The reigning WoO champion looking to snap California Drought
INDIANAPOLIS – Sometimes the details within statistics make one wonder. Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz has found victory lane 50 times in World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series action since the start of the 2013. Remarkably, not one of those wins came on California soil. This weekend, the six-time and reigning WoO champion is looking to reverse that trend when he and the Outlaws open an 11-race tour of California at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare Friday and Saturday night.
The driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J is looking to end a 20-race winless draught in the Golden State that dates back to September 9, 2012. No driver has been more dominant over the past two seasons than the Fargo, North Dakota driver who set career-best totals for wins in the past two seasons – 23 in 2013 and 26 last year. Schatz was close to winning races in California both seasons, but wasn’t able to break through. Six of his 173 career WoO A-Feature triumphs have come in California and, with his sights set on a second consecutive WoO title and the seventh of his career, he knows succeeding in California over the next six weeks would go a long way in his quest for another WoO crown.
We’re heading to California knowing it’s going to take special efforts from all of us to get the results we want.
The weekend doubleheader at the high-banked, 1/3-mile dirt oval located in Central California has been an annual stop since the spring of 2007. Schatz won a preliminary feature at the track in October 2005 and dominated the 35-lap A-Feature in October 2007 en route to earning his second WoO crown. In March 2013, Schatz looked to be on his way to career victory number three at Thunderbowl when he led the opening 14 laps of the main event. Disaster struck when he broke a front axle during a restart and was forced to relinquish his post position to replace the broken components. Last March, he battled Daryn Pittman for the lead midway through the opening race but couldn’t get a clean opportunity in the late going to make a bid for the lead. In his previous 18 WoO A-Feature starts at the track, Schatz has finished inside the top-five seven times and earned 10 top-10s.
Schatz is one of six winners during the first six nights of action in the 2015 WoO campaign. He won the season’s second main event Feb. 14 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida. Last week, he climbed from 11th to sixth Wednesday in Las Vegas before charging from 14th to fourth Thursday. Saturday’s 17th-place finish at USA Raceway in Tucson, Arizona capped a frustrating night during which Schatz qualifying 20th in the field of 26 cars, finished fourth in the second heat, and improved two positions in the 30-lap A-Feature, which was rubber down for almost two-thirds of the race.
With six of the 88 nights of action slated for the 2015 WoO season in the books, Joey Saldana leads the championship standings. Schatz is fifth with 822 points and trails Saldana by 19 markers. His season stats include one victory, three top-fives and five top-10s.
For both events this weekend at Thunderbowl Raceway, the pit gates will be open throughout the day while the grandstands open at 4 p.m. PDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network.
High expectations for Donny Schatz
This year’s spring California tour has 11 nights of racing scheduled. You have talked in the past about starting with momentum and having success in California being key to your success this season. Have you set any goals for this spring tour in California?
“Every year, we put some things out there to try and achieve. The last two years, we’ve been able to reach some of those goals, but there are still some that we came up short on. I can’t say we’ve put a number on the California tour or specific goals, but we have high expectations for how this team needs to be performing. We expect to win races and be challenging for wins every night. The Bad Boy Buggies guys (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Eric Prutzman) have busted their tails the last couple of years and have proven with the results how good they are. It’s a complete team effort and our goal is for that to continue.
We’re heading to California knowing it’s going to take special efforts from all of us to get the results we want. We want to win in Tulare. We want to win in Stockton. And it goes on and on. Merced. Chico. Placerville, Calistoga, Hanford and Perris. It’s been a really long time since we won at Calistoga late in the 2012 season and we’re going to do everything we can to get another California victory.”
Racing in California offers a combination of so many variables. From the track sizes to surfaces you compete on to the caliber of the competition, every night is a big challenge. In your opinion, what’s the most important variable you need to overcome to be successful, specifically at Tulare?
“No matter where you race, it starts in your own race trailer. If we can push out of our pit area with a car that can go anywhere on the track and drive forward, we’ll have a great chance. I say it all the time – that my focus is getting the 15 car fast and drivable and my guys do an excellent job of that. If I can find the best way around the racetrack, we’ll almost always have a chance. Specifically with Tulare, it’s about being fast all night long. There is usually a large field of cars, sometimes pushing 40. You have to be able to get qualified in a position to race in the heat.
The surface starts wet and is pretty narrow, so being locked down and cutting a good qualifying lap is the first big hurdle. Second thing is, you have to get in the dash. You can do that by qualifying in the top-four and finishing inside the top-five of your heat, or by winning the heat. Both are tall orders, but it’s what you try to do. If you make the dash, you take advantage of those six laps of track time and keep fine-tuning your car.
The feature is 35 laps and it can be complete chaos. The track is going to change throughout the race. Your car is going to change. You have to deal with lapped traffic and you have to be able to put your car in spots that sometimes you shouldn’t. It’s always a big challenge at Tulare and one we’re looking forward to.”
Tony Stewart Racing