DEFENDING WORLD OF OUTLAWS CHAMPION RETURNS HOME TO DUEL IN THE DAKOTAS FARGO, ND (June 27) - For years the annual World of Outlaws (WoO) Duel in the Dakotas event was the highlight for a young sprint car racer named Donny Schatz. He and his ...
DEFENDING WORLD OF OUTLAWS CHAMPION RETURNS HOME TO DUEL IN THE DAKOTAS
FARGO, ND (June 27) - For years the annual World of Outlaws (WoO) Duel in the Dakotas event was the highlight for a young sprint car racer named Donny Schatz. He and his family would travel over from Minot and watch the best sprint car drivers complete and then in 1993 he joined them on the track.
After many years of trying, he finally won an Outlaw feature on his home track in 2002. Another preliminary win in 2003 was part of his climb to the top of the mountain and after sweeping two races at the track last year, he went on to claim his first WoO points title.
On Saturday, the Fargo resident will return to the fast half-mile oval as defending WoO series champion and current points leader behind the wheel of his familiar yellow No. 15 ParkerStore sponsored J&J. Schatz knows the pressure of performing at home, but still has his focus on the big picture.
"I'm really looking forward to the weekend," said Schatz, who enters the event with eight "A" feature wins in 2007, including a thrilling last lap pass for the win on Monday night at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, SD. "In all honesty, it's just one of many races that we have this year, but we know there'll be a little extra buzz in the grandstands. At least we hope there is."
"When I first started racing with the Outlaws, I'd try so hard to do well when we'd come home and somehow overdue it. We were close a few times and then finally winning in 2002 was huge. It was like a big weight off my shoulders. Last year, we had things going really well and passed Joey (Saldana) the first night and then led almost the whole race the next night to sweep the weekend.
"It's fun...you get to see a lot of people that you've known most of your life. It just gets tough, because you don't have enough time to catch up with everyone. We'll have a lot of family in town for the event. Dick Bellerud has been with us ever since we started and his company is in Fargo, so we'll have a lot of those guys out. Our engine builder, Ron Shaver, and Jack Elam from J&J will be here. We've built some great relationships over the years and it's like one big family reunion."
This season's Duel in the Dakotas is just a one night show, but does include the television crew from ESPN, who will tape the race and then air it the next morning (Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ct). The event was a staple during TNN's coverage of the World of Outlaws in the late 1990's.
"We always enjoyed having the shows here on live TV," continued Schatz. "Obviously, things have changed a bit the last few years, but this opportunity with ESPN is phenomenal. We've got to showcase our sport in the best possible way and I couldn't think of anything better than us winning the race and having the fans go nuts."
Through 36 races, the ParkerStore team has been the car to beat each night. Incredible consistency including 33 top ten finishes has helped Schatz build a 104-point lead heading into Friday night's race at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks.
"The middle of the summer is when you want to be at your best," said Schatz, who has four races in the next six nights. "We started well and had some good runs. We had a great eight days in late May winning two nights at Williams Grove and then winning at Charlotte. The last few weeks have been tough...I'm out here to win races. Maybe getting that win the other night in Rapid City will get us on a little bit of roll."
Seven of his eight wins have come on the bigger, faster tracks. Red River Valley Speedway is one of the fastest tracks the Outlaws race on during the season. Eldora Speedway has the reputation of being the fastest, but Schatz admits that racing in Fargo can be tough on a driver.
"When you have a track that is big, fast and has banking that allow a driver keep it flat footed for most the time you are going to get some speed," said Schatz. "Our program is designed to be at its best on those big tracks. You have to stay up with what the track is going to do. The daylight makes it tough, because we have to qualify on it so early and it ends up being hard on tires. The guys from SLS (Promotions) do a good job of getting the track in the best shape for the feature. We know it will be a good race for 30 laps and hope we come out on top."
SPREADING THE WORD
Earlier this year, Donny Schatz was selected as spokesperson for the Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign. In May, Schatz spoke with community members in Minot, his hometown, and Fargo, his current residence, encouraging the usage of seat belts. Schatz was featured in television and radio PSA's trying to get the word out.
"Having a local celebrity be part of our campaign is truly a big boost," said Robyn Litke, Coordinator for Safe Communities Coalition of the Red River Valley. "We're still collecting our data, but the representatives in Clay County, Minnesota reported an all-time record high of 84% seat belt usage. We're excited to be sharing our message with all the people that attend this Saturday's race and the millions of viewers on ESPN as well."
The familiar No. 15 will carry the Click It or Ticket logo on its front wing promoting the campaign coordinated by the Safe Communities Coalition.
BUILDING A PARTNERSHIP
For the second consecutive season, 1st International Bank and Trust will be partner with Donny Schatz and his Schatz Motorsports team for the World of Outlaws events in Fargo and Minot.
Last season, Schatz won a pair of feature of events in Fargo just days after the bank opened a new branch at 501 40th Ave S, in Fargo . Earlier this year, Schatz, his race team and team transporter were on site for the one year anniversary celebration.
"It's great being involved with successful people," commented Jim Dunkel, Senior Vice President, 1st International Bank and Trust. " The Schatz family is an important part of the Fargo community and having both a business and personal relationship with them has many benefits. It was great having Donny and his team at our location a few weeks ago and now we're looking forward to being at the track in support of them."
Schatz and his team will make another appearance in advance of this weekend's racing at the 1st International Bank and Trust West Fargo location - 1350 13th Ave E, West Fargo, just in front of Menards - Thursday night from 4 - 7 p.m.
Saturday's race will be the 35th night of WoO action at the track for Schatz. He has four wins, 11 top fives and 22 top tens. His best qualifying effort came on June 13, 2003, when he timed in second fastest.