SCHATZ, STP MAKE SPRINT CAR RACING HISTORY Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Earns Milestone Fourth Knoxville Nationals Victory in Mario Andretti Tribute Car INDIANAPOLIS (August 17, 2009) -- Tony Stewart Racing's (TSR) Donny Schatz added...
SCHATZ, STP MAKE SPRINT CAR RACING HISTORY
Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Earns Milestone Fourth Knoxville Nationals Victory in Mario Andretti Tribute Car
INDIANAPOLIS (August 17, 2009) -- Tony Stewart Racing's (TSR) Donny Schatz added another chapter to his illustrious racing career on Sunday as he drove the No. 15 STP/ParkerStore/Chevy J&J to a fourth consecutive Knoxville Nationals victory. Schatz became only the second driver in the event's 49-year history to win four back-to-back event titles, joining Steve Kinser as the only competitors to accomplish the feat since the Nationals originated in 1961.
"I don't think anyone realizes the magnitude of the association that we had this week," said Schatz, who piloted a specially schemed car commemorating Mario Andretti's STP-sponsored Brawner Hawk that the legendary race driver drove to victory in the 1969 Indianapolis 500. "To be associated with one of the greatest racecar drivers of all-time in Mario Andretti and having him here in Knoxville, that put a lot of weight on my shoulders, and winning was what was expected. STP wanted me to win. Mario wanted me to win. My boss, Tony Stewart, was here tonight and he wanted me to win. It doesn't always happen that way.
"Mario was calling me every day this week, keeping me pumped up. He told me he associates himself with winners and I didn't want to be a loser. It was an honor to carry on a winning tradition for STP and to be a part of something really special."
Team owner Stewart was able to make the trip to Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway following Sunday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway to watch his team earn the win and to take part in the victory lane festivities.
"I'm so proud of everyone on this team," Stewart said. "To have STP on the car this week and have Armor All let STP be on it really made this a special week for us. I'm really proud of everyone on this team. Donny just dominates here and it's so much fun to watch. You can see how good of a job he does. He takes care of his tires, takes care of his car and he knows what feeling the car needs to have to be good late in the A-main.
"Watching Joey (Saldana), Stevie Smith and Donny put on an awesome race, you can tell it's the Knoxville Nationals. Every Sprint car race is fun to watch, but this one is really special. It was just an awesome feeling being there and being able to celebrate with the team."
On Tuesday, August 11, Schatz was joined by Andretti, STP Marketing Manager Jonathan Paluga and Stewart at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum (NSCHoF) in Knoxville for the official unveiling of the No. 15 STP/ParkerStore/Chevy J&J entry that Schatz drove to victory.
The No. 15 entry duplicated the look of Andretti's winning Indy 500 machine, with its distinctive "Hunting Red" color and gold wheels. Andretti was inducted into the NSCHoF in 1996 and Tuesday's event marked his first visit to the facility.
"I'm so very proud of Donny (Schatz) and the Tony Stewart Racing team," Andretti said. "Tony provided all of the equipment for the team to get the job done and Donny went out and got it done. I couldn't be more pleased."
Schatz was patient during the first 20 laps of the race as he stayed near the front and tried to assess the track and his competitors. A caution on lap 10 gave Schatz the opportunity to pick up positions on the restart and, by the mandatory fuel stop on lap 22, Schatz was running in third.
On lap 32, Schatz began to show his hand, going three-wide with Steve Smith as he began his march to the front. By lap 33, Schatz was running in second place and was closing in on race leader Joey Saldana. On lap 35, in what was probably the tensest moment of the race for Schatz, he nearly had contact with a lapped car but emerged from turn four with the lead. In the final five laps of the first-ever 40-lap feature event, Schatz never looked back as he crossed the finish line ahead of Saldana and Smith.
"This is an awesome accomplishment and what we came in here this week to do," Schatz said. "Every win is special, but there's nothing quite like winning the Knoxville Nationals. This was a total team effort from everyone at Tony Stewart Racing.
"I wasn't quite sure how the race itself was going to play out. We obviously had a lot of rain this week and I was afraid the track might become just a one-lane, no-passing track. The people at Knoxville Raceway did a great job of giving us something to race on. Everybody was fast running on the cushion and I was just hoping we could get to traffic and I would be able to track down the two guys in front of us.
"On the fuel stop, Ricky (Warner, crew chief) asked me what I needed to make the car even better. I told him that I felt really good and just had to be patient. He told me to just go out and to do my normal deal.
"My guys (Warner, Shane Bowers and Eric Prutzman) gave me a great car and it was my job to go out and finish the job. I'm just really happy for the guys who work with me. They gave me the motivation I needed on the red and we went out and won the race."
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Andretti's thrilling victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He dominated the race, winning by more than two laps, and was welcomed famously in victory lane by his car owner Andy Granatelli, the former President and CEO of STP. The Knoxville Nationals is the largest Sprint car race in the world. Its stature in short-track racing mirrors the magnitude of the Indianapolis 500 in Indy car racing. Each year, the Nationals attracts the best Winged Sprint car drivers and race fans from all over the world to a four-day marathon, during which more than 30,000 attendees converge on the "Sprint Car Capitol of the World" in Knoxville.
After finishing second four times at the Nationals from 2000 to 2005, Schatz conquered the 2006 Nationals and returned to victory lane again in 2007 and 2008. With this weekend's victory for Schatz, he and Kinser are the only drivers to have won four Nationals in a row.
SPEED-TV coverage of the 49th Annual Knoxville Nationals was cut short as rain delayed the running of Saturday's B-main and A-main events until Sunday. Information regarding the SPEED-TV's broadcast of Saturday's action can be found at www.speedtv.com.
For information regarding TSR, Schatz, Armor All, STP, or complete results from the Knoxville Nationals, visit www.tonystewartracing.com, www.donnyschatz.com, www.aa-ownercenter.com, www.stp.com, or www.knoxvilleraceway.com. For more information regarding Andretti, log on to www.marioandretti.com.
-credit: - TSR -