ENJOYING THE RIDE Outlaws Northwest Swing Always a Favorite for Donny Schatz, Tony Stewart Racing's Armor All Team INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2, 2009) -- When your job is to go fast and be the one who finishes first, sometimes it's easy to ...
ENJOYING THE RIDE
Outlaws Northwest Swing Always a Favorite for Donny Schatz, Tony Stewart Racing's Armor All Team
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2, 2009) -- When your job is to go fast and be the one who finishes first, sometimes it's easy to overlook everything else going on around you. As a teenager, Donny Schatz vowed to live the life of an Outlaw and chase his racing dreams in the wild world of Sprint car racing. After 13 seasons of racing with the World of Outlaws (WoO) and traveling from one part of the country to another, all Schatz has to do is look at the calendar to know where his next stop will be. Early September almost always means the Fargo, N.D., resident will be racing somewhere out west.
Such is the case again this week as the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) driver eyes four nights of competition in Washington and Oregon during an extended Labor Day weekend behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore-backed J&J. It's a stretch the three-time and defending WoO champion always looks forward to. With the all-consuming Knoxville Nationals behind him, the WoO schedule gets back to single-night racing and the travel in-between races includes some of the most picturesque parts of the continent.
Winning certainly has something to do with his affection to traveling to the Northwest. Schatz has a WoO victory at all three tracks where he and his TSR teammate, Kraig Kinser, and the rest of the Outlaws will compete this weekend. On Friday and Saturday night, the Sprint car stars will battle it out at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Wash. On Labor Day, it's back to scenic Gray's Harbor Raceway Park in Elma, Wash., before the extended weekend concludes with Tuesday's race at Cottage Grove (Ore.) Speedway.
Schatz captured three podium finishes in his first three starts at Skagit. He has seven career starts on the 3/10-mile dirt oval, with his best finish being a victory in August 2006. In his last race at the track, Schatz finished fourth in the 2008 $25,000-to-win main event.
The stop on Monday night at Gray's Harbor will be the 21st appearance by Schatz at the 3/8-mile dirt oval. His finest performance came in August 2005, when he raced past Steve Kinser in the late stages of the feature event to score the victory. Last season, a rubber-down surface played a big part in Schatz not being able to continue a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes.
The final stop of the weekend at Cottage Grove is a venue that will always be linked with Schatz, the 1997 WoO Rookie of the Year. In August 1998, he raced past Sprint car legends Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell to earn his first career WoO feature. Last September, he made his 10th career start at the track and collected his second win at the quarter-mile dirt oval.
The swing through the northwest comes on the heels of Schatz's fourth consecutive Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals championship and winning his 100th career World of Outlaws "A" Feature. A pair of top-five finishes in last weekend's third annual Oil City Cup at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta, continued his run of 16 straight top-10s.
After completing 52 nights of racing with the Outlaws in 2009, Schatz and the TSR Armor All team continue to lead the season-long championship standings with 7,074 points. Their results include 12 victories, a series-leading 34 top-five finishes and 42 top-10s.
Friday and Saturday at Skagit, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. PDT and grandstands open at 5 p.m. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets for each race can be purchased by calling Skagit Speedway at (360) 724-3567. For more information on the event, visit www.skagitspeedway.com.
Monday at Gray's Harbor, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. PDT and grandstands open at 5 p.m. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling Gray's Harbor Raceway Park at (360) 482-4374. For more information on the event, visit www.graysharborraceway.net.
Tuesday at Cottage Grove, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. PDT and grandstands open at 3 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling Cottage Grove Speedway at (541) 942-7223. For more information on the event, visit www.cottagegrovespeedway.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:
For the past five or six years, you've said that traveling to the Northwest is one of your favorite times in the season. Why is that?
"In our sport, everyone gears up to do well at the Knoxville Nationals. The whole season seems to be a build-up to that one event and, after it's over, the schedule kind of rolls downhill and it gets back to just having fun. Even following some of the those second-place finishes at the Nationals, it was a relief to head west and just get back to racing and traveling down the coast. I have some family in Washington and Oregon, so we get to spend some time talking and hanging out around their motorhome. It's kind of like when we first started traveling ... those are the times that you appreciate what it is you do and how fortunate you really are.
"Racing-wise, they have some really good tracks and the competition is always tough. The last couple of years, we haven't been as good as we want to be at Skagit and that's our first priority. We have several goals each year and a big one is to win a lot of races. Right now, we've got some ground to make up and hopefully we can start that on Friday night."
The race at Gray's Harbor Raceway Park includes more than just one night in a town and then down the road to the next one.
"Actually, the people of Elma really get involved with having the races in town on Labor Day. Last year, both of the Tony Stewart Racing haulers were in their Labor Day parade. I actually was the Grand Marshall of the parade. Having the chance to give back to the communities that support us sometimes isn't an option for us. I know the guys had fun and are already looking forward to being involved again this year.
"I know (TSR teammate) Kraig (Kinser) is probably looking forward to getting back there since he won last year. We had a rough night, so I know the Armor All crew (Rick Warner, Shane Bowers and Eric Prutzman) will be ready."
The annual trip to Cottage Grove Speedway has to be special. It's been a place where some memorable nights in your career have come.
"It will always be fun going to Cottage Grove. The track is surrounded by trees and really a cool place to be. That first win is something I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to get. Now, we are sitting here with 100 and that's pretty unbelievable.
"Last year, we had one of those nights that pushed us toward another championship. We got by Jason Meyers for the lead and he ended up crashing. There were some people who thought his crash was my fault but, in the end, they found out what really happened. It was a big boost for us and we were able to charge on toward the championship. Hopefully, we'll be right there with a chance to win the race again on Tuesday."
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.