Schatz Wins Knoxville Preliminary for Third Straight Year KNOXVLLE, IA (August 13) - With two second-place finishes, a pole position and two preliminary victories in the previous last three years, Donny Schatz knows plenty about the...
Schatz Wins Knoxville Preliminary for Third Straight Year
KNOXVLLE, IA (August 13) - With two second-place finishes, a pole position and two preliminary victories in the previous last three years, Donny Schatz knows plenty about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at the Ford Dealers of Iowa Knoxville Nationals.
The Fargo, ND, racer took a big step toward fulfilling his dream of winning sprint car racing's crown jewel Wednesday when the O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series opened the 43rd Annual Ford Dealers of Iowa Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway.
Schatz, who started outside the third row, passed Joey Saldana early in the seventh lap and held off two-time Nationals champion Danny Lasoski by one car-length to claim the $10,000 first prize. It was the third straight year Schatz won a Preliminary Feature at the Nationals.
"This is exactly where we needed to be at the conclusion of our qualifying night," Schatz said. "Qualifying here and accumulating as many points as possible is so important for the Nationals. You have to be in the Scramble Friday night to have a chance of starting up front in the A Main on Saturday night. This is good for my guys; they have worked so hard on this new car. A win just builds momentum and confidence for Friday night's Scramble and the Kele World Challenge."
Schatz, who has raced past more cars than any other driver with the O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series during its 25th Anniversary Season, drove his #15 Parker Stores J&J past seven cars to finish second behind Greg Hodnett in the First Heat Race. He was the third-fastest qualifier in the 50-car field, only .023 seconds off fast qualifier Sammy Swindell's pace. The combination of speed and passing ability gave the 1997 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year a one-point lead over Lasoski in the standings used to determine the starting lineup in Saturday's $125,000-to-win championship feature.
Saldana drove his family's #17 Eagle Raceway Maxim past Hodnett and pole-sitter Chad Kemenah to take the lead, while Schatz passed Lasoski and surprising rookie Erin Crocker during the opening lap.
Schatz shot past Swindell the next time around, then took third place from Hodnett with an inside move in the second corner early in lap three. Donny raced past Kemenah during the fifth lap and caught Saldana the next time around.
Schatz took the inside line through the first corner to pass Saldana for the lead early in lap seven. He was approaching lapped traffic two laps later when Kasey Kahne stopped on the front straightaway, bringing out the caution flag. Kahne, who won the Third Heat Race, also races with NASCAR's Busch Series.
Lasoski, who fell as far back as 10th place early in the race, started making his way back toward the front in lapped traffic during the final six laps. "The Dude," who won Nationals titles in 1998 and 2001, won a back-straightaway drag race with Hodnett for the runner-up spot late in the 21st lap.
A pair of cautions during the final three laps gave Lasoski the opportunities he needed to make a run at Schatz. With lapped cars separating them on the restarts, "The Dude" was unable to mount a serious run at Schatz until the final lap.
"I really have not changed our approach to this race from any other year," Schatz said. "The crew has worked hard to make sure we have everything we need to be where we are tonight and, hopefully, the same place Saturday night."
"We just got beaten tonight; that's the bottom line," said Lasoski, who won the Fifth Heat Race. "On the first lap, the #16 car got sideways and I checked up and let a lot of cars pass me. Donny won and did a great job. We gave it everything we had and came up a little short."
Hodnett finished in third place, ahead of hard-charging Second Heat Race winner Shane Stewart, Paul McMahan, Swindell, Saldana, Mark Kinser, Brooke Tatnell and Jason Meyers.
O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series Rookie of the Year candidate Jason Sides won the Fourth Heat Race and raced into 12th place from inside the 10th row.
Swindell, who won the 1983 Ford Dealers of Iowa Knoxville Nationals, paced the qualifying session with a 117.755-M.P.H. lap around the legendary half-mile oval.