SCHATZ LOOKING FOR FOURTH NATIONAL OPEN CROWN ParkerStore racer hoping to continue Williams Grove Dominance MIDDLETOWN, NY (Sept. 26) - No matter what your craft is everyone has a favorite place to perform it. For World of Outlaws sprint car...
SCHATZ LOOKING FOR FOURTH NATIONAL OPEN CROWN
ParkerStore racer hoping to continue Williams Grove Dominance
MIDDLETOWN, NY (Sept. 26) - No matter what your craft is everyone has a favorite place to perform it. For World of Outlaws sprint car star Donny Schatz central Pennsylvania's historic Williams Grove Speedway is just about as good as it gets.
The Fargo, ND resident loves racing at the half-mile dirt oval and will return there in his Global ParkerStore/Tom Johnson Camping Center sponsored No. 15 J&J with Shaver-built Chevrolet power for the $50,00o-to-win 45th annual Cleveland Brothers National Open on Friday and Saturday night.
"Williams Grove has been really good to us in the past and this year especially," said Schatz, who is a three-time winner of the National Open and has won four of the five WoO races contested at the track this year. "We've raced really well there and been a little bit lucky too. The National Open is one of our more prestigious races of the year and we're looking forward to it."
Schatz has a lot of laps on the paper-clip shaped racetrack that offers high speeds down the long straightaways and tight turns that test a drivers skill. He'll be making his 68th start at the track on Friday night. His consistency at the track recently has been amazing, which includes 13 top six finishes in his last 14 starts.
ORANGE COUNTY FIRST
Before Schatz returns to Williams Grove Speedway, he and his ParkerStore team will compete at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY on Wednesday. This will be the fifth time Schatz competes at the big 5/8-mile dirt oval. He finished second in August of 1999 and last May, he set a new track record during qualifying and challenged Brooke Tatnell for 30 laps before ultimately finishing second.
FIGURING OUT THE GROVE
After struggling at the track early in his Outlaws career, Donny Schatz figured out how to get around the famous half-mile oval. He scored just one podium finish in 23 starts prior to the 2000 National Open, where he raced from 10th to claim his first career win at the track. What he figured out that night has stuck as he's won at least one race at the track every year but 2006, when he had six top five finishes in seven starts.
"It took a while to get a handle of the place, but we're pretty comfortable there," said Schatz, who has 15 career wins at the track. "It's a real fun place for me to race, because I feel like I know the place like the back of my hand. I think I could honestly get around there in the dark."
Even with his four wins at the track this year, Schatz still thinks about the great opportunity he missed out on at last year's National Open, which was called after 26 of the 40 laps. Mother Nature didn't cooperate. An early shower delayed the program, and then a consistent drizzle picked up during the middle stages of the feature causing the action to be stopped.
"We were coming on after starting seventh," continued Schatz, who finished third. "Doug Esh was setting a pretty good pace and (Craig) Dollansky and I were coming to him. I think he even ran out of fuel as the red flag stopped the race. We were just starting to get good. My hat goes off to Doug because he got the job done, but when there is $50,000 on the line you want every chance you can get to try and win it."
"The only thing we can do now is hope that the weather stays good and that we can get some redemption and be in the same position of contending for the win this year."
BIG MONEY SUCCESS
After his thrilling run during a four week period this summer, many thought the "Month of Money" should be called the "Summer of Donny". Schatz became the first sprint car racer to win the Kings Royal, Silver Cup, Summer Nationals and Knoxville Nationals all in the same season. Even though he missed out on winning the $25,000-to-win event in Skagit and the $50,000-to-win Gold Cup Race of Champions at Chico, Schatz really wants to add the National Open to his list of accomplishments for 2007.
"The big money races just have a few extra zeros in the check," admitted Schatz, who has 19 career wins in races paying $20,000 or more to win. "You still got to have your car right. Get the motor running at peak performance. Take advantage of opportunities and stay away from mistakes. We've had some things go our way in the big money races, but we also had a really good car for each of those races."
"The National Open will be no different. There isn't a tougher bunch of regional drivers than the guys from Pennsylvania. We're going to have to be on our game and even step it up a peg or two if we want to have the kind of weekend we're shooting for. We like the longer races and 40 laps is just about right. We try to have our J&J cars working their best at the end of the race. The last lap is the only one that really matters."
With only 10 races remaining, Donny Schatz and Joey Saldana are locked in a tight battle for the 2007 championship. Entering Wednesday's race at Orange County Fair Speedway, Schatz holds a 35-point advantage. During the last two weeks the size of the lead has fluxiated quite a bit.
Two weeks ago, Schatz held a 19-point advantage and following two wins and a second, Schatz built the lead back to 53 markers. Last Friday night, Schatz looked to be on his way to his 17th victory and at the very least maintain his 53-point advantage when trouble struck. He blew a right rear tire on the tenth lap at Eldora Speedway, but managed to charge back to finish seventh and minimize what could have been a bigger blow to his lead.
"You win championships by never giving up and working for everything you get," said Schatz. "The tire blowing was out of our control. You have to deal with it. My guys (Ricky Warner, Dave Lawrence and Shane Bowers) kept fighting and we got back out there and did the best we could. We've had three races where it seemed like we were destined for a podium finish and something happened. At I-96 and Minot, we ended up with DNF's, but at Eldora we were able to get back out and make up as much as we could."
"From here on out we still have to try and win as many races as we can. Hopefully the racing gods will be on our side and we get this championship."
The SPEED TV crew will be on hand taping both races from Williams Grove for upcoming airings. Schatz will hope to duplicate his May performance when he won at the track in front of the SPEED cameras. This season he has been extremely good in the TV races winning four WoO televised shows and also the Knoxville Nationals, which aired live on SPEED.