SCHATZ LOOKS FOR REPEAT PERFORMANCE AT KNOXVILLE KNOXVILLE, IA (Aug. 7) - The joy and relief Donny Schatz felt last August after winning the 46th annual Super Clean Knoxville Nationals was tough to measure. After four times running second at ...
SCHATZ LOOKS FOR REPEAT PERFORMANCE AT KNOXVILLE
KNOXVILLE, IA (Aug. 7) - The joy and relief Donny Schatz felt last August after winning the 46th annual Super Clean Knoxville Nationals was tough to measure. After four times running second at sprint car racing's premiere event, the Fargo, ND racer finally made it one spot better and joined the elite list of drivers to have claimed sprint car racing's ultimate race.
Schatz followed his Knoxville win by finishing out the 2006 season with a World of Outlaws championship. The season validated that he had reached the top of sport. Anytime you reach the top, the goal becomes setting a higher ceiling. Make it even tougher for the competition to catch you. Win back-to-back championships. Win consecutive Knoxville Nationals...something only six drivers have done.
"It's an honor to be returning to Knoxville as the defending champion," said Schatz, who is leading the WoO standings entering the event. "We know that we can win the race now and not wonder if second place is the best we'll ever be able to be. That's about all that will carry over though...just because we won last year we're not guaranteed anything this year."
Schatz entered last year's event the winningest WoO driver of the season with his 12 feature wins. This year, Schatz has once again the most wins on the tour (13), all coming in his No. 15 ParkerStore J&J with Shaver power.
"Winning races helps keep everyone motivated," continued Schatz. "I've always said we are out here to win races. The championship points and all that other stuff will take care of itself. There is no time to be satisfied or relax. We just keep turning the wrenches and try to keep getting better and better."
The Global ParkerStore sponsored racer has not only won the most races this year, they are threatening to sweep all the "Month of Money" races.
On July 14th, Schatz dominated the 24th annual Kings Royal by Crown Royal at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway. It marked the first time in his career, he took home the $50,000 prize. Four nights later, he scored his second consecutive Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup victory at Lernerville Speedway, pocketing another $30,000. Later in that week, he won a opening night feature in the Cleveland Brothers Summer Nationals at Williams Grove Speedway before taking the $20,000 finale two nights later.
Four wins in five nights of racing in eight days and $105,000 in prize money. The Knoxville Nationals will offer that same type of payoff with the qualifying night feature winners taking home $12,000 and Saturday's Nationals champion earning $150,000.
"I've never complained about the money we've taken from Knoxville through the years," said Schatz, who picked up $140,000 for his win last year and over $200,000 in four second place finishes. "These big money races are what keep you on top of your game. The money certainly helps your program, but the trophy and the prestige of winning those races really builds strength in your team."
The Schatz team has been strong all season with Dave Lawrence, Shane Bowers and David Nisbet keeping the ParkerStore J&J up front consistently. Recent assistance from Ricky Warner has increased their potency. Schatz has raced 53 times this year and earning 13 wins, 38 top fives and 48 top ten finishes. That consistency has also been there during his qualifying night at the Knoxville Nationals since 1998. He's finished first or second in his qualifying feature eight of the last nine years, only a sixth in 2005 kept him from nine straight.
"We've figured out that you have to be good every time you hit the track at the Nationals," said Schatz. "There is a lot of pressure in qualifying and then you have to make it through the heat. The feature is a chance to relax and just race to win. After all of that you just see where you stand. The first thing is getting qualified. That's our focus going in and we'll just let the racing take care of itself."
Saturday's 47th annual Super Clean Knoxville Nationals begin on Wednesday and conclude on Saturday night. The final feature events from Knoxville will air live on SPEED, beginning at 9 p.m. (et).
Donny Schatz will again be in his familiar yellow ParkerStore sponsored No. 15 J&J, but the car will include new graphics and a new sponsor. Tom Johnson Camping Center has joined the team as a major associate sponsor for the rest of 2007 World of Outlaws campaign.
"Everyone at Tom Johnson Camping Center is excited to be involved with Donny Schatz," said James Johnson, Motorsports Manager for Tom Johnson Camping Center. "The Knoxville Nationals is the biggest sprint car race of the year and being associated with the defending champion ties directly into our business mission of being the best. The exposure this event gets is right there with the biggest races in the year from the Daytona 500 to the Indy 500. We've had a great relationship with the Schatz family over the years and this partnership is great for both of us. We're all hoping they have a great week and win the Knoxville Nationals again."
For the fifth consecutive year, Schatz will qualify in Wednesday's opening night at the Nationals. He won the qualifying feature event in 2003 and has finished second, sixth and second in the last three.
"I like racing the first night," admitted Schatz, who has three career qualifying night wins (2001, 2002, 2003). "You can get out there right away and then spend Thursday looking ahead. When you go on Thursday, it seems like you have to wait forever to race. They do a great job of splitting the field and we're looking forward to keeping our qualifying night consistency."
On Friday night, Schatz will again compete in the Factory Value Parts World Challenge race. The event is a 16-lap sprint for drivers that have competed Internationally. Schatz races annually in Australia during his off-season in the United States. He's a two-time winner of the event winning back-to-back in 2001 and 2002. In the last two years, he's finished second and third.
"The World Challenge is always a fun deal," said Schatz. "We really enjoy our time in Australia every year and fortunately we see a lot of those familiar faces at the Nationals. It's a great race where we usually start in the back and have to work our way forward. We've been close the past couple of years, but haven't been able to to win it. It really helps us for Saturday night to test some things on the car during that race."