For the last 20 years, one constant with the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series has been the rise from rookie racer to decorated champion by Donny Schatz. After closing his 20th campaign with a victory in the season finale and capturing his eighth WoO championship, the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing driver begins his third decade of competition with “The Greatest Show on Dirt” looking to resume his historic run in grassroots racing’s most competitive series.
This year’s DIRTcar Nationals marks the 13th consecutive season the Outlaws have opened their schedule with events that are part of Florida Speedweeks, and Schatz has been a major player the previous 12 years. After leading the opening-night A-Feature in 2005, Schatz has earned at least one top-two finish in 10 of the previous 11 season openers. He started WoO title defenses in 2007, 2009 and 2010 by racing to victory in the season opener and, in the last three consecutive DIRTcar Nationals events, he has raced to victory in the second race each year, giving him eight career WoO wins at the half-mile, dirt oval, the most by any driver.
Those victories are part of an eye-popping 105 triumphs the Fargo, North Dakota racer has earned since the beginning of the 2013 season en route to three consecutive WoO titles. With 25 triumphs last year, Schatz became the only driver in Outlaws history to win 20 or more WoO A-Features in four consecutive seasons. He returns to Florida with his crew of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti intact and poised to continue the team’s run into the history books.
The only change for 2017 is the look of the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J. A black with bright green and white car adorning brand marks of Arctic Cat and Ford Performance will carry Schatz in pursuit of a ninth WoO championship in this, his 10th season of driving for three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. Since joining TSR in 2008, Schatz has won six WoO championships and finished second in the championship standings three times to go along with seven Knoxville Nationals victories and a pair of runner-up finishes in the sport’s signature event. The team has won every major Sprint car race at least once during his tenure, including last year’s 33rd annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway. The combination continues to set the standard in short-track racing.
A pair of Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) events Wednesday and Thursday night precede the Friday-, Saturday– and Sunday-night WoO races at Volusia this week. Schatz and his TSR crew spent last weekend competing in the ASCoC-sanctioned Bubba Army Winter Nationals at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida, where he raced to victory in the first two nights of action before finishing second in Saturday’s finale. The wins pushed his career total in All-Star victories to 15, with 12 of those being scored in the Sunshine State. Half of his Florida All-Star triumphs have come at Volusia, including a run from last to first in the 2009 opener and his charge from 10th to first in the second night of action last February.
For all five races at Volusia Speedway Park, the pit gates open at 1 p.m. EST and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for the race weekend can be purchased by calling Volusia Speedway Park at (386) 985-4402. For more information on the event, visitwww.DIRTcarNationals.com.
Race fans unable to attend the DIRTcar Nationals can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Live video coverage is available on a pay-per-view basis, or 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. Visit to DIRTVision.com for more information.
Fans are encouraged to follow the progress of Schatz, TSR and the No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J throughout the campaign on the web and social media. More information can be found at www.TonyStewartRacing.com, www.arcticcat.com, and www.donnyschatzmotorsports.com
Tony Stewart Racing: Facebook at www.Facebook.com/
Donny Schatz: Facebook at www.facebook.com/DonnySchatz or on Twitter and Instagram @DonnySchatz.
Arctic Cat: Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArcticCat or on Twitter and Instagram @ArcticCat_atv @ArcticCat_Snow
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 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J:
Last year marked your 20th season with the Outlaws and this year the series celebrates its 40th year. How important is it to you that you’ve been a big part of the series’ history?
“When I was kid, being an Outlaw was the only thing I dreamed of. Watching Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Doug Wolfgang race was the biggest thing in my life. I’m thankful my parents gave me the chance to come out here and be an Outlaw and ultimately become a champion. I’m honored Tony Stewart thought enough of me to bring me to his organization and surround me with incredible people to be able to continue at the highest level. I’m only as good as the people who surround me and I’m blessed. Ted Johnson lived out his dream by starting the Outlaws and he was the guy who instilled passion in a person. He impressed on you to not only do what you like, but you have to love what you do. And only people who love what they do are going to want to race with the World of Outlaws because it is a very grueling schedule and very intense. You have to be able to take being beat day in and day out and figure out how to turn that around and start winning on your own. It has been incredible to be on this journey and I’ve been fortunate to be out here on the road for almost half of my life. It’s awesome to see that this will be the 40th season for the Outlaws. Hopefully we can make it an eventful year and another great season for the World of Outlaws.”
Like it has for the past dozen seasons, the World of Outlaws campaign starts in Florida at Volusia Speedway Park. How would you describe racing at Voluisa, and what do you take away from the first event of the season?
“Volusia is really a momentum place, both on the track and in the pits. A driver can go there and be really fast out of the box and can feel really great about how things went down there and then leave Florida and be absolutely terrible. Or, you can be terrible in Florida and be really good in Texas, Las Vegas or wherever we go right after that. It’s a place that is very unique in its own right. It’s very fast and has unique dirt the way it races. You have to keep up with the track, for sure. With its uniqueness, the things you do there and learn really are specific to that track and you may not be able to use what you learned until later in the year, when you go to places like Eldora, Williams Grove and Knoxville. It’s a lot of fun and a great place to start the season. Everyone is ready to get back racing right now. It’s the event where everyone is at, gritting their teeth ready to get the season started. I can’t wait to get there and be part of Speedweeks and chase those Gator trophies.”
With one of the most demanding schedules in all of motorsports, how do you approach the beginning of a new season and trying to stay sharp throughout the campaign?
“The mental aspect changes from day to day, from year to year. As an eight-time champion, if I don’t win another race, I can’t say I missed out on anything or have anything to feel bad about. I give 110 percent all the time and tried to make the best decisions I could on and off the track. And you have to be confident in that. Starting a new season, you understand that Volusia is not a place that you really base your whole year off of. There have been guys who have done very well done there and not won the championship. It’s because it’s such a long season. You know the dynamic of racing changes throughout our year and you have to adapt to those. You just don’t want to beat yourself up too much, and know you have to keep working to get better. It’s really a go-getter attitude. You have to have a fine line between how hard and when to push it. I try to stay up on things the best I can and try not to let certain things bother you. Obviously, everyone is human and you have to deal with certain things. I had a great upbringing. My father is the one who groomed me mentally for the way this sport was. So far, it’s worked out great and you have to continue building on that. There’s nothing set in stone saying this is the way it’s got to be. You just have to be confident in what you do and learn from your mistakes.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!