HOME SWEET HOME Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Returns to North Dakota Looking for Home-State Victories in the Armor All J&J INDIANAPOLIS (June 17, 2009) -- Maybe a little home cooking is just what three-time and defending World of...
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Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Returns to North Dakota Looking for Home-State Victories in the Armor All J&J
INDIANAPOLIS (June 17, 2009) -- Maybe a little home cooking is just what three-time and defending World of Outlaws (WoO) champion Donny Schatz needs. Following a frustrating weekend in Kansas, Schatz and the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Armor All team head to North Dakota for this weekend's annual "Duel in the Dakotas."
The lifelong North Dakota resident returns to action Friday night in the TSR No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D. The following night marks the Outlaws' 28th year of competing at Red River Valley Speedway. And on Sunday, Schatz will lead the WoO back to his hometown of Minot, N.D., and Nodak Speedway. Three races in three nights at three very different dirt tracks is exactly the kind of challenge that fires up Schatz and TSR's championship team.
River Cities was the site of one of Schatz' 18 feature wins in 2008. Last June, Schatz overcame plenty of adversity to score his first career WoO triumph at the high-banked 3/10-mile dirt oval. After turning a sub-10-second lap and pacing the field in qualifying, he was involved in a heat race accident that forced him into the B-Main. He won the B-Main and then patiently worked his way from the 11th starting position into the lead with four laps remaining in the feature. Friday's race at River Cities will be the third WoO race at the track and the previous two have been highly entertaining. Schatz was part of a three-car battle for the win in June 2007 before ultimately finishing third.
If any track on the tour can be called a "home track" for Schatz, it would be Saturday's venue, Red River Valley. The track is less than 10 miles from his residence and is the dirt track where he started his Sprint Car racing career. The half-mile oval, which features a black gumbo surface, is also the facility where, as a young kid each summer, he caught his first glimpses of what Outlaw racing was all about. Early in his WoO career, Schatz wanted nothing more than to beat the Outlaws in Fargo. It took him a few years, but finally, in 2002, he again overcame a number of obstacles and thrilled the home crowd with a victory. He won a preliminary feature the following season and, in 2006, he swept a two-night program at the track. In all, he has 36 WoO career starts at Red River Valley and has tallied 11 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes.
Three years ago, the Outlaws made their debut at the 3/8-mile Nodak track in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The last two WoO stops in Minot have also filled the house. In similar fashion to his early WoO results in Fargo, Schatz has been close, but things have not gone his way at Nodak just yet. In 2006, he raced from the 14th starting position and into the lead before ultimately blowing a tire. The following year, just three days after winning his second consecutive Knoxville Nationals, Schatz was making his move for the win when contact with the leader took out his front end. Last August, he raced his way from the seventh starting position up to fourth on a rubber-down racing surface.
The 31-year-old comes into the weekend with the kind of consistency that has helped him win the last three WoO championships. In his last 10 starts, Schatz has a pair of wins and six top-five finishes. Last Saturday night at Dodge City Raceway Park, Schatz finished a close second in the Boothill Showdown finale, which was delayed by heavy rain. Schatz started on the pole and was closing on leader Joey Saldana when rain stopped the action on lap eight. Following the delay, the 3/8-mile surface became fast and sticky, not allowing any more side-by-side racing. Schatz did make a last-lap effort to get the win but came up just short. His last win came two weeks ago at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, where he captured his 95th career WoO "A" Feature win.
Schatz and the Armor All team have completed 27 of the Outlaws' scheduled 84 nights of racing for 2009. The results include seven victories, 15 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s. Schatz continues to lead the WoO Sprint Series championship standings with 3,734 points.
On Friday at River Cities Speedway, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. CDT., and the grandstands will open at 4 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details, contact River Cities Speedway at (218) 773-3002, or visit the track's official Web site, rivercitiesspeedway.com.
On Saturday at Red River Valley Speedway, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. CDT., and the grandstands will open at 5 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. For more details, contact Red River Valley Speedway at (701) 282-2200, or visit the track's official Web site, redrivervalleyfair.com.
On Sunday at Nodak Speedway, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. CDT., and the grandstands will open at 5 p.m. CDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details, contact Nodak Speedway at (701) 839-7483, or visit the track's official Web site, racenodak.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:
The Duel in the Dakotas was always a highlight of your summer growing up and it took many years before you finally won the event. Is that win in 2002 still one that you'll always remember?
"There was nothing better than going to Fargo to watch the Outlaws. My dad would drive us over and I'd have all my t-shirt money ready when we left. I'd buy as many as I could and wear them until I got new ones the following summer. It's kind of what got me hooked on racing and made me want to try and do it for a living.
"I've always said that doing something the first time is always the hardest. Maybe that's why you appreciate that first one the most. When I first came on the road with the Outlaws in 1997, I still remember coming back and racing at Fargo. The crowd would go crazy every time I hit the track and that just gave me so much confidence. As a rookie on the road, I had guys like Dave Blaney, Mark Kinser, Steve (Kinser) and Sammy (Swindell) kicking our butt every night, so coming home was a big boost for us.
"Over the next few years, we got better and more competitive and then just had some bad luck at home, there. Even the year we finally won it, there were some anxious moments. We had been having driveline problems and my guys must have had the rear end out of the car 10 times that weekend at the track. It all worked out and it was quite a feeling when I got to stop on the frontstretch, finally, as the winner."
Last year, you scored a win in Grand Forks to go along with your previous wins in Fargo. Would a win in Minot feel just as gratifying as those wins did?
"I get asked about what tracks are my favorites or what wins stand out the most quite a bit. Honestly, you'll always have wins that you'll never forget. In this sport, you have to always be looking forward to the next race. This weekend is a great opportunity for us to get three nights of racing in and our goal is to be fighting for wins each night.
"The Fargo win was really something that I always wanted to accomplish because of the tradition the Outlaws had of coming there for as long as I could remember. The races at Minot and Grand Forks are still pretty new to the schedule but, yeah, winning at Grand Forks was really a lot of fun last year. We had kind of a roller-coaster night and got to see some fireworks in front of us on the track and ended up taking home the win. The Minot race is really special to me and all my family. The people really come out and support that event. I know the Armor All crew (Rick Warner, Shane Bowers and Eric Prutzman) is really excited about racing up in North Dakota and trying put some wins together."
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.