INDIANAPOLIS – “No matter how many times you’ve been down the road, things aren’t going to be the same, especially when it comes to dirt track racing.”
Those were words Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz quipped 10 years ago as he was learning how to become a World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series champion. And he admits they still ring true today while in the midst of his 20th season of competing with “The Greatest Show on Dirt.”
The seven-time and reining WoO champion, along with his veteran TSR crew of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti, continue the 2016 WoO campaign with a weekend doubleheader in Ohio and Michigan to kick off a busy June that includes 12 nights of racing at 11 facilities in 11 different states.
First up for Schatz will be Friday night’s Kistler Engines Smackdown at Fremont (Ohio) Speedway, followed up by the Outlaws’ annual stop in Western Michigan at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa for the “Rumble in Michigan.”
The driver of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J leads the series with seven 2016 victories and 29 top-10s, including 16 consecutive top-10 finishes, through the first 31 races. Schatz entered last week’s action with two wins and a podium finish before coming home 10th at New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway, fifth in the Circle K/NOS Energy Drink Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway last Friday night and sixth Monday at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.
Returning to Fremont is a welcome one for Schatz, who is the most recent winner at the 1/3-mile, semi-banked, dirt oval. The Fargo, North Dakota racer drove from sixth to first in September 2013 to pick up his first career win at the track and, one year later, he raced to victory in the Last Chance Showdown to transfer into the 24-car field before charging from the 11th starting position to record his second consecutive Fremont victory and 26th of the 2014 WoO season.
Several tracks have been regular stops during Schatz’s 20 years of WoO competition, including I-96 Speedway. He first made laps at the 3/8-mile, dirt oval during his rookie season in 1997 and Saturday’s race marks the 10th consecutive season he and the Outlaws will do battle at the track. Schatz added I-96 to the list of tracks where he’s earned a WoO A-Feature triumph on May 31, 2014, when he overtook Brad Sweet and led the final 15 laps of the 35-lap race. Last June, Schatz was looking to make it two consecutive wins at the track and six wins in a row on the season. He took the lead from 20-time WoO champion Steve Kinser on lap 16 and held the top spot until lap 29, when Sweet slid his way in front of Schatz coming out of turn two. Schatz chased him down over the final laps but couldn’t get back around him and finished second.
Schatz has amassed 4,254 points and ranks second in the championship standings, 37 markers behind Sweet. In addition to leading the series in wins and top-10s, he tops the series with seven KSE Hard Charger Awards, has earned 19 top-five finishes and has led 79 laps on the season.
For Friday’s race at Fremont, the pit gates open at 3 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, visit fremontohspeedway.com or call 419-333-0478.
Saturday at I-96 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 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit i96speedway.com or call 616-642-0555.
Race fans unable to attend this week’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen 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 cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
Following a two-week run through Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and back to Indiana, the series heads to Ohio and Michigan for a weekend doubleheader. Do you face different challenges when competing in each region?
“That’s one of the great things about the World of Outlaws and one of the things that has made it the best series out there. We come into people’s home tracks and take on the best of the local and regional guys. Obviously, some of the tracks we go to have a really strong group of cars that race there every week and that makes for a bigger challenge, but that’s what we all thrive on. To be the best you have to beat the best. That’s the way we look at it and I’m sure that’s the way they look at it, too. We know, going into places like Fremont where they have a really strong weekly program and have a lot of Sprint car drivers and teams that have made a lot of laps there, that you are going to have to be on your game. We have big fields of cars at places like that and it puts even more pressure on qualifying. Sometimes you can move around and do some passing during your heat, but that’s not always the case. It makes it tough and that’s why the races there seem to be really exciting. Everywhere we go, fans come out to see their regulars try to beat the Outlaws and we’re coming in there trying to do everything we can to get out of there with a win.”
Now that the season is 30 races in, do you change your approach with the weather getting warmer and the schedule picking up?
“Every night is a new night and we’ve learned over the years that you have to put it behind you as soon as you leave the gate, no matter if it is a good night or one where you struggled. The goal is to continue getting better. We have to show up each and every race with the mindset that winning is the only option. We are going to two places this weekend where we’ve had success recently, but we know it’s going to take a total team effort for us to be able to challenge for the win. My Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance guys have been working extremely hard the past few weeks. We’re still working on a lot of different things to get us better each night. It’s definitely a work in progress, but we’ll continue digging each night trying to get ourselves in the best position we can.”
– TSC –
- Krista K. Massey
Former Group Vice President, Director of Sponsorships and Event Marketing
SunTrust Banks, Inc.