The long road to a World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series championship begins in February and will conclude next week with the Bad Boy Off Road World Finals in Charlotte, North Carolina. That road makes one final stop this weekend in Middle America, where Tony Stewart-Curb Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz and the Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team look to all but clinch the 2016 championship.
Schatz, driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J, leads the traveling Sprint car stars into action with a 308- point lead in the championship with only four nights of racing remaining. The seven-time and reigning WoO champion will try to make it two consecutive victories Friday night at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, then will look to add the Salina (Okla.) Highbanks to the list of 80 different tracks where he’s registered a WoO A-Feature triumph during his 20-year career with “The Greatest Show on Dirt.”It’s been another historic season for Schatz and his TSR 15 team. Through 80 Races, they lead the series with 24 victories, 40 podium finishes, 58 top-fives, 73 top-10s, 10 KSE Hard Charger Awards and 494 laps led. And, no matter what the outcomes are this weekend, by simply signing in to compete at the final four event, he’ll be crowned champion.
Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Rumble on the River will be the 10th appearance for Schatz with the Outlaws at Lakeside. He’s had mixed results in his first eight races at half-mile dirt oval. Schatz debuted at the track in 2001 and finished 10th. In June 2003, he finished third and, when the Outlaws returned seven years later in 2010, he finished fifth. The Fargo, North Dakota racer has competed at the track each season since finishing sixth, 10th, ninth and 11th before last year’s performance. Schatz was coming off a 10th-to-first victory at Beaver Dam (Wis.) Raceway four nights earlier and found himself starting 10thin the 30-lap A-Feature. He was on the move from the start and ultimately worked his way into second. A restart on lap 28 opened the door and Schatz seized the opportunity. He overtook race-leader Joey Saldana and led the final laps to score his first career win at Lakeside.
The stat line from the Salina Highbanks is similar to Lakeside, minus the victory. His best result came the first time he circled the high- banked, 3/8-mile dirt oval. It was in April 2012 when Schatz stormed from 18th to second and nearly caught eventual winner Craig Dollansky in the 30-lap A-Feature. The last three seasons, Schatz has finished 13th, ninth and 10th, respectively, at the northeast Oklahoma facility. Schatz has one career WoO A-Feature victory in the Sooner State. The win was his 15th career WoO A-Feature triumph and came at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds Speedway in Oklahoma City in March 2003.
The Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team of Schatz and his crew Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti are coming off a pair of top-four finishes in Pennsylvania last weekend. Last Friday, Schatz finished fourth in the 54th annual Williams Grove National Open at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg and, Saturday night, he raced to a third-place finish at Port Royal Speedway. It pushed his streak of consecutive top-four finishes to six and top-seven runs to nine in a row.
The races at Lakeside and Salina will be the final two with Schatz 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 and follow the interactive steps to contribute. The team is encouraging fans to join the cause and spread awareness through social media with images of the car and Schatz using the hashtag #ThinkPink.
For Friday’s race at Lakeside, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT and the grandstands open at 4 p.m.Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. More details are available by calling at (913) 299-9206, or by visiting lakesidespeedway.net.
Saturday at the Salina Highbanks, the pit gates and grandstands will open at 2 p.m. CDT and the grandstands open at 4 p.m. More details are available by calling at 815-344-2023, or by visiting salinahighbanksspeedway.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 at www.twitter.com/TonyStewart_
|Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J:|
|With only two weekends remaining and the championship nearly locked up, does the strategy change?
“It really doesn’t change. Yes, we all know the season is almost over and there is a sense of urgency to get a couple more wins around here. That’s the only way you can reach what I called ‘Champion’s Status’ last week after finishing third. We wanted to be better than a fourth- or third-place car last weekend and the goal is to do that this weekend. I know my guys worked hard all week so we could be a little better. It’s just the mentality we have adopted at TSR. You have to continue to improve. We want to get better every night and definitely want to get better at places where we have struggled. I know last year was the best I ever felt at Lakeside and we were fortunate to get the victory. The key is to be in a position to do that again. After that, we’ll head to Salina and see if we can solve that place. I know I’m surrounded by extremely competitive guys and they’d like nothing more than to get a couple wins this weekend and head to Charlotte on a roll.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!