INDIANAPOLIS – For the last 20 seasons, Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz has crisscrossed the country chasing World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman® Sprint Car Series checkered flags. The seven-time and reigning WoO champion has seen tracks of all configurations during his remarkable career. This week, he’ll be making laps at a facility for the first time – Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana. He’ll be turning laps at one – Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway – where some of his most memorable performances have come.
As is the case throughout the busy month of June, Schatz will pilot the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J in a midweek show prior to heading to Knoxville Friday. Wednesday night, the Outlaws return to Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana for the first time since 1988, nearly a decade prior to Schatz’s 1997 WoO Rookie of the Year campaign. He’ll be looking to make the 5/16-mile, dirt oval the fifth different track in Indiana where he’s scored a WoO victory and 77th overall.
Following Wednesday’s event in Indiana, the traveling Outlaws return to historic Knoxville Raceway for the first of two 2016 stops at the half-mile, dirt oval located on the Marion County Fairgrounds. The annual stop early in the season provides the Outlaw drivers the opportunity for coveted track time prior to the sport’s signature event, The 5-Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals, which has been held each August since 1961.
Schatz, who first visited Knoxville as a teenager in 1990, ranks 11th all-time for wins at the facility with 23 career triumphs. Fifteen of those have come during the prestigious Knoxville Nationals – nine A-Feature triumphs, three preliminary feature wins and three World Challenge victories. The Fargo, North Dakota racer earned his first win at the track during the 2001 Nationals when he raced to victory in the second qualifying night main event. He won qualifying night features in 2002 and 2003 before breaking through and winning his first Nationals A-Main in 2006.
He has eight WoO regular A-Feature wins and his first one was his 50th career WoO A-Feature triumph. It came in October 2006, less than two months after he scored his first Knoxville Nationals triumph.
Following that first official WoO win, Schatz earned Knoxville wins during Outlaws’ pre-Nationals stops in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In May 2013, he raced from seventh to victory and a month later he won from the second starting position. His June 2015 victory came in a race that was shortened to 15 laps because of heavy fog and was the second of what would become a five-race winning streak for Schatz. Last August, he led all 50 laps of the Nationals A-Feature en route to capturing his fifth consecutive Nationals victory.
Schatz would like to continue his winning streak at Knoxville this weekend and improve on his 20th season of competing with “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” Heading into action this week, he leads the series in victories with seven, top-10s with 31 and seven KSE Hard Charger Awards. With 33 races completed, he currently ranks second in the championship standings with 4,542 and trails Brad Sweet by 14.
The TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team is coming off a pair of top-four finishes last weekend. Schatz raced from fifth to challenge for the victory last Friday night at Fremont (Ohio) Speedway before ultimately finishing second. After Mother Nature pushed the Outlaws’ annual “Rumble in Michigan” back 24 hours, he charged from 10th to fourth in the rain-shortened 17-lap A-Feature Sunday at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan.
Wednesday at Lincoln Park Speedway, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. EDT and grandstands open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit lincolnparkspeedway.com or call 765-653-3485.
For both Friday and Saturday’s races at Knoxville Raceway, the pit gates will open at 2 p.m. CDT and the grandstands at 5:30 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit knoxvilleraceway.com or call 641-842-5431.
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:
For the fifth time this season, you will be making your debut at a racetrack. You talked in the past about the importance of experience when it comes to venturing to a new venue. Are there any other variables that may play to your advantage Wednesday at Lincoln Park?
“One of the many things I’ve learned over the last 20 years of racing with the World of Outlaws is that there is nothing more important than hard work. Tony Stewart has built an incredible team to surround me with and we’ve been working really hard during the first part of the season to get ourselves better in the long run. We’ve had some good nights and some not-so-good ones, but each night we are learning. That’s something extremely important when you are racing somewhere you haven’t been to before. My guys have had the chance to be home in the shop the last couple of days to get us prepared for not only Wednesday, but the weekend ahead, too. Brad Mariscotti joined our team this year and had a lot of success with TSR in their USAC program. He won a lot of championships with Levi Jones and Bryan Clauson and they made quite a few laps at Lincoln Park. His input will be important both in the shop and when we get to the track Wednesday. It’s always good to run well when you have family and friends at the track. My guys will have a lot of people there and we’re all hoping to have a good night.”
Year after year, people talk about how important the Outlaws’ race early in the season at Knoxville is. What are you looking to accomplish during this weekend’s doubleheader?
“We’re going up there to win. You can’t just think you are going to show up there in August and roll around there and be better than everyone else because of what you have done in the past. These two nights give us a chance to work on some things in the midst of racing for wins. These will be the only two nights we get to race there before August and we need to gather as much information as we can. We know some things have changed from last year to this year, so we’re going to be working on all aspects. It’s about us continuing to improve our qualifying program, being able to drive forward in the heat race, and finding the right combination with the car so it gets better as the race goes on.”
– TSC –
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine