|Expectations for the 2016 World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series were set pretty high by Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz and his Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team. Following his “Golden Season” in 2015, during which Schatz established a career-best win total en route to a seventh WoO championship, it was important to keep pushing to get better in this, his 20th season of competing with “The Greatest Show on Dirt.”
The driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J will look to duplicate his success of 2015 at one of the most historic tracks on the WoO schedule when he returns to Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California for the 62nd Annual Gold Cup Race of Champions this weekend. Last season, Schatz won the Mini Gold Cup in the spring, then became a two-time Gold Cup winner with his triumph in the 40-lap race in September. Earlier this season, he won his third Mini Gold Cup in the last five seasons and is looking to join Steve Kinser and as the only drivers who have won the Gold Cup three times since the event has been sanctioned by the WoO.
Schatz returns to California not only as the defending Gold Cup champion and winner of the last two WoO races at Silver Dollar Speedway, but also the Outlaws’ most recent victor following his triumph Wednesday night at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Oregon. The Fargo, North Dakota racer took the lead from Brad Sweet on lap three and raced away to a 4.5-second victory in the contest that went nonstop and took just over seven minutes to complete. The victory was his 21st of the season and fifth in his last seven WoO starts. It was also his 225th career WoO A-Feature win and Willamette Speedway became the 80th different track where Schatz has won a WoO A-Feature.
It’s already been a historic season for Schatz, who won three Outlaws A-Features in California earlier this season, including the Mini Gold Cup. He opened Sprint car racing’s “Month of Money” in mid-July with a run from 15th to first in the Brad Doty Classic and, later that week, he won the 33rd annual Kings Royal at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. The $50,000 victory was the third of his career in the Kings Royal. After finishing second in the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals in mid-August, Schatz posted four consecutive wins culminating with his fifth in a row at Nodak Speedway in his hometown of Minot, North Dakota. That win was his 20th of the season and Schatz became the first driver in the series’ 39-year history to win 20 or more A-Features in four consecutive seasons.
This weekend offers Schatz and his No. 15 TSR team of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti the opportunity to become only the fifth to win back-to-back Gold Cups. Steve Kinser and Karl Kinser Racing won the first two WoO-sanctioned Gold Cups in 1978 and 1979. The Indiana team did it again in 1983 and 1984, and then won three straight from 1986 through 1988. Oklahoman Andy Hillenburg won consecutive Gold Cups in 1994 and 1995 before Ohio’s Haudenschild repeated in 1998 and 1999. Kinser and his own No. 11 team led by Scott Gerkin took Gold Cup wins in 2002 and 2003 and, most recently, Kyle Larson posted back-to-back wins driving for Silva Motorsports in 2012 and 2013.
Last season, Schatz started the 40-lap Gold Cup finale sixth and worked his way into contention midway through the race. Joey Saldana led from the start and, on lap 29, Schatz took the lead from Saldana and masterfully maneuvered through traffic the final 12 laps to win his second Gold Cup. When the team returned in March, it was looking for its second straight Chico victory and Mini Gold Cup triumph. After qualifying and the heat races, it looked to be longshot to keep both streaks intact. He qualified 20th and started the 30-lap A-Feature 14th and just kept plugging away in the feature. With five laps remaining, he worked himself into second and moved into first place when leader D.J. Netto slowed on the lap-25 restart. Schatz pulled away during the final five laps to secure the win.
With 17 races remaining in the 2016 WoO campaign, Schatz is in good position to capture his eighth career WoO title. He leads the point standings by 262 markers over David Gravel, and his 21 wins, 49 top-fives, 63 top-10s and 10 KSE Hard Charger Awards are most by any driver on tour this season.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Live video of both nights is available for a fee, or fans can listen at no charge 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 to DIRTVision.com for more information.
The TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team can be followed on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TonyStewart_
|Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J:|
Since the early days of your World of Outlaws career, you have appreciated and respected the history of the sport. What do races like the Gold Cup mean to you?
“These races are the ones that have a little more special feel to them. Ted Johnson had a vision and wanted to connect all the big events that were happening for years around the country by having guys travel together, going from region to region. Whether it was Knoxville, Eldora, Williams Grove or Chico, it was important for the World of Outlaws to be part of it. It’s hard for me to believe that I have been out on the road with the Outlaws for 20 years. I’m proud to have been able to compete in a lot of those big races. The Gold Cup is the biggest race on the West Coast and for years attracted all the Sprint car guys. It’s a race I’ve been fortunate enough to win. I won it back in 2004 and it took me a while to do it again. You appreciate winning these types of races and I’m looking forward to another Gold Cup this weekend.”
The race has changed over the years, but it still comes down to 40 laps on Saturday night for all the glory. What’s the biggest key to winning the race?
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!