DEFENDING WOO CHAMPION EXCITED TO RETURN TO "THE GROVE" Mechanicsburg, PA (May 17) - Since the World of Outlaws race at more than 40 tracks in a season, drivers likely have ones they look forward to more than others. Although defending WoO ...
DEFENDING WOO CHAMPION EXCITED TO RETURN TO "THE GROVE"
Mechanicsburg, PA (May 17) - Since the World of Outlaws race at more than 40 tracks in a season, drivers likely have ones they look forward to more than others. Although defending WoO champion Donny Schatz won't admit to having a favorite, this weekend's destination, Williams Grove Speedway, would likely be near the top.
Schatz returns to the famous half-mile dirt oval located near Mechanicsburg, PA for two single night programs beginning tonight and hopes to continue his success at the famous track.
"We've been looking forward to getting back to Williams Grove pretty much since we left there last fall when it started raining at the National Open," said Schatz, who enters the event tied for the points lead with Joey Saldana. "Last September, there was $50,000 on the line and we were coming to the front when Mother Nature decided 18 laps was all we were getting."
"This ParkerStore J&J works really well at the track and Ron Shaver builds us some strong engines that are a big key to our success. It's a high-speed horsepower track, but you've got to be patient and not drive the wheels off the car. It took me a long time to figure out how to get around here, but I've got a pretty good game plan now."
Schatz has started his title defense with a consistent beginning to the 2007 season. He has started 20 races and has 18 top ten finishes. He won the season opening feature event at Volusia Speedway Park and has collected three others to date (Manzanita, Houston Raceway Park and Knoxville).
The Fargo, ND racer admits that the team's strengths more recently have been on the half-mile tracks. His victories at Volusia, Manzanita and Knoxville back that up along with podium finishes at Volusia (2), Tuscon, Pike County and Eldora. The schedule recently has included a number of short tracks, but that will change this week.
"We're looking forward to a busy week of action," said Schatz, who charged from 27th to ninth on Tuesday night at Lernerville Speedway. "We're still working on our short track program. We had a mechanical problem early in the night at Lernerville and that costs us, but if you look at our results from the other big tracks we are getting where we need to be."
Even though he is a native of North Dakota, the 29 year-old has taken to the Pennsylvania soil. He's won nine feature events at Williams Grove and last year also won at two other Keystone State ovals (Grandview in May and the $30,000 Don Martin Memorial at Lernerville last July). Those two wins helped Schatz capture his first WoO title, but this year he wants to add Williams Grove to his victory list.
In 2006, he didn't come home victorious at the facility, but his presence was felt.
In May, Schatz and Pennsylvania Posse standout Fred Rahmer raced side by side for nearly 10 laps before he ultimately finished second.
At the Summer Nationals in July, Schatz charged his No. 15 ParkerStore sponsored J&J into second place in the finale and stalked Daryn Pittman until he lost a cylinder and had to nurse his motor to finish second.
During the National Open, a race he has won three times, Schatz surged from his seventh starting position into third during the first 15 laps of the race and seemed to be moving in on leaders Doug Esh and Craig Dollansky when steady rain called for the show to be complete with 18 of 40 laps in the books.
"May is usually when we really start hitting our stride," continued Schatz. "We've had a really good start, but I'm interested in winning races. We don't like to go more than a couple of races without a win. The last two weeks have been a little frustrating. We had some problems at Memphis and although we qualified well at Cameron (US 36 Raceway) we didn't take advantage of it. Qualifying problems bit us at both Lake Ozark and Lernerville, so that's the key tonight. Get started with a good run in qualifying and then go from there."
The contingent of drivers that make up the Pennsylvania Posse are some of the toughest non-travelers in the county. When the Outlaws show up at the Grove, they all know it's going to be tough.
"You have to be on your game every time you hit the track," continued Schatz, who has twice had three-race winning streaks at 'the Grove'. "We've got a lot of good teams traveling with us, but when you roll into someone's backyard you have to be ready for a fight. Dave Lawrence, Shane Bowers, Brad Sparks and Dave Nisbet are working their tales off for this team to make sure we're on top of our game."
"It's a long season, but when you have been successful at a particular place in the past you want to keep that up. Like I said, the competition is going to be extremely tough, but as long as my team is at their best I like our chances of being right there at the end of the night."
Friday's program will be taped by SPEED and air on June 3. Schatz put on a strong showing in the season's first television race when he stormed to a second place finish at Eldora Speedway. Both races will air live on the internet at www.dirtvision.com.