|For most, a trip to Napa Valley offers the opportunity to relax, unwind and enjoy the fruits of labor of a successful growing season. Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz is certainly a connoisseur of fine wine, enjoys relaxing and unwinding, but not when there is a World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series championship out there to chase.
With only 18 races remaining in the 2017 season, the eight-time and reigning WoO champion will be all business this weekend as the series returns to Calistoga (Calif.) Speedway for the two-night Wine Country Outlaw Showdown Friday and Saturday night.
The weekend marks the end of the Outlaws’ California slate for 2017 and Schatz would like nothing more than bookend the 11-race Golden State schedule with another California victory – or two – to go with his early season triumph at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare. Schatz and the TSR Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance-backed team return to the picturesque half-mile, dirt oval as the most recent Outlaw winners at the facility as Schatz raced past Craig Dollansky midway through the 25-lap A-Feature back in April 2015 to score his third career WoO A-Feature victory at the track.
The North Dakota racer first made laps in Calistoga during his rookie season with the Outlaws in 1997 during the annual Harvest Classic. He first tasted victory at the fairgrounds in 2004, winning the second preliminary feature. Success continued the following season with a runner-up finish in the second preliminary feature and a thrilling win in the 2005 Harvest Classic finale. He was on the podium the following season and raced to a pair of top-10 finishes in 2007. It was three years later when the Outlaws made their return to the track in the spring of 2011 and Schatz charged from 17th to seventh. Mother Nature pushed the 2012 race from April to September and the timing was perfect for Schatz to score his second career WoO A-Feature win at the track. The flag-to-flag victory pushed Schatz to a 50-point lead in the championship standings and he would go on to win his fifth WoO title.
After a demanding Gold Cup Race of Champions weekend at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Schatz and his TSR crew of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti are looking forward to closing out California on a high note. Last Saturday’s run from 25th to 11th in the 40-lap Gold Cup finale earned Schatz the KSE Hard Charger Award for the night, but also ended a 29-race top-10 streak. The team is determined to put itself in position to start a new streak this weekend – more along the lines of finishing on the podium, or most certainly within the top-five.
Through 70 of the 92 scheduled races, Schatz holds the top position in the championship standings with 9,230 points and has a 90-point lead over second-place Brad Sweet. Schatz leads the series with 17 WoO A-Feature victories and 51 top-five finishes, and his 59 top-10s are tied for most with Sweet.
Both nights at Calistoga, the pit gates at 2 p.m. PDT and the grandstands will open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit www.calistogaspeedway.org or call (707) 942-5111.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Live video coverage is available on a pay-per-view basis and audio coverage is available for 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 Textron Off Road/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.textronoffroad.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.
Textron Off Road: Facebook atwww.facebook.com/
Arctic Cat: Facebook at www.facebook.com/arcticcat.
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 Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance J&J:|
After several weeks of competing on short tracks, this weekend provides you the opportunity to compete on a half-mile, dirt oval. From the driver’s seat, what is the biggest difference between the track sizes?
“Things just happen a lot quicker on the short tracks. You are in and out of the corners and in and out of lapped traffic almost all the time. These Sprint cars have so much power and can make so much speed on the bigger tracks. You can really use all of that to your advantage. You still have to have your car right in order to take advantage of everything. Qualifying is just so important. We’re looking forward to getting back to Calistoga and working with our big-track package. That’s just one of the things that makes being an Outlaw fun. You have to adjust and adapt not only from track to track, but you have to do that as the night goes on. When you qualify, you might attack the track a certain way, but you probably can’t race that way. Finding a rhythm and making good corners is a big deal. The way you get in affects the way you get out. And a lot of times, that’s where you are making your move forward.”
You and your team have had some success at Calistoga in the past. How important is it to put a couple of strong nights on the board to close out California?
“It’s important for us to have good finishes every night. The old saying goes that you are only as good as your last race. Well, we weren’t very good at the Gold Cup, so we have a lot to improve on this weekend. The number of chances you have to win this season are dwindling down. We know we have a couple of chances this weekend that we’d really like to take advantage of. My guys (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti) have worked really hard all season and finishing strong has always been something this team has put a lot of emphasis on. We know these are our last two races in California before heading back to across the country to continue on this journey. I’ve always enjoyed Calistoga. This trip, it’s much more of a business trip than what it was like early in my career, but I’m good with that. It’s a fun place to race and we have a good opportunity there in front of us.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!