|It’s a double dose of World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series action this weekend on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz and the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance-backed team. The eight-time and reigning WoO champion leads the Sprint-car stars to Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, Arkansas Friday and to Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Missouri, Saturday.
After starting the season in Florida, making a pair of stops in Texas, along with racing in California and Arizona already in 2017, the Outlaws make their Midwest debut with a pair of short-track battles this weekend. First up is the Outlaws return to Riverside for the Bull Ring Blitz Friday night. The traveling Sprint-car stars haven’t competed at the quarter-mile, dirt oval since the spring of 2009 and Friday’s race will be the 10th Outlaw A-Feature contested at the track. Saturday’s Spring Classic at I-55 is the first of two stops this season at the 3/8-mile, dirt oval located just South of St. Louis.
The Outlaws’ schedule hasn’t included back-to-back races in Arkansas and Missouri since the spring of 2006, and Schatz is hoping for outcomes this weekend similar to 11 years ago, when he swept the doubleheader by racing to victory Friday night at Batesville Speedway and 24 hours later scoring the win at I-55. Those triumphs were his second and third wins of the season that ended with Schatz claiming his first WoO crown.
The following season, Schatz made his debut at Riverside International Speedway. It was an ominous beginning for the reigning WoO champion in April 2007. He was involved in a heat-race accident and had to earn his position in the A-Feature through the Last Chance Showdown. He would transfer through the Showdown and race from 18th to 14th in the 40-lap A-Feature. He returned in July 2008 and dominated the program aboard the TSR No. 15. Schatz was the fastest qualifier and led all 40 laps of the A-Feature. In his only other appearance at “The Ditch,” the Fargo, North Dakota racer finished 18th in April 2009.
Stops at the high banks of I-55 have been a regular occurrence during the first 20 seasons of Outlaw competition for Schatz. He’s competed at the track every season of his WoO career and, Saturday, he’ll be making his 41st career start. He is a two-time winner at the facility co-owned by former NASCAR standout Kenny Schrader. Consistency has been a trademark for Schatz at the track throughout his career. After winning for the first time in his 19th race there, Schatz has finished inside the top-10 21 consecutive times. During that run, he scored his second career win in August 2015, when he raced to victory in the opener of the Ironman 55. Ten times he’s finished on the podium and he’s been a top-five finisher in 16 races.
Schatz and his TSR team of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti are coming off three races in Texas. The highlight was a fourth-place run in the Outlaws’ debut at Gator Motorplex in Willis. Those results were followed by 16th- and 10th-place finishes in the Texas Outlaw Nationals at historic Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite.
Through 17 of the 92 scheduled races in the 2017 WoO campaign, Schatz continues to lead the championship. He has a 44-point advantage over David Gravel and leads the series with six A-Feature triumphs. He is tied for most top-fives with 11 and top-10s with 14.
For Friday’s Bull Ring Outlaw Blitz at Riverside, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT and the grandstands open at 4:30 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. More details are available by calling at (870) 735-8071, or by visiting riversideinternationalspeedway
Saturday at Federated Auto Parts at I-55, the pit gates will open at 1 p.m. CDT and the grandstands open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. More details are available by calling at(636) 479-3219, or by visiting federatedautopartsraceway.com.
Race fans unable to attend the DIRTcar Nationals can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Live audio coverage is available both nights 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. Live video will be availableSaturday night only. 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/
Arctic Cat: Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArcticCat or on Twitter and Instagram @ArcticCat_atv @ArcticCat_Snow
Curb: Facebook at www.facebook.com/CurbRecords or on Twitter and Instagram @CurbRecords.
Ford Performance: Facebook at www.facebook.com/
|Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J:|
The WoO schedule brings you to the Midwest this weekend. The first stop is a return to Riverside for the first time since 2009, and then it’s back to I-55, where you’ve competed at least once every season of your WoO career. Is there an advantage to having made a number of laps a particular facility?
“We’ve talked about the importance of experience at places and how it factors into the racing. If you look over the years of World of Outlaws history, you’ll see that longevity is something that helps. Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell raced out here for years and racked up some serious win totals and a lot of that had to do with how talented they were and the knowledge they gained racing at places with their teams year after year. I’ve been fortunate to have the same package under me for more than a decade and to have worked with Rick Warner and Steve Swenson for quite a few years. The addition of Brad Mariscotti was a big plus to our team last year and those guys put me in a car capable of running up front every night. We’ve all made a lot of laps together and that will help at Riverside and I-55, but probably the biggest bonus was that they were able to spend the week in the shop. The hauler was gone from the first of March until last Sunday and they were able to retool. I spent some time with them at the shop this week and I know everyone is excited to get back to racing this weekend..”
Memphis and St. Louis are a couple of hotbeds for short-track racing. How important is it for the Outlaws to continue racing in those regions?
“We’ve raced all across the country throughout my WoO career and we have great fans everywhere. St. Louis has been a regular stop for me since day one on the Outlaw tour and not only do we have great fan support, but the competitors really come out and add to the show. We’ve had some of the best races each year at I-55 and, when you consider that area hosts everything from IndyCar, NHRA, NASCAR and SuperCross, we are performing in front of some really passionate fans in that area. We look forward to the stops in Pevely, for sure. And Memphis has so much tradition in our sport. Guys like Sammy Swindell, Jeff Swindell and Bobby Davis Jr., were from Memphis who were a huge part of the first couple of decades of the Outlaws. The last 15 years, we’ve had Jason Sides out here on tour with us, so it’s great that we are going back to the Memphis area this year. Last year, we raced at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Arkansas for the first time and it was absolutely packed. This is the 40th season of the Outlaws and it’s pretty cool that we have the opportunity to race in some of the regions that have played a big part in the series’ history.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!