|With a 92-race season, it’s no wonder the competitors on the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series tour sometimes has a difficult time with basic questions. What day is it? And where are we? After starting the season in Florida in February, the long and winding road for “The Greatest Show on Dirt” has taken the traveling Sprint car stars from coast to coast twice, already, and up next is a three-race weekend in the Pacific Northwest.
Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz and the Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team have navigated their way to the Seattle-area for the Outlaws’ annual Labor Day-weekend tripleheader in Washington. The driver of the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J resumes his quest for a ninth WoO championship Friday and Saturday night with the Outlaw Energy Showdown at Skagit Speedway in Alger. Following an off night Sunday, the weekend will conclude with Monday night’s stop at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma.
Schatz leads the series into action with a 94-point lead in the 2017 WoO championship standings. The Fargo, North Dakota resident has earned 17 WoO A-Feature triumphs, pushing his career number of wins to 246. Three of those victories have come at Skagit Speedway. Schatz scored a win in the weekend finale in 2013, then swept the weekend in 2014. In 2015, he scored his historic 200th career WoO A-Feature victory at Grays Harbor. The win came in thrilling fashion as he overtook race leader Paul McMahan with two laps remaining and extended his winning streak at the track to three.
With only 24 races remaining in the 2017 season, each night is important in the big picture. Things can change quickly and that’s where the experience of Schatz, who is in his 21st season with the Outlaws, and his veteran crew of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti, comes into play. Three races in four nights is a tall order, but the challenge to not only compete all three nights but also contend for victories is what pushes the entire team. In 10 starts during the month of August, Schatz scored wins in the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals and at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He finished sixth or better in all 10 races and the team knows if it can match that same type of consistency throughout September, another one of its goals for the season will remain in play.
The team has already notched a few of its 2017 points of emphasis as the season enters its final two dozen starts. Winning races was important – Schatz leads the Outlaws with 17 wins. Succeeding in the high-profile races – Schatz won all three of the major “Month of Money” races that were contested: The Kings Royal, the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup and the Knoxville Nationals. Finish strong – That is the focus beginning this weekend in Washington.
Schatz finished fourth and third, respectively, last weekend at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota and Billings (Mont.) Motorsports Park. Those finishes followed three top-fives, including a win and second-place finish in his home state of North Dakota the weekend prior.
Through 64 of the scheduled 92 events, the team has earned 8,412 points and holds a 94-point advantage over Kasey Kahne Racing’s Brad Sweet.
SCHATZ FAST FACTS: SKAGIT SPEEDWAY AND GRAYS HARBOR RACEWAY
• Schatz has made 21 career starts at Skagit Speedway. He made his debut at the track in August 2002 and finished third.
• He won his second start at the track in August 2006, but the win was considered a preliminary feature win and his not part of his career win numbers.
• He earned his first “official” WoO win at the track in August 2013, leading the final 19 laps of the 36-lap race.
• Schatz swept the weekend in 2014, leading all 25 laps of the Friday-night program and 23 of the 35 in the finale.
• Schatz made his debut at Grays Harbor Raceway during his rookie season with Outlaws in August 1997. He finished 10th in the preliminary feature and sixth in the finale.
• He has made 24 career starts at Grays Harbor (15 regular A programs and nine that were classified as preliminary programs). He has four career wins, 10 top-fives and 19 top-10s.
• He won at Grays Harbor for the first time in August 2005 by making a dramatic late pass of Steve Kinser to secure the victory.
• Schatz has won the last three WoO A-Features at Grays Harbor: In 2013, he led the final 25 laps of the 35-lap A-Feature; in 2014, he led the final 21 laps and, in 2015, he led only the final two laps to secure his 200th career WoO A-Feature triumph.
ENTER TO WIN A DONNY SCHATZ-THEMED HDX
The pit gates open at Skagit Speedway at 3 p.m. PDT Friday and Saturday. The grandstands will open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit skagitspeedway.com or call 360-724-3567.
Monday at Grays Harbor, the pit gates open at 3 p.m. PDT. The grandstands will open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit graysharborraceway.com
Race fans unable to attend this week’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Free audio coverage is available 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/
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:|
Over the years, you have always said that the Labor Day-weekend races in Washington were something you enjoyed. What makes you feel that way?
“I just enjoy traveling to Washington this time of the year. I always have liked this part of the schedule. We have some family out there and the long weekend usually gives us a chance to spend some time with them. As for the racing, it’s a challenge, for sure. Skagit has been one of those places where I feel like we’ve been really good, or the complete opposite. Obviously, you want to be really good. The track is pretty tricky, so having your car right and being in the right place at the right time certainly play a factor. When you leave Skagit, it’s down to Elma and that’s been a really good track for us the past few years, but that doesn’t have any bearing on Monday’s race. We’re going to have to be on our game there. I know my Arctic Cat/Ford Performance guys have been in town all week getting us ready. Winning these World of Outlaws races is really difficult and we’re just trying to work as hard as we can to put ourselves in a position to race for them.”
The calendar has turned to September and the number of races in the season continues to get smaller. Does your approach change this time of the year?
“You can’t change what you are doing just because it’s later in the year. This sport is constantly changing and the teams that stay ahead of the changes are the ones that will be fighting for wins and ultimately the championship. That doesn’t mean you don’t change how you do everything. You may tinker with a few things here and there and tweak some aspects of your program but, at this point in the season, everyone pretty much has a routine they stick to. We know there are quite a few races still ahead of us and we still have high expectations to meet as a team. The crew (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti) on this Arctic Cat/Ford Performance team wants to win everything. We can’t get too far ahead ourselves and start thinking about later in the month or October. We have three important races this weekend that we need to keep focused on and that’s how we’ll approach the weekend. Come Tuesday, the setting changes, but everything else stays pretty much the same.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!