|The opportunity to barnstorm across the country with “The Greatest Show on Dirt” is not something Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz takes for granted. He is thankful each and every chance he gets to race Sprint cars all across the United States. Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, when Americans celebrate and remember those soldiers who lost their lives serving in the United States military, the eight-time World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series champion will compete at three tracks in three states over the next six nights.
Starting with Wednesday’s return to New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway for the Jersey Outlaw Classic, the Outlaws finish a busy month of May for Schatz and his Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti. The team has worked hard to keep the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J battling for wins and look to be a factor not only in New Jersey but also in the Outlaws’ return to the heart of NASCAR country for their traditional Friday-night stop at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and in Monday’s annual stop in southeastern Indiana at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Schatz returns to New Egypt for the ninth time in his 21-year WoO career. He won the Outlaws’ debut at the D-Shaped track in July of 2001 and came back two years later and won his second WoO A-Feature at New Jersey dirt track. He posted three consecutive top-five finishes, including a runner-up finish in 2015, before finishing 10th last May.
The last time Schatz circled The Dirt Track at Charlotte, he was on his way to collecting his 25th victory of the 2016 WoO campaign and earning a ninth triumph at the facility. The win put an exclamation point on his eighth championship campaign and continued an impressive run of results at the track that began when Bruton Smith added dirt-track racing to the Coca-Cola 600 weekend in 2000. A top-four finish in the Outlaws’ debut at the track, and a flag-to-flag triumph under the bright lights in his third appearance later that fall cemented his feelings for the track. He scored his first official WoO A-Feature in thrilling style, charging from 10th through a heavy cushion in the Outlaw Showdown in May 2007. He closed his first season driving for three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart with an exclamation point by racing to his third victory at The Dirt Track in the season finale and, shortly thereafter, lifted the WoO championship hardware in front of a capacity crowd of more than 14,000 fans. His second Memorial Day-weekend triumph at The Dirt Track came in 2010, when he led 29 of the 30 laps. He secured wins five and six by sweeping the 2011 World Finals, then won the World Finals opener in 2013. His third Outlaw Showdown triumph two seasons ago was part of a career-best 31 wins.
Following Friday’s race in Charlotte, the TSR team will return to its Brownsburg, Indiana shop and prepare for the Memorial Day race at Lawrenceburg where, in three of the last seven WoO visits to the high-banked, 3/8-mile dirt oval, the team concluded race night in victory lane. Schatz won his first feature at the track in June 2009 before winning Memorial Day races in 2013 and 2014. After charging from 12th to third at “The Burg” in 2015, Schatz finished sixth last year.
Schatz is coming off a pair of top-five finishes during the Outlaws’ first battle with the Pennsylvania last week. He started the month of May with victories in three of the first four nights of action, the most recent being during the #LetsRaceTwo finale at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway. Through 23 of 91 scheduled races this season, Schatz leads the championship standings with 3,662 points and holds a 50-point advantage over David Gravel on the strength of his series-best nine wins and 18 top-five finishes.
Wednesday at New Egypt, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. EDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, call (609) 758-1900, or visitnewegyptspeedway.net.
For Friday’s race at The Dirt Track, the pit gates open at 1 p.m. EDT and grandstands open at 4 p.m.Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, visitcharlottemotorspeedway.com or call 704-455-3275.
Monday at Lawrenceburg Speedway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. EDT and the grandstands at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, visitlawrenceburgspeedway.com or call 812-539-4700.
Race fans unable to attend this week’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Live video is available through pay-per-view for Friday’s event at The Dirt Track, or fans can listen free to all three races 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 towww.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 J&J:|
First up this week is the return to New Egypt Speedway. Does the unique shape make it one of the more challenging tracks on the tour?
“New Egypt definitely plays out differently than most tracks we race on, but that’s part of the fun. It’s a challenge and we’ve had our nights where we were really on it and others where we felt lost. I remember winning that first night we were here and feeling like it was a place that I could really get around, but yet we came back the next year and it felt like we were out to lunch. That’s just the case in dirt-track racing. Everything changes every time you race. From year to year and night to night, you just have to continue to keep yourself in tune. I felt like we had a really good shot at winning there again a couple of years ago, but we came up one spot short. You have to be able to move around. Getting out of turn two so that you pass and then being able to enter turn three is crucial. Mother Nature pushed us back day, so that’s given us a little more time to get ready. Like I said, this team loves a challenge and racing at New Egypt is definitely that.”
It seems like ever since Bruton Smith opened The Dirt Track at Charlotte, you have been a fan of the facility. What’s been the key to your success at the track?
“I’ve always held a special place for Charlotte. Early in my career, it was one of the new places that came along. Being able to race across the street from the NASCAR track and the glitz and glamour the place had from the get-go was something I’ll always remember. And we were good there, so that helped, too. The key for long-term success there just goes back to having a good group of people surrounding me. Whether it was the family team I started with or moving to Tony Stewart Racing, we’ve always showed up in Charlotte with the right people in place. It always feels like a big race there and that’s something we as a team seem to thrive on. In May, your season is starting to hit its stride and winning in Charlotte can be a nice boost into summer and, when we end the year there, you want to finish the year with on a high note. I’ve had a lot of fun there during my career and we’re certainly looking forward to getting back on the track there Friday night.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!