HIGH EXPECTATIONS Defending Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz Returns To Familiar Territory Looking to Bounce Back in Tony Stewart Racing's Armor All J&J INDIANAPOLIS (April 28, 2009) --The greatest test for any champion is to remain on top of...
Defending Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz Returns To Familiar Territory Looking to Bounce Back in Tony Stewart Racing's Armor All J&J
INDIANAPOLIS (April 28, 2009) --The greatest test for any champion is to remain on top of the mountain year after year. The second greatest challenge may be meeting the expectations placed squarely on a champion's shoulders. For each of the past few seasons, three-time and defending World of Outlaws (WoO) champion Donny Schatz has continued to raise the bar in Sprint car racing. He has also set his performance goals higher and higher each year.
After kicking off the 2009 Sprint car season on a sizzling pace by winning three of the first four 2009 WoO feature events, Schatz and the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team were right on target heading into March. But with results from the past 10 races being "un-Schatz-like," where consistency has been elusive, the team believes it's time to step up to the challenge and return to its championship form.
There's good news on the horizon for Schatz and the Armor All team. As the calendar turns to May, the WoO schedule offers 12 nights of action at 10 different tracks. The Fargo, N.D., resident has previously won WoO feature events at six of those facilities, including both of this weekend's stops: Huset's Speedway in Brandon, S.D., and Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.
Schatz will return to action on Friday night driving the TSR No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J at Huset's Speedway, a high-banked 3/8-mile dirt oval where he made many laps early in his career. He first raced at the track in May 1994 and won his first feature at the track one year later in June 1995. He has made 20 WoO starts at the track, winning twice (April 2001 and July 2007). Schatz has 14 top-10s and he finished second in both 2008 Outlaw stops at the track.
A return to the big tracks begins Saturday night for Schatz and the Outlaws as they will help Knoxville Raceway open its 56th season of racing. When Schatz last visited Knoxville, he won his third consecutive Knoxville Nationals A-Main. He also won two of the three Outlaw races contested at the track in 2008 and has won seven of his last 11 starts at the famous half-mile dirt oval.
Schatz has won the Outlaws opener at Knoxville the past two seasons. Last May, he scored his first WoO win as driver of Tony Stewart Racing's No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J. Saturday's race will mark Schatz' 75th appearance at the track where he has 10 career wins.
With 14 races of the 2009 WoO schedule complete, Schatz has three victories, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He currently ranks third in the WoO Sprint Series Championship standings with 1,907 points, trailing leader Steve Kinser by 36 markers.
On Friday at Huset's, the pit gates will open at noon CDT with the grandstands opening at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. For more details, contact the track at (605) 582-3536. The official Web site of Huset's Speedway is www.husets-speedway.com.
On Saturday at Knoxville, the pit gates will open at 4 p.m. CDT with the grandstands opening at 6 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. For more details, call Knoxville Raceway at (641) 842-5431. The official Web site of Knoxville Raceway is www.knoxvilleraceway.com.
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. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
You are coming off easily the toughest weekend you've had in the last three seasons. How important is it to be heading to Huset's and Knoxville, places where you have made a lot of laps?
"The biggest thing is not letting anything that happened last weekend affect us this weekend. I've said this before: that you have to leave what happened at a particular track there when you are on your way out. That goes for winning or having a tough night. The next race is the one your focus needs to turn to.
"As far as going back to Huset's and Knoxville, I think that should be a positive. We've been pretty competitive at those places the past few years, so hopefully we'll be able to get ourselves going right away. The guys on the Armor All team (Rick Warner, Shane Bowers and Eric Prutzman) want to win more than anything, and I know we're all ready to have a good couple of nights."
Early in your career, before you started traveling with the Outlaws, you raced frequently at Huset's. Does any of that experience help you now?
"Not really. Things have changed quite a bit with the racing. The track is a little bit different, as well. Every track has tendencies, as far as how the surface is going to go, so maybe we can watch it and have a better idea of what it might be doing. Honestly though, all these Outlaw guys have been racing a long time and are pretty sharp. We're going to have to do a great job with the car and make the right decisions to have a chance.
"The one thing that hasn't changed is the fans. They've always been great to me there, and winning the Outlaws races back in 2001 and 2007 ranks right up there for me. A lot of those people saw me early in my career when I was banging off the walls just trying make laps. It's fun to see some of those people after all these years. I'm looking forward to racing there on Friday."
You've established a reputation for being very good on just about every kind of track, but one of the best on the big tracks. Why have you been so successful on the big tracks?
"I spent a few years not being that good on big tracks, so I guess making laps and learning from mistakes probably started it. We got some big wins early in my career at big tracks like Manzanita (Speedway) and Williams Grove (Speedway). Then we started getting around Knoxville pretty good and kept our pace going at Williams Grove. A couple of years ago, I finally won the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway.
"The only other answer is that we've had a consistent package for the big tracks for a long time. We've worked with Ron Shaver and he's built us some great motors with a ton of Chevy horsepower, and that's what you need on the big tracks. We also worked with Jack Elam and J&J Auto Racing to build us cars that react to that power and the speeds you have on the big tracks.
"It's been a total team effort to get to this point and, if we want to continue having success, it will continue being one. We're looking forward to the next few weeks and, hopefully, putting ourselves in position to challenge for wins every night."
For complete WoO Sprint Car Series results, go to www.worldofoutlaws.com. For information regarding TSR, Schatz, Armor All, Chevy, or ParkerStore, visit www.tonystewartracing.com, www.donnyschatz.com, www.aa-ownercenter.com, www.chevrolet.com, or www.parkerstore.com.