A Hero's Welcome: Knoxville Nationals Winner Donny Schatz Returns to Minot Minot, N.D.--August 15, 2006 -- Donny Schatz knew he would receive a very warm welcome when he led the World of Outlaws Sprint Series into Nodak Speedway in Minot, North...
A Hero's Welcome: Knoxville Nationals Winner Donny Schatz Returns to Minot
Minot, N.D.--August 15, 2006 -- Donny Schatz knew he would receive a very warm welcome when he led the World of Outlaws Sprint Series into Nodak Speedway in Minot, North Dakota for the first time ever this weekend. After winning the Knoxville Nationals last Saturday, Schatz will now receive a hero's welcome on Saturday night in the town where he was born and raised.
Schatz got his start racing at Nodak Speedway and ever since he took to the track for the first time, he had dreamed of winning the famed Knoxville Nationals. The second generation driver had been the runner-up in sprint car racing's most prestigious race in four of the last six years.
This year he entered the event with plenty of momentum on his side and a great deal of confidence. He was fast all week including a brilliant drive in the A-Scramble on Friday night that saw him start 10th and work his way up to second in only 12 laps. This helped him gain the most points during the qualifying night portions of the Nationals, and thus put him on the pole position for the main event.
From there he never looked back, holding off a couple of charges by Joey Saldana to pick up the check for $140,000, but more importantly he forever etched his name into the record books along with the legends that have won the Nationals throughout the years.
Heading into the race this Saturday at Nodak Speedway, Schatz leads the World of Outlaws championship points on the strength of a series best 11 A-Feature wins. He also has a series leading 30 Top-Five finishes to his credit. In addition to this he has led 294 laps, another series best. He has been the fastest qualifier six times this season, and has five dash wins under his belt as well, which has put him on the pole position five times in World of Outlaws A-Feature events.
"We couldn't ask for a better situation to be returning there," Schatz said. "Leading the Outlaws standings and coming there just after winning the Knoxville Nationals is like a big dream. There is a pre-race celebration and I'm sure a lot of the things will sink in then."
Schatz had been hoping for years to run a World of Outlaws event at the high-banked 3/8-mile track, that he cut his teeth on. The series has raced in his home state at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, since 1981, but has never made the trek up north to Minot, and that will change this weekend.
"I'm really happy for the people in the area that they will get to see the World of Outlaws come to Minot," said Schatz. "There are some great sprint car fans and to finally see these guys in person will be quite a thrill. For me personally, I've been excited since the day it was announced. This is the track where I first got started and to come back home is going to be a big deal."
Though he has not raced at the track for a number of years, the winner of the 1997 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by Maxim Racing and ButlerBuilt has turned plenty of competitive laps at the facility. On top of this he has won four times this season on 3/8-mile tracks, which is another series best. Will this give him an advantage against many of the drivers that have never seen the track let alone turned a lap on it?
"The racetrack is quite unique, but these guys that race with us are really good at adapting to new places, so it should be a good show," Schatz said.
With the biggest race of the year in the books, now Schatz and the team can focus even more on the stretch run of the World of Outlaws season, as they chase their first series title.
The crew of the PakerStore J&J led by Ricky Warner will get a few days to work out of their own shop as they will make the trek west to Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota, before heading north to Minot for the race on Saturday night at Nodak Speedway.
"After you leave Knoxville, teams can kind of get back to racing after all hype of the Nationals," Schatz said. "We're going to have to get re-focused and be ready to qualify strong so that we can be in a position to challenge for another victory."
Schatz definitely wants to put on a good show for his loyal fans, and he also looks to keep his unbeaten streak alive in his home state. He won the preliminary feature at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo on June 16, and the following night picked up the weekend sweep before a packed grandstand that was faithfully cheering him on.
"There will be some pressure involved, but I've dealt with that at Fargo the last ten years, and after all the pressure that you go through at Knoxville, I think we'll be okay," Schatz said.
For ticket information about the inaugural World of Outlaws race at Nodak Speedway visit www.slspromotions.com, or call 815-344-2023.
-credit: world of outlaws