There is always a great debate when it comes to rivalries in sports. Who gets more passionate about the rivalry? Is it the competitors themselves or is it the fans? There are rivalries within the rugged World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series that spark great conversations, but the loudest banter comes three times each season when the traveling Sprint car stars venture to The Keystone State for their annual battles with the “Pennsylvania Posse”.
Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz embarks upon the first of those highly anticipated matchups with Wednesday’s Gettysburg Clash at Lincoln Speedway in Abbotstown, followed Friday and Saturday nights by the Morgan Cup at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg. The seven-time and reigning WoO champion leads the Outlaws into their first battle with the Posse behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J.
Schatz learned early in his career about the passion the Posse fans have for their local favorites and he respects that the contingent of racers in Pennsylvania give the Outlaws their toughest competition each season. With a lot of hard work during his 19-year WoO career, Schatz has earned his share of victories over the Posse, and his 19 career wins (15 WoO A-Feature and four WoO preliminary feature) at Williams Grove are his most at any track on the schedule. He has 23 of his 209 career WoO A-Features in Pennsylvania.
Last May, he scored one of those wins by racing past Posse member Greg Hodnett on lap 17 of the 25-lap A-Feature. The victory was one of his career-best 31 WoO A-Feature triumphs scored last season. In the three other stops at the famed half-mile, dirt oval last season, Schatz finished second to continue a streak of 14 consecutive top-10 finishes. In that stretch, he has won four times and finished on the podium a total of 10 times.
The Fargo, North Dakota driver is still seeking his first triumph at Lincoln Speedway. The 3/8-mile, dirt oval hosted the Outlaws regularly during his first two seasons on tour in 1997 and 1998 and, after a 13-year hiatus, the series returned to the track in 2012. Schatz had his best result during that May race in 2012 when he challenged Posse member Danny Dietrich lap after lap for the lead during the final half of the race and came home second.
The week of action concludes Sunday night when the Outlaws travel north to Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway. Last May, the Outlaws made their debut at the 3/8-mile, dirt oval and Schatz followed his victory at Williams Grove two nights earlier with a flag-to-flag victory.
Heading into this week’s action, Schatz has earned 16 consecutive top-10 finishes and 23 in 25 WoO races in 2016. His five triumphs this season are second only to current WoO championship points leader Brad Sweet’s six. Schatz has earned 15 top-five finishes and is second in the championship standings with 3,402 points, trailing Sweet by 105 markers with 62 races remaining this season.
Race fans unable to attend this week’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can watch the Gettysburg Clash and both nights of the Morgan Cup through pay-per-view, or listen free as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Craftsman Sprint Car Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go towww.DIRTVision.com for more information.
Wednesday at Lincoln, the pit gates open at 3:30 p.m. EDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, call (717) 624-2755, or visitwww.LincolnSpeedway.com.
Friday and Saturday at Williams Grove, the pit gates will open at 3 p.m. EDT with the grandstands opening at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. For more details and ticket information, call the track at (717) 679-5000 or visit www.williamsgrove.com
|Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy/Chevrolet Performance J&J:|
This week begins the first of three trips into one of the tougher regions you compete. What makes racing in Pennsylvania different than anywhere else you go?
“It’s the passion. The fans are great. We love coming in to Pennsylvania and racing. Obviously, we race all across the country trying to win races. They have some really good teams and drivers who have a great understanding of how to succeed at their tracks. Williams Grove was one of the toughest places for me to get a handle on early in my career. It’s still tough every time we pull in there, but I’m surrounded by a team of guys – Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti – who work really hard and are motivated to succeed. That passion you feed from the fans there makes it a lot of fun for all of us. The Outlaws versus the Posse. We want to beat everyone we race but, when we go into Pennsylvania, you hear a lot more about who is winning and finishing where. It’s great for our sport and I’ve been really fortunate to be part of it for the past 19 years.”
This week can be very important in regard to the big picture. The competition is stout. The tracks are tough. Getting good finishes is going to be extremely difficult. Is there any added importance to having good results this week?
“Every race is important to us, but this week offers us four chances and then we come back next week with three more races. We are still working to get the Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance machine performing the way we want it to. We know we’ll have big fields at Lincoln and Williams Grove, so there is going to be a lot of pressure to get qualified well. The new WoO format has put extra emphasis on qualifying already and it just gets amped up this week. The tracks tend to be pretty fast early in the night so, if you want to make the dash, you are going to have to start up front. This is the time of the year where you can really start building some momentum. Having success against the caliber of completion that we’ll be racing with this week would give us a big boost, as well. The bottom line for us right now is getting ourselves performing at a really high level and that is what our focus is on.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!