Early in what has become a storied 20-year World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series career, Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz looked at the annual late-summer trip to the Great Northwest as a time to take a breath and enjoy the view as the WoO campaign began winding down.
For Schatz, the Labor Day-weekend tripleheader in Washington offers the driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J the opportunity to continue his breathtaking pace in the quest for an eighth WoO championship. Schatz leads the Outlaws back into action Friday and Saturday at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Washington for the Outlaws Energy Showdown before concluding the weekend with the annual Labor Day race at Grays Harbor Raceway Park in Elma, Washington.
During those initial runs through Montana, Washington and Oregon, the climb to the top of the Outlaws’ hierarchy may have seemed as difficult as reaching the peak of the snow covered Mountain ranges they traveled through to reach the dirt ovals in Billings, Yakima, Elma and Cottage Grove. The Fargo, North Dakota driver spent his early 20s learning how to win Outlaw races competing against the sport’s iconic drivers Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell and chasing the likes of Dave Blaney, Mark Kinser and Danny Lasoski late in the summer at dirt ovals around the northwest.
As he celebrates his 20th season with “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” the trek to the Northwest has a much different feel, and the seven-time and reigning WoO champion is enjoying the view from the top. The pressure of the season post-Knoxville Nationals has a similar feel as the schedule counts down toward Charlotte’s season finale. But now, it’s Schatz who is leading the way, chasing victories night after night.
Schatz continues to raise the bar in the competitive Outlaw series rolling into Washington with a head of steam. He became the first driver in WoO history to win 20 or more WoO A-Features in four consecutive seasons with his hometown victory Sunday in the Gerdau Magic City Showdown at Nodak Speedway in Minot, North Dakota. The victory was his fifth consecutive triumph at his home track and seventh straight victory in his home state. He’s won all four WoO A-Features since finishing second in the Knoxville Nationals to push his career win total to 224 and, with Sunday’s victory, he has earned 100 A-Feature wins since the start of the 2013 season.
The first time Schatz competed at Skagit Speedway resulted in a third-place finish in August 2002. He won his second start at the 3/10-mile, dirt oval, scoring a preliminary victory in August 2006. He’s been extremely good at the track over the past four seasons, winning three times and finishing second twice. Last season, Schatz charged from fifth to second, but ran out of laps in pursuit of career win number 200.
The wait for that elusive milestone victory was less than 48 hours as Schatz scored a memorable triumph at Grays Harbor. Schatz again raced from fifth to second but, with two laps to go in the 30-lap A-Feature, he was able to overtake Paul McMahan. The victory was his 200th and Schatz joined Steve Kinser and Swindell as the only drivers in WoO history to reach the 200-win mark. It was also his third consecutive win at the 3/8-mile, dirt oval and fourth time in his career he’s won at the facility.
With 21 races remaining in the 2016 WoO campaign, Schatz has built a 271-point lead in the championship. His 20 wins, 33 podium finishes, 47 top-fives and 60 top-10s, as well as nine KSE Hard Charger Awards and 420 laps led top all competitors, lead all WoO drivers.
The pit gates open at Skagit Speedway at 3 p.m. PDT Friday and Saturday. The grandstands will open at5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, visitskagitspeedway.com or call 360-724-3567.
Monday at Grays Harbor, the pit gates open at 3 p.m. PDT. The grandstands will open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. For tickets and more information, visitgraysharborraceway.com or call 360-482-4374.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can 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 toDIRTVision.com for more information.
The TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team can be followed on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TonyStewart_Rc
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!
|Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J:|
|You’ve always talked about enjoying the annual Great Northwest run of the Outlaws schedule. What makes it one of your favorite times of the year?
“It’s a great place to be. I feel really fortunate to have been able to spend the past 20 years out here racing with the Outlaws and, honestly, living the dream. Early in my career, it was the part of the schedule where you could kind have a little fun There is so much pressure leading up to Knoxville, and then we’d head west to race in Montana, Washington and Oregon and everyone could take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. The last 10 years, we’ve gone to North Dakota and then up to Edmonton and then to Washington, which was a little different, but I really enjoy being out on the West Coast for these couple of weeks. I get a lot of time with my guys. We race a lot and enjoy some time in a different part of the country. I’ve got family in Washington, so it’s a chance to catch up with them, too. But, it’s still about racing and we’ve got three races this weekend and, with the way my car is rolling, I can’t wait to get back in it.”
You mentioned the way your car was rolling. After the last three wins, you’ve commented how well it drives and you attributed that to the hard work of your crew. When you get a car that just continues to get better, how much will you change on it between races?
This weekend, you return to Skagit and Grays Harbor, a couple of tracks where you’ve had a lot of success. That was the case last weekend in North Dakota and you were able to sweep the weekend. What’s going to be the key to doing that again this weekend?
“It’s still about working hard and having the best car. Just because we had the best car and won the races in North Dakota doesn’t guarantee us anything at Skagit or Elma. The guys made the two-day drive from North Dakota and then spent the past couple of days getting ready for Skagit. It’s a little different place, but we have a good starting point. It’s going to come back down to qualifying and advancing to the dash. Sometimes passing can be difficult, so we’re going to try and position ourselves in a good spot. I’m looking forward to it. The last time we were at Elma, we won a pretty big race – at least for me it was big. You can only dream so big when you’re early in your career, and I never dreamed it could be what it’s become. I really appreciate the road to get here and we just want to keep on rolling for as long as we can.”