The 20th season of competition with the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series has been another historic chapter for Tony Stewart-Curb Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz. The North Dakota native started his Outlaw career in 1997 and is just six races away from completing his 20th campaign with “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” But, there’s still an opportunity to make this season even more special with a final trip into enemy territory this weekend as the Outlaws take on the “Pennsylvania Posse” Friday and Saturday with Schatz looking to be the season’s first and last Outlaw winner in the state of Pennsylvania.
The seven-time and reigning WoO champion won the Gettysburg Clash at Lincoln Speedway back in May to carry the torch for the Outlaws, and he’ll look to add not only to his 292-point lead in the WoO championship standings Friday, but also to his legacy in the 54th annual Champion Racing Oils Morgan Hughes National Open at historic Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg. It was originally scheduled to be a three-race event two weeks ago, but Mother Nature washed out all the action, forcing the Outlaws to reschedule and reduce the event to a single night. The weekend concludes with the Outlaws returning to Port Royal Speedway for the third straight October.
Schatz is the all-time winningest driver of the prestigious National Open with five career wins, and is one of 31 drivers on a remarkable list of previous event winners. Those five wins are part of 19 career victories at the famous half-mile, dirt oval. He trails only Steve Kinser in career Outlaw wins at the facility and ranks 19th in the track’s all-time win list. If he can take the checkered flag in Friday’s$25,000-to-win, 40-lap A-Feature, he’ll surpass Jan Opperman, Tommy Hinnershitz and Kramer Williamson, and tie his childhood hero Doug Wolfgang with 20 career Williams Grove triumphs.
In 11 of his first 19 seasons with the Outlaws, Schatz has scored at least one victory at Williams Grove. Earlier this season, he finished third in May’s Spring Nationals before charging from 16th to fifth in the Summer Nationals opener. He followed that up with another fifth-place finish July 22 in the 30-lap Summer Nationals finale.
Schatz has been extremely consistent in what’s recognized as the biggest Sprint car race of the season in the East. He’s raced in 18 previous National Opens and finished on the podium 11 times, including second-place finishes the previous two seasons.
Port Royal is one of five different tracks in Pennsylvania where Schatz has earned a WoO A-Feature victory. Two nights before his third career National Open triumph back in 2004, Schatz raced to his 25th career WoO A-Feature win. It was 10 years later when the series returned to the half-mile dirt oval in 2014 and Schatz chased Ryan Smith to the checkered flag. Last October, Schatz finished third to give him three consecutive podium finishes at the track.
The Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team of Schatz and his crew Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti are coming off their 24th victory of the season. Last Saturday, Schatz took the lead on lap eight of the 30-lap A-Feature at Fulton (N.Y.) Speedway and raced to his 228th career WoO A-Feature win. The victory increased his lead in the championship standings to a nearly insurmountable margin. Depending on the results of the weekend, Schatz may only need to sign in at the four remaining WoO races to secure his eighth WoO title.
The weekend is also the second-to-last in which Schatz will be piloting a special pink-schemed TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J. For the second consecutive season, Schatz and TSR are supporting Chevrolet’s Pink Initiative by incorporating the official color for breast cancer awareness and the fight against cancer on the car. Anyone interested in donating to Chevrolet’s 2016 Pink Initiative is encouraged to visit www.cancer.org/chevroletmsabc
For Friday’s National Open, the pit gates will open at 3 p.m. EDT and the grandstands open at 5 p.m.Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. More details are available by calling at (717) 697-5000, or by visiting williamsgrove.com.
Saturday at Port Royal Speedway, the pit gates and grandstands will open at 2 p.m. EDT. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. More details are available by calling at 717-527-2303, or by visitingportroyalspeedway.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.
The TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team can be followed on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TonyStewart_Rc
|Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J:|
The National Open was originally scheduled for three nights of racing, but the weather forced it to become a single-night program. Does that change your strategy in any way?
“We go after things the same no matter what. It’s about having a chance to win at the end of the night. If we would have gotten in the races a couple weeks back, each night it would have been about being in a spot to win at the end of the night. We strive for consistency. Over a three-race stretch, that may have been something that would have helped us. I don’t know for sure. I was asked about it before and my answer was that I think we are at our best the first night we get somewhere. I know Rick, Scuba and Brad take a lot of pride in unloading a car that’s fast right out of the trailer. So we’ll come at it that way Friday and take it one step at a time like we do every night. That’s what being an Outlaw is all about – showing up at a track and doing everything you can do to be fast. It’s no secret how good the regulars are there at the Grove, but that’s not going to dictate what we do. It’s a pretty competitive atmosphere in our trailer. We’re all committed to working as hard as we can to be as good as we can be every time we hit the track.”
With two consecutive wins, you and your team look to close the year with a flurry. Are you a believer in momentum carrying over from one race to the next?
“Experience is a big deal when you race with the Outlaws. And I’ve learned a lot over the years. Tony (Stewart) has built an incredible team and we’ve been through a lot. Our philosophy has always been that we enjoy the win until the next morning, and then it’s about focusing on the next race. There was a lot of time between winning at Lernerville and then last Saturday at Fulton, so I’m not sure much carried over. It goes back to having a good racecar and taking advantage of situations that you earn to be part of. We know it’s a clean slate this weekend. Just because we’ve won the last two races, or the fact that we’ve finished second in the last two National Opens, doesn’t guarantee us a shot at the winFriday. We’re going to have to earn everything we get. Maybe build some momentum as the night goes on. Start by unloading a fast car and making some good laps in warm-ups. If we can do that, then follow it up with a good qualifying lap. From there, it’s about getting through the heat in a position to make the show and ultimately the dash. We’re excited about the opportunity to try and win the National Open. It’s one of our biggest races of the year and it’s one we really want.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!