Donny Schatz Knoxville Nationals preview

SCHATZ, PARKERSTORE TEAM START FRESH IN SEASON'S BIGGEST RACE KNOXVILLE, IA (August 10)- Every sprint car racer dreams about winning the Knoxville Nationals. This week's 45th annual Knoxville Nationals presented by the Midwest Ford Dealers will...


KNOXVILLE, IA (August 10)- Every sprint car racer dreams about winning the Knoxville Nationals. This week's 45th annual Knoxville Nationals presented by the Midwest Ford Dealers will certainly bring out the best in all of the competitors. Each August the "Superbowl of Sprint Car Racing" brings out the best in Donny Schatz too.

"There's nothing like the Knoxville Nationals," said Schatz, who begins his quest for a Knoxville Nationals crown tonight on his 28th birthday. "The races are phenomenal. The fans go crazy and everything happens so fast that you have to slow down to absorb it all. We're approaching it as just another race, and our goal is to get our car the best we can and come out strong on Wednesday and think about the rest of the week after that."

The 2005 season hasn't been the championship season Schatz and his ParkerStore World of Outlaws sprint car team were shooting for, but the Fargo, ND racer is only thinking about the week ahead.J

"It's been a long summer and everything happens for a reason," continued Schatz, who pilot his familiar #15 ParkerStore J&J with Shaver power. "We're hoping for a clean slate at the Nationals and things can start going our way. Everyone wants to do their best this week and that's our goal too."

The 1997 World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year has five career feature wins at the famed Knoxville Raceway in August and since 1998 during his Nationals qualifying night, he has finished second four times and won three times.

The ParkerStore team enters the Knoxville Nationals with four World of Outlaws victories this season and added new crew chief Ricky Warner to the team this week, which hopefully will help Schatz continue his Nationals consistency.

"We needed someone to come in and organize our motor program and see what the car is doing on the track," said Schatz, who has been doubling as driver/crew chief since early June. "Ricky worked with some good drivers in the past and also worked with our engine builder before. He has a good eye for watching the racecar and being able to determine what changes need to be made. It will be good for our crew guys John Pate and Nick Kerlin to work with him and learn. We're looking at this week as our first chance to build something special."

Schatz knows that at the Nationals everything matters and having everyone on the same page is key.

"It's easy to get overwhelmed when you try to think about everything," continued Schatz. "Our team is focusing on Wednesday night and that's it. Making sure the car is ready to go for hot laps and just get better every time we're on the track."

History shows that consistency is the name of the game at the Nationals. With more than 100 drivers vying for all the glory, collecting as many points and gaining a starting spot in Saturday's lucrative "A" Feature is the top priority. With three second place finishes since 2000, Schatz has been tantalizingly close to earning the ultimate sprint car victory, and his hope this week is to have another opportunity.

"It would be something to put it all together this year," concluded Schatz. "We've been close a couple of times, tasted victory in the preliminary nights there in the past and kind of let Saturday night slip away. If I can get that close to winning it this year, there is no way I'll let it get away from me."


Donny Schatz Motorsports and the ParkerStore World of Outlaws team added veteran sprint car mechanic Ricky Warner to their team last Friday night. Warner, a native of Carlisle, Penn., joined the team in Rossburg, OH for Friday's WoO event at Eldora Speedway and now will lead the team into the biggest sprint car race of the season.

"I'm really excited to be back in sprint car racing," said Warner, who left Everham Motorsports where he served as car chief for the #6 Busch Series entry. "The timing could have been better, but that's always the case when you make a change. It's tough coming into the Nationals and jump right in, but that's what we're going to do."

Warner began in sprint car racing in the mid 1990's with the late Kevin Gobrecht competing in the tough Central Pennsylvania circuit. He spent several years on the Outlaw Tour with Tyler Walker and later worked with Jac Haudenschild and Andy Hillenburg.

Warner is looking at this week as a chance to get things started on the right foot, one race at a time.

"The biggest thing is to be prepared and the second most important thing is to beat the race track and not worry about what everyone else is doing," said Warner. "You can't get yourself all worked up about everything else going on our you'll spin yourself out. You just have to race the track and not worry about anything, but keeping up with your car and the track."

Warner was in attendance the last time the ParkerStore #15 J&J was parked in victory lane on July 8th at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL. He could see then a difference in the Fargo, ND racer and hopes to see the confidence return.

"You could tell they were onto something with their motor packages," continued Warner. "He had a lot more confidence in things and I could see some of that returning on Friday night before we sealed up a tire."

There will be some growing pains, but Warner knows what it takes to make a relationship work between driver and crew chief.

"It's just a matter of time until me and Donny get on the same page," concluded Warner. "You have to feel each guy out that you are working with. It doesn't matter if it's Jac Haudencshcild, Andy Hillenburg or Tyler Walker, they all have their own style and like things a certain way. Communicating and getting the car so the driver feels the most confident that he can get it done is the key."

Warner joins crewman John Pate and Nick Kerlin on the Parkerstore team.

Notes and Quotes on the Knoxville Nationals

Happy Birthday

With an early August birthday, Donny Schatz almost always is celebrating his birthday at the Nationals.

"I can tell you that your birthday goes by a lot faster on race day.JI think we've had a lot of birthday luck in the past and it's helped us.JWe've had a lot of success on the qualifying nights, and we sure want to do that again. I guess there's no better time to do well than on your birthday. You are one year older and you need something to remember, so why not make it something special."

Warner joins ParkerStore team

Last Friday, Ricky Warner officially joined the ParkerStore racing team and will handle the crew chief duties on the team. Warner had a very successful career in sprint car racing before working in the NASCAR Busch Series for Ray Everham.

Schatz on the addition of Warner

"We had a program in the past that was very good and Ricky knows that. He isn't coming in and trying to change everything and tell that we're doing everything wrong. He is going to come in and watch what the racecar is doing. I can feel what it's doing, but I need someone to see what its doing also. When you are a driver, you try to correct everything by feel and Ricky's going to be perfect at seeing what the car is doing. I think we're going to gel pretty quickly."

Thoughts on Wednesday Night

"I looked at the breakdown and it kind of shocked me to see who was going each night. They split the Outlaws up, and then all the other fast series guys and PA guys are going on Wednesday night. I understand they never know how many cars are going to show up on Thursday, but it looks pretty stacked Wednesday."

Is the field Wide Open this year?

"I feel like we've got as good of chance as anyone at this deal. In the past we've really struggled in the Outlaw shows at Knoxville and then been able to turn it on at the Nationals. I feel like we're going to have the best motor we've ever had going into the Nationals and I think that's going to be our biggest asset. Everybody has worked really hard to get the engine program to this point and I honestly feel like we've got something better than everyone else. We're going to find out if it shows."

On his Nationals race car:

Schatz will use a J&J Auto Racing sprint car with two nights of action on it. The car debuted on July 1st at Red River Valley Speedway.

"We went back to the shop after Princeton last week and put the racecar together that we'll be using this week. We know it's a good car. It's the one we raced both nights at Fargo, so we know how well it works. That's why we decided to use it this week. We put in a new rearend, frontend and all the components just like we were going to the next World of Outlaws race. We'll double check and triple check everything and just make sure we have the nicest looking car we can."

Clean-O World Challenge

Donny Schatz and his ParkerStore team will compete in Friday night's Clean-O World Challenge. The 20-lap international race will feature qualifiers from around the world. Schatz qualified for the race by competing in The Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic at Premier Speedway in Warrambool last January.J Schatz is a two-time World Challenge winner taking the 2001 and 2002 events in dramatic style charging from the back of the pack in both events.

"We've been fortunate to get from the back to the front of that race, but the last time I ran it in 2003, we couldn't make it through the field. This year the cars are even better, so it's going to be a tall order. I hope we start at the back of it again and can make it through there. It's an honor to race in the event....Roger Johnson and the people at Kele put a lot into it and I'm excited Clean-O is on board."

Returning home to Fargo

For the first time following the Nationals, Schatz will race at his hometrack right after the biggest race of the year. Annually, the Outlaws hold the three-day "Duel in the Dakotas" at Red River Valley Speedway, but this year a two-night show in July will be followed by a one-night show next Tuesday.

Schatz was in control of the "Duel in Dakotas" finale on July 2nd leading the first 27 laps of the 30-lap feature. A burnt coil wire ended his chances of winning his second hometown "A" feature.J "It'd be great to be able to take the trophy home. We'll see what we can do and head back home try to finish the year strong. Ricky and I have a lot of work to do together and if we get going like we know we can. The rest of the year will be a lot of fun once we do."

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Andy Hillenburg , Donny Schatz , Tyler Walker , Jac Haudenschild