GAINING STEAM Donny Schatz and Tony Stewart Racing Look To Build Momentum Following Their First WoO Triumph in the Armor All Sprinter INDIANAPOLIS (May 6, 2008) -- Coming off several consecutive weekends of racing at big, half-mile dirt ovals,...
Donny Schatz and Tony Stewart Racing Look To Build Momentum Following Their First WoO Triumph in the Armor All Sprinter
INDIANAPOLIS (May 6, 2008) -- Coming off several consecutive weekends of racing at big, half-mile dirt ovals, Donny Schatz and the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team return to action with a pair of single-night programs on Midwestern short tracks. Schatz and the TSR team enter the weekend on a high following their first victory of the 2008 Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint series campaign.
Schatz will pilot the TSR No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J first on Friday night at the 3/8-mile semi banked Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill., and then on Saturday night at the 3/8-mile high-banked Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway (PIR).
Friday's event will be the series' second stop at Tri-City since the track was redesigned. Schatz had 14 career starts when the track was a sprawling half-mile layout, having scored a career-best second there on April 15, 2000. Last season, he bounced back from a 17th-place qualifying effort by racing to victory in the first heat race and earning a starting position inside the first five rows. In the 30-lap feature event, he charged from the sixth starting position to second place and made several attempts to get by eventual winner Danny Lasoski on the rubber-laden surface before finishing third.
The event at PIR has added significance for Schatz and his TSR team, as team owner Tony Stewart is also a co-owner of the facility. Schatz has made three appearances at the track during his 12-year WoO career. He has improved his finish each time, coming home 13th in 1998, 11th in 2001 and sixth last year.
In last year's event, frigid temperatures greeted those in attendance. But Schatz put on an exciting show, surging from his 18th-place starting position to finish sixth. The Fargo, N.D., resident may have ended up in the top-five had he not made contact with Daryn Pittman midway through the race. Schatz nearly spun after the contact, but he regained his momentum and continued his charge forward.
Saturday night's WoO victory at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway continued Schatz' early season success, which includes five top-two finishes in seven WoO starts. The two-time defending series champion currently holds the third position in the WoO standings with 1,012 points, trailing leader Craig Dollansky by 20.
Schatz' victory at Knoxville, his first driving for TSR, was his fifth win in his last seven starts at Knoxville and 71st "A" feature triumph of his career, moving him into sixth place on the WoO career feature win list. He has one career "A" feature win in the state of Illinois (July 8, 2005 at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet) and has yet to score a WoO win in the Blue Grass state.
Donny Schatz, driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
How did picking up your first win last week at Knoxville help as you head into a busy month of May?
"Winning on Saturday night was a huge deal for all of us. I came to Tony Stewart Racing to continue winning and performing at the highest level. They have built a team here that is capable of contending for wins every night. From top to bottom, this is a first-class team and now that we've got that first one out of the way, we can't wait to go get the next one. The team has awesome corporate partners and we're thrilled to get them a win. It was the first WoO win for Armor All and we were able to add to the numbers that ParkerStore and Chevy have. We have awesome Chevy horsepower and that's been a big asset to us. We're beginning a big month of racing and having everyone pumped up and ready is going to really help us every night out."
Tri-City Speedway was redesigned into a 3/8-mile configuration. What's the biggest difference?
"The biggest difference is that you can actually make up some ground pretty quickly, now. In the past, it was a big, old momentum place where you could get spread out pretty quickly. Now that they've got it smaller, you can work your way into traffic much faster. It's still the same dirt, so it has a tendency to take rubber. You have to be prepared for that and pay attention to what the track is doing all night long. We had a really good race there last year. Danny (Lasoski) got down in the rubber first and I tried a bonsai move for the lead and ended up getting passed to finish third. Hopefully, we are the car that finds it first this year and can finally get a win there."
The high banks make Paducah a unique racing facility. Last year, the track was slick from top to bottom. Are you hoping for the same type of track?
"I always want a slick track. I'm not 20 years old anymore, but when you are that age, you like to flatfoot it around the cushion. I've been there and done that. When a track gets slick, it comes back to car control and more reliant on the driver to make the right decisions. Last year, the temperatures were really cold and the track was hard. We qualified early and that ended up hurting us. The track slicked off as the night went on and became really smooth all across. We had our work cut out for us coming from the back, and if it wasn't for some contact with the 21 car, we might have gotten a top-five. Hopefully, this year, we'll start closer to the front and have a shot at the end.
"(Crew chief) Ricky (Warner) and the guys (Shane Bowers, Kyle Sundby and Evan Funk) do a great job giving me a strong car every night, and we're looking to put together another great night for Tony Stewart Racing, Armor All, Chevy and ParkerStore."