SCHATZ BRINGS PARKERSTORE TEAM HOME FOR ANNUAL DUEL IN DAKOTAS FARGO, ND (June 13) -- There is something special about racing at your home track, especially when you only get to do it once a year. For North Dakota native and World of Outlaws...
SCHATZ BRINGS PARKERSTORE TEAM HOME FOR ANNUAL DUEL IN DAKOTAS
FARGO, ND (June 13) -- There is something special about racing at your home track, especially when you only get to do it once a year. For North Dakota native and World of Outlaws star Donny Schatz coming home to race is always one of the season's highlights. This weekend's Duel in the Dakotas will be the Outlaws 26th consecutive year racing at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds and 14th time Schatz has been part of the action.
Racing at home has its advantages and distractions as Schatz has found out while competing with the Outlaws at the very fast half-mile dirt oval. The fans come out in huge numbers to see the world's greatest sprint car drivers and all of the drivers, crews and families appreciate some of the best support the traveling racers see all season.
"It's great to be coming back home and racing here," said Schatz, who is preparing for a busy week that includes a one-night show Wednesday in Beaver Dam, WI as well as Friday and Saturday's races in W. Fargo. "When I first started racing with the Outlaws coming home and racing sometimes got a bit overwhelming, because I tried so hard to do well. The fans here are so good to me and I wanted so badly to give them something to cheer about.
"The first few years that I traveled it was tough getting a top five anywhere let alone at your home track where it seemed like everyone you knew was watching. Through the years, I've gained a lot of experience and finally getting the win in 2002 allowed me to relax a little, but I won't be happy this weekend unless we end the night on Saturday in victory lane."
Schatz is in the midst of his best start ever during this his 10th season on the road with the World of Outlaws. The Minot-native that now calls Horace home is leading the series point standings, has the most feature wins (five), has led the most laps and has four fast qualifier awards.
During the past five years, slow starts have always seemed to plague Schatz in his championship quests. He always seems to finish strong winning a number of feature races during the second half of the season, but this year his ParkerStore team is making things happen before the calendar turns to July.
"Our early success has a lot to do with the team we have," continued Schatz, who has 55 career World of Outlaws feature wins (including preliminary and "A" features). "I'm so fortunate that my parents have been behind my racing career. They provided me with a chance to follow a dream and have been behind me all along the way.
"We worked hard to assemble a crew that can keep us up front night after night. Last August, we got Ricky Warner to come on board as our crew chief and we spent the last part of the season building towards 2006. While I was racing in Australia trying to stay sharp, he was putting the pieces together. We've added some guys this year (Shane Bowers, Dillon Pendleton and James Bowers) that really work hard and I honestly think this is the best team in sprint car racing."
Consistency has been the key to their strong start. From qualifying through the feature events, Schatz continues to be in contention night after night. He enters this week's action with nine consecutive top ten finishes and eight of them have been top fives. He had similar string going at Red River Valley from July 2001 until last year's misfortune in the Duel in the Dakotas "A" feature.
In last year's finale, Schatz looked to be on his way to another hometown WoO victory leading the first 27 circuits. With only three laps remaining, the engine in his ParkerStore sprinter shut-off heading into turn one. Those in attendance could feel the air go out of grandstands as many hoped to see Schatz take home the win again. A burnt coil wire caused the malfunction, and Schatz knows that sometimes in racing things just happen.
"We were all terribly disappointed not to get the win last year after being so good," continued Schatz, who won the 2002 finale and second night of the 2003 event at Red River Valley. "I've learned you can't get too high or too low. This sport will humble you quickly. I know my guys are working really hard this week to give us every chance at being our best."
1st International Bank and Trust has agreed to sponsor the #15 J&J for the Duel in the Dakotas.
"We're excited to have 1st International Bank and Trust helping us this weekend," said Schatz. "We've built a great relationship over the years and to have them be part of our racing program this weekend is win-win situation."