Seven-Time Outlaw Champ Schatz Begins 20th WoO Sprint Car Campaign
INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 9, 2016) – One of the greatest accomplishments in sports is reaching the pinnacle, but one of the most difficult things is staying on top. Over the past decade, Donny Schatz and the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) team have set the standard in the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series and are in the midst of a dynasty with three championships in the last four seasons on the strength of 91 victories.
The Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance team begins its quest to continue the dynasty by chasing a third consecutive WoO championship this week during Florida Speedweeks at the 45th annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville.
Schatz, the seven-time WoO champion, classified the 2015 campaign as “The Golden Season” for the No. 15 team after Schatz established a new career high for wins for the third consecutive season and became only the second driver in the sport’s 38-year history to reach the 30-win milestone. The 38-year-old Fargo, North Dakota driver continued to build his legacy by winning on the biggest stage – The Knoxville Nationals – for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J and surpassing the 200-win total last season en route to winning the championship by 544 points, the fourth largest margin of victory ever.
The 2016 WoO campaign, which includes 91 races at 54 different tracks in 25 states and one Canadian province, will be the ninth season Schatz will drive for three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. For the second consecutive season, marketing partners Bad Boy Buggies and Chevrolet Performance will serve as co-primary sponsors on the TSR No. 15 and the team also has an alliance with Mike Curb and his Curb Records label. Expectations were high heading into last season but, when the dust settled, the tally included 31 WoO A-Feature wins, 60 top-five finishes and 70 top-10s in 75 races, which led to a second consecutive WoO championship, and the challenge now is to continue reaching new heights in one of the most demanding series in motorsports.
The dominating season was the result of a total team effort from ownership, sponsorship and the chemistry Schatz, Rick Warner and Steve Swenson have built over the years. Schatz and Warner have won seven championships and nine Knoxville Nationals together, while Swenson has been the team’s backbone since the beginning of the 2010 campaign. Their tireless efforts and continued commitment to raising the bar has led to unmatched consistency and results, including keeping Schatz on the track for every lap of the previous 178 races. Brad Mariscotti joins the team this season and brings championship experience of his own. The Reedley, California native has been part of five United States Auto Club (USAC) championships with TSR.
The 2016 WoO campaign will be a historic one for Schatz as he competes with “The Greatest Show on Dirt” for the 20th season. Through his first 19 seasons, his 204 career WoO A-Feature triumphs trail only Sprint car racing icons Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell. His seven championships rank second to Kinser’s 20. He is the only driver in the WoO’s 38-year history to have raced exclusively with the series for 19 consecutive seasons. He opened his rookie campaign at Manzanita Speedway in January 1997 with a 10th-place finish and concluded the season in Las Vegas by capturing the prestigious Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award. He scored his first career WoO victory in his second season on tour in Oregon. His ascent in the sport continued three seasons later when he cracked the top-five in the championship standings and, in 2004, he climbed to third. In 2006, Schatz earned his first of four consecutive championships and, over the last decade, Schatz has finished first or second in the final standings every season.
The list of goals for 2016 includes having another strong beginning of the season and that starts with success in Florida. In five of his seven championship seasons, Schatz has earned a WoO victory at Volusia Speedway Park and leads all drivers with seven career WoO triumphs at half-mile, dirt oval. He won his first in 2007 and won twice in 2009, and also scored wins in 2010 and 2012. In each of the previous two seasons, he’s come out victorious claiming the Saturday night A-Feature.
Schatz also has five career All-Star wins at Volusia, including his first career All-Star victory in 2006 and a memorable run from last to first to begin the 2009 season. He’ll be looking to add a couple more when the DIRTcar Nationals begin with a pair of All-Star Circuit of Champions-sanctioned races on Wednesday and Thursday, prior to three complete WoO events beginning Friday evening.
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, visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live 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 to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
Coming off an incredible 2015 season, is there any change to how you are approaching 2016?
“I’m so excited to get back at it. We had one of those amazing seasons in 2015. I called it our ‘Golden Season’ and everyone on this Tony Stewart Racing team is ready go at it again. We keep setting goals and doing everything we can to reach them year after year. Tony Stewart and his staff have built a team that just continues to do things that haven’t been done in this sport for a long time. Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and our newest member Brad Mariscotti have spent the past few months working extremely hard so that we can come out of the box strong and continue racing at the highest level. Those guys are so smart and have a passion for winning that really pushes me to keep getting better. We all have high expectations and believe in each other. We know what we accomplished last year doesn’t guarantee us anything in 2016. It’s going to take another incredible effort by everyone involved with this Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance team for us to have the kind of season we are hoping to have.”
This week, you will begin your second season with Bad Boy Buggies and Chevrolet Performance as primary sponsors. What do you do for an encore performance?
“It’s so important to be surrounded by success and that’s what we have at Tony Stewart Racing. Last year, we were thrilled to represent both Bad Boy Buggies and Chevrolet Performance and deliver the kind of results that they deserve. They are both very successful companies and very good partners. We had the opportunity to work with their staffs and activate both at the racetrack and at some of their dealerships. They give us the opportunity to be out on the road doing what we love to do and at the same time provide their brands exposure to a demographic that is a perfect match for them. We know we have set the bar high, but we’re excited to have them along for the ride again this year and see if we can continue at the pace we set last season.”
This year will be your 20th season with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series. When you joined the tour for the 1997 season, did you have any idea you would be where you are with the series 20 years later?
“I don’t think I knew what was in front of me back in 1997, other than I knew I had a dream of racing with the World of Outlaws. My parents gave me the opportunity and there have been so many people who have been part of this along the way. I can’t thank them all enough for continuing to help me follow my dream every step of the way. From the humble beginnings of trying to keep up with Steve Kinser, Dave Blaney, Mark Kinser and Danny Lasoski to getting to the point where we could compete for wins, then championships and ultimately reaching the level we are at today, I just feel so fortunate. I have a great passion for Sprint car racing. The sport. The fans. The teams. I just hope I can continue living out this dream as long as I can.”
The statistics say that you Are the most successful driver at Volusia Speedway Park in World of Outlaws history. What has enabled you to be so successful at the half-mile dirt oval?
“Consistency has been the key. We’ve been racing at Volusia since 2005 and the most important thing has been our preparation. Everyone wants to start the season with some success and my team has done a great job of putting in the time during the offseason to make sure our stuff is ready. The competition is extremely tough and we thrive on that. Volusia is a very fast track and you have to have good horsepower and a car that allows you to use it all. Our combination of Shaver Engine and J&J cars has been really good for a long time and we continue to fine tune it. I always say that first win is the hardest one of the season to get and, if you can get one right away in Florida, it’s a great way to start your season.”
The numbers you have put up the last three seasons have been remarkable, but one of the most impressive is your streak of 178 consecutive races without a DNF (Did Not Finish) that dates back to September 2013. How have you been able to accomplish that?
“It’s a total team effort. My guys have worked extremely hard to make sure we haven’t had any issues. They do the maintenance. They spend the necessary time looking over everything on the car making sure we don’t have a failure. There’s that old saying, ‘In order to finish first, one must first finish,’ and we’ve tried to make sure we have a shot at the end by being around. You have to have good vision on the track and see what’s happening all around you. I’ve been asked about the streak quite a bit lately, so hopefully we don’t have an issue and it ends soon. I know all of us are working hard so it continues as long as it can. We take a lot of pride in it.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine