Last May a frustrated Donny Schatz stood on the frontstretch at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway and tried to be upbeat about his third place finish. "The Minot Missile" had stormed from 10th to third place in the Pennzoil ...
CONCORD, NC - Last May a frustrated Donny Schatz stood on the frontstretch at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway and tried to be upbeat about his third place finish. "The Minot Missile" had stormed from 10th to third place in the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Chip Thunder feature event, but felt like he should have finished two spots better and claimed the win. That memory will serve as motivation once Schatz straps into the #15 ParkerStores/Featherlite Coaches J&J at this weekend's OdoBan Outlaw Championship on the 4/10-mile clay oval.
"We've been as steady at Charlotte as any place in the country," explained Schatz. "This ParkerStore team has run really well here every time we've been here. (Crew Chief) Kenny (Woodruff) and the crew have given me a good racecar and that's been a big key. We struggled a little the last few weeks, but on Saturday night (at Williams Grove) we got back to running up front, which is what we've been doing most of the season. We won the prelim at Charlotte last fall and had good runs in the spring. We feel like we've got a good chance to get back to victory lane."
In six races at the state-of-the-art facility, Schatz has finishes of fourth (May 25, 00), 20th (May 26,00), first (October 5, 00), third (October 6,00) sixth (May 25,01) and third (May 26,01). He led all 30 laps in last fall's preliminary feature and was the fast qualifier in this May's opener. In those two nights, Schatz felt like he was the car to beat, but ended up finishing third. Last fall, Schatz lost a cylinder during the feature and held on for third, while in May, Schatz was charging towards the front in the Channellock Dash when his left rear tire peeled off the rim. The flat tire cost him seven spots in the starting grid, which he made up in the "A" feature coming from 10th to third. In that feature, he was closing in on leaders Mark Kinser and Steve Kinser in traffic, but a late yellow ended his chances.
"Sometimes circumstances work for you and then again, sometimes they bite you," continued Schatz. "The last time we were here, we charged up to the front pretty good. I know we had something for Mark (Kinser) and Steve (Kinser), but we never got the chance after the yellow flag came out. That's racing though. We probably should have started better than 10th, but again circumstances kept that from happening."
Schatz is in the midst of his best Outlaws season winning 10 races and currently holding the fourth position in the points standings. In 85 races this season, he has 33 top five's and 57 top ten finishes. He's also put together two streaks of five wins. From the end of April to the middle of June, he won five races in 15 starts, and from late July to August 14th, he won five races in 12 starts, which doesn't include the non-sanctioned $10,000-to-win Kele World Challenge that Schatz won from the 14th starting position. The 24 year-old driver from Minot, ND, also earned the pole position for the sport's biggest race: the Knoxville Nationals.
"I guess if you look at the big picture, we've had a good season," said Schatz, "but we live in the 'what have you done for me lately' era. It's been six weeks since we've won a race. We came into this season with hopes of winning the championship. We're sitting in fourth and have won a lot of races, but you seem to remember the ones that got a way a little more. There are only 11 races left, and we want to win as many of them as possible. If we can end the season on a good note, our confidence for 2002 will be that much higher."
Both nights of action can be heard live on the Sprint Car Network (www.sprintcarnet.com) beginning at 8 PM (et). Friday's race will be taped by TNN: The National Network and air on Sunday from 12 noon to 2 PM (et).