Schatz, Parkerstores Team Hope To Contend For WOO Championship FARGO, ND (February 18) - Making the step in any sport from contender to champion, can be a difficult task. It takes hard work, patience, experience and the ability to overcome ...
Schatz, Parkerstores Team Hope To Contend For WOO Championship
FARGO, ND (February 18) - Making the step in any sport from contender to champion, can be a difficult task. It takes hard work, patience, experience and the ability to overcome obstacles along the journey to earn a championship. After five years of competing with the premiere sprint car series, the Pennzoil World of Outlaws, Donny Schatz feels he's now ready to challenge for the title.
"My goals are as high as they have ever been," said Schatz, who will drive his family owned ParkerStores #15 J&J. "We proved some things last year and now we want to build on it. There are so many things that have to go right for a team to be successful. I've learned a lot that last five years on the road and working with Kenny (Woodruff) the past two has been a real education. I feel like last year we had a couple of stretches where we were pretty awesome, and our goal this year is to sustain those stretches for longer periods and be more consistent."
Schatz's WoO career has been on a steady climb towards the top since he made his national debut at the 1996 King's Royal. As an 18-year old on his way to the National WISSOTA Sprint Car championship, Schatz finished eighth in the nationally televised WoO race on TNN and excited many by joining the Outlaws the following season. To say his rookie season with the Outlaws was a learning experience would be an understatement, but the North Dakota native persevered and he was awarded the WoO Rookie of Year.
He spent three seasons following his rookie campaign with the Outlaws and each season continued to show signs of his talent in the driver's seat. After winning his first career WoO feature in August 1998, Schatz picked up four more WoO "A" Feature wins and two preliminary feature event wins. In 2001, Schatz experienced a breakout season as he won a total of 10 WoO features (six "A" features, four preliminary features) and his 37 top five and 62 top ten finishes in 97 starts helped him finish a career-best fifth in the WoO standings.
"I started last year mentally as tough as ever and I knew we were going to have a good year," said Schatz. "It was frustrating that it took us until the end of April to get our first win, but I've always seemed to be a slow starter. This may sound crazy, but I'd really like to win twice as many or even three times as many races as we did last year. If we want to challenge for the championship, it's going to take the best year of my career and that's what we've set out to do."
Schatz's ability to step up and be consistent night in and night out last season has legitimized his hopes for another good season. The Parkerstores team consists of Schatz, veteran crew chief Kenny Woodruff, who has won two WoO titles (Bobby Davis, Jr. 1989 & Dave Blaney 1995), and third year crewman Shane Anderson, who also helped Schatz in Australia this winter. The team has been together since the 2000 Knoxville Nationals and Schatz admits that their chemistry continues to grow.
"When you race as much as we do at as many different tracks, you've got to have consistency," continued Schatz. "Having the same team is key, and you look at the teams that are contending and they all have solid driver/crew chief combinations. Kenny was great from the first day he joined our team, and I know our communication has continued to get better. He wants to win more than anyone I've ever worked with and that has really helped our program."
The 2002 campaign will also be the second for Schatz piloting a J&J sprint car with Shaver horsepower. Last season, Schatz finished with the second most feature wins in the series and with more off-season R&D, he's optimistic his combination will be as strong as any car on the circuit this season.
"One big area that we've improved on is our engine program," claimed Schatz. "Ron Shaver and KW have worked hard building a motor that I'll race better with. We've always had plenty of horsepower and this winter they've tried to build motors that will suit my driving style. The other key is that I really learned a lot about the J&J car during the past 12 months. Last year, Kenny would throw different combinations in the car (torsion bars, etc.) and I didn't always understand why and how the car reacted to what he was doing. This winter, I raced 25 times and did all the chassis setups myself. I tried a lot of those same things, and it helped me learn why those combinations work. It really gives me a great understanding of what the car is capable of."
Schatz also will rely on Goodyear tires to keep him running up front. Goodyear has shown a commitment to being the premier dirt track tire, and the team will rely on the Goodyear rubber to be the final piece of the puzzle and the deciding factor on the track. "Goodyear has worked hard to give us the best racing tire for all types of racing surfaces," said Schatz. "They've done a lot of R&D and I think we'll see some of the changes they've made help right out of the box. We had a lot of success with Goodyear and we're expecting that to continue this year."
To win the challenge for the title, Schatz will have to compete with the four drivers that finished ahead of him last year including 2001 champion Danny Lasoski, two-time champion Mark Kinser, 16-time champion Steve Kinser and Craig Dollansky. "There are some big obstacles in my way this year. All the guys that finished ahead of me last year are going to be tough and I know there will be more guys out there gunning to beat us."
"I'm sure all of them worked hard during the off-season to get ready and many of them might even think I might not be ready since I raced in Australia," continued Schatz, who won 11 races in 23 starts this winter in Australia including the two biggest races: Parts Plus $50,000 Summer Slam and Warrambool Classic for the second consecutive year. "Everyone seems to think that by not taking three months off, that I'll somehow be burned out. I really think racing in Australia helped me stay sharp and fresh with racing experience. Personally, I think it will give me an advantage."
Schatz and the Donny Schatz Motorsports team, which has sponsorship from ParkerStores, Featherlite and Blue Beacon Truck Washes, will begin the 105-night season on February 22nd at King's Speedway in Hanford, CA, and the 24 year-old is ready to go. "I'm really excited. I've had a couple weeks to relax and get my psyche ready for the best year of my career. I can't thank everyone that makes this possible enough. ParkerStores, Featherlite and Blue Beacon Truck Washes are again supporting the race team and we've got some great product sponsors that give us a chance to win every night. It's going to be a fun ride, that's for sure."