SCHATZ, PARKERSTORE TEAM LOOK FOR FRESH START ON HOME SOIL FARGO, ND (June 30) - To say that the 2005 World of Outlaws season has been unpredictable would be an understatement with regard to Donny Schatz and his ParkerStore team. After starting...
SCHATZ, PARKERSTORE TEAM LOOK FOR FRESH START ON HOME SOIL
FARGO, ND (June 30) - To say that the 2005 World of Outlaws season has been unpredictable would be an understatement with regard to Donny Schatz and his ParkerStore team. After starting the season with three victories in the first eight events, Schatz and his team have spent the past couple of months searching for ways to return to prominence in sprint car racing's toughest circuit. The ParkerStore team is looking at this weekend's "Duel in the Dakotas" at Red River Valley Speedway as their chance to start fresh and regain their place at the top of the World of Outlaws.
"It's been a really frustrating season to say the least," said Schatz, prior to his 12th WoO appearance at his hometown track. "We ended last year so strong and were really hoping this would be our year to seriously contend for the championship. Even though we were winning races early on, I still didn't feel like we reaching our full potential. We haven't won a race since March and really have only had a couple of nights where we were even a factor. That's not the way this team needs to be performing."
After closing the 2004 WoO campaign with several major victories including the $25,000 Gold Cup of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway, the $30,000 Williams Grove National Open and the 2004 WoO season finale at Las Vegas and a career-best third place finish in the standings, all indications where that the #15 ParkerStore J&J with Shaver power would be a regular visitor to victory lane and a serious threat to Steve Kinser's reign as Outlaws champion.
Schatz kicked off the season in Australia by claiming the "Outlaws Down Under II" Finale at Parramatta City Raceway near Sydney. When the Outlaws kicked off the American portion of the schedule in Florida, things looked to be the same as Schatz roared out to a commanding lead in the opening night feature at Volusia Speedway Park only to have a $2 ignition wire short out and end his chance at victory. The night in Florida may have offered a hint of foreshadowing to the first half of the season.
"We got started well at Volusia and just had a fluke deal with the wire burning up," continued Schatz. "At the time, I didn't feel like it was a big deal. We had been winning races to end 2004 and figured we'd just keep up that pace. Shortly after that we went over and won a race at Las Vegas and then another down in Houston, but we were still searching for the right combination."
"We spent the next couple of months spinning our wheels trying to get better. Finally at the end of the Pennsylvania Swing in May, I decided it was time to make a change and we let our Crew Chief go. Since then, I've been trying to do more and more on the car. We've had a couple of good nights, but we're still along way from where we need to be."
Schatz and the team have been mainly struggling with qualifying and that has hurt with the current WoO format. Schatz has put on several charges from deep in the field into the top ten including Tuesday night's run from 22nd starting position to 10th at Huset's Speedway.
"The guys have hung in there and worked hard," said Schatz, referring to his ParkerStore crew of John Pate and Nick Kerlin. "The easy thing for John to do was to quit and he didn't do that. He's getting a lot of experience and we're getting better as team. Nick's come over here in the last few weeks and really worked hard."
"I went through (racing without a Crew Chief) in 2000 and it was just me and one crew guy (Shane Anderson). He learned a lot and we made it work. We had some good runs including a second at Fargo, so it' s possible to make it work this way. The big thing now is for us to continue improving."
The annual Duel in the Dakotas traditionally kicks off the "Month of Money" in sprint car racing. During the next six weeks, Schatz and the ParkerStore team will be racing for a lot of money and plenty of the prestige. In two weeks, the team will chase the $50,000 King's Royal trophy, which is followed by the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup, the Williams Grove Summer Nationals and in mid-August $125,000 will be on the line at the Knoxville Nationals.
"We've always been pretty good when the big money is on the line and even though this year's race at Fargo is only a two-day event, it's still is very important to us. With the King's Royal, the run through Pennsylvania and ultimately the Knoxville Nationals, we still have chance to turn our season into something special. The championship may be out of reach, but we work with some of the best manufacturers's in the business. I said last fall when we were dominating that I didn't think there was a better combination than our J&J chassis and Shaver motor program. They are determined to keep working and get us back in contention on a nightly basis and we're all working hard to get there. We just hope this weekend is the start of real strong second half."
Schatz has been very successful at the high-speed half-mile located in West Fargo. He won the 2002 "A" Feature and returned to victory lane in the second prelim in 2003. Last year, he charged from sixth to fourth and looked poised to make a run on the leaders before heavy rains ended the feature with 14 laps remaining. Prior to 2002, the Fargo resident put plenty of pressure on himself to try and win the event, but since doing so his focus is more about enjoying the races at his home track.
"This race will always be special to me and my family," said Schatz, who has 19 top ten finishes, including 12 of the last 13, in 29 WoO races at the track. 'Winning a couple of years ago took a lot of pressure off me, but I still put extra emphasis on this race because it is here. The best thing for me to do this weekend is get back to being in the hunt. We're going to work our tails off and try to put ourselves in position to win and keep getting better."