DOWN THE STRETCH Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Aims To Keep Alive Post-Gold Cup Winning Streak as Outlaws Return to the Midwest INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 16, 2009) -- There is really only one way to gauge the heart of a champion. Put a...
DOWN THE STRETCH
Tony Stewart Racing's Donny Schatz Aims To Keep Alive Post-Gold Cup Winning Streak as Outlaws Return to the Midwest
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 16, 2009) -- There is really only one way to gauge the heart of a champion. Put a challenge out there and see how he responds. For the past three World of Outlaws (WoO) seasons, the headline following the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals has read the same: Knoxville Nationals Winner Donny Schatz Sees His WoO Points Lead Diminish During the Outlaws' Annual Gold Rush Tour. But after the 2007 and 2008 Gold Rush Tours, Schatz promptly returned to the Midwest, won the first race and went on to claim a WoO title.
This year, Schatz hopes to once again show his championship prowess by finishing the WoO season on a surge during the final 11 races. With the competition closing fast, the North Dakota racer is optimistic entering Wednesday night's event at Clay County Fair Speedway in Spencer, Iowa. Following Wednesday's clash in Spencer, Schatz and the Outlaws will make their debut at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn. Late-season victories in Iowa and Minnesota each of the past three years have helped secure his Outlaw titles.
In September 2007, Schatz left the West Coast with a 19-point advantage in the WoO standings and headed to Clay County. The converted fairgrounds dirt track proved to be just what Schatz needed as he added to his lead in the standings by racing from the sixth starting position and leading the final 19 laps to capture the victory. Last season, Schatz raced past his TSR teammate, Kraig Kinser, on lap 27 of the 30-lap race to score his second straight victory at the track.
During the last two championship charges, Schatz has picked up late-season WoO victories in Minnesota. Both of those wins came at Princeton (Minn.) Speedway and, this Saturday, Schatz will try to add Deer Creek Speedway to his current list of 50 tracks where he has won a WoO feature. The race at the 3/8-mile dirt oval was originally scheduled for Aug. 19, three days after the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, but persistent rain forced the race to be postponed.
Closing strong has been a trend for the three-time WoO champion. In 2006, he won five of the final 11 races and, in 2007, he won four of the final 12. Last season, he raced the Armor All sprinter to victory lane five times in the final 13 feature events. The goal for Schatz is to score as many wins as possible during the final 11 races this season and enhance his chances at earning a fourth consecutive WoO title.
Schatz and the TSR Armor All team have completed 56 nights of racing with the Outlaws in 2009, and their results include 12 victories, 35 top-five finishes and 45 top-10s. Schatz holds a 29-point advantage in the WoO Sprint Series championship standings with 7,616 points.
For both events, Wednesday at Clay County and Saturday at Deer Creek, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. CDT and grandstands open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and 6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets for the Clay County race can be purchased by calling CDR Promotions at (763) 389-9717, and more information is available at www.cdrpromotions.info. Tickets for the Deer Creek event can be purchased by calling the track at (507) 754-6107.
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:
Every year, it seems, following the Knoxville Nationals, the Outlaws point series title becomes a hot topic. Like the past two seasons, this year your lead in the standings has narrowed heading into the race at Clay County Fair Speedway. Is there any reason you can attribute that to?
"I don't think there is a single thing that we can point to. I think it's a lot of things. Knoxville is such a big event and it's different than our regular WoO shows. We've won races right after the Nationals (in 2006 at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, S.D., and in 2009 at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan, N.D.), but haven't been consistently in the top five. There is something to be said about the guys chasing us picking up their game, as well.
"Two years ago, Joey (Saldana) won some races during the swing, including the Gold Cup, and pulled pretty close. Last year, Jason (Meyers) won during the swing, too. It comes down to winning races and we just haven't done it enough out west. Fortunately, when we have returned to the Midwest, we have been able to win races. Hopefully, we can keep that streak going this week."
In the Outlaws' first two visits to Clay County Fair Speedway, you have come out on top. Both races have included long green-flag runs during the 30-lap feature. Has that been the biggest key in your wins?
"I'd say that had a big part in both of them. The first year, we came from sixth and pretty much checked out on the field. Last year, Kraig (Kinser) was setting a pretty good pace and then had to deal with lapped traffic. He was really good on the top, but we were better on the bottom and, ultimately, that is what won us the race.
"Lapped traffic is something we always hope to see. Our cars continue to get better as the race goes along and getting to run all over the track is something we thrive on."
"Spencer is also a racetrack that really suits our style. I'd say much more than some of the tracks out west. The Armor All crew (Rick Warner, Shane Bowers and Eric Prutzman) works really hard to give me a great racecar every night. We're excited about getting back to Spencer and seeing if we can make it three in a row."
On Saturday, you will make your debut at Deer Creek Speedway. What's the hardest part of competing at a facility for the first time?
"The biggest thing is understanding what the track is going to do. Will the surface dry up and become slick? Will there be a cushion to lean on all night? The other thing we have to do is try to compare it to someplace that we've raced in the past. That's where having 13 years of experience as a driver and having a crew that's been around a long time helps. You take an educated guess at where to start with your car and then just keep up with it all night.
"Minnesota has always been a good place for me. They have some great racing fans there and we're hoping they'll all be pulling for the North Dakota guy, too."
The schedule is now down to 11 races in the season. You've talked all year about getting wins and trying to win the most. You've got some work to do to win the most. Is that still your goal?
"We need to win races. That's the way we've approached the season and we'll keep at it all the way through Charlotte. The schedule includes a number of places where we have won before, so that's something we can look forward to. It's time to get greedy and get as many wins as we can."
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.