INDIANAPOLIS – As a 19-year-old back in January of 1997, Tony Stewart-Curb Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz embarked on a journey he had only dreamed would become a reality. Over the last 20 years of competing with World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series, his accomplishments rival those of the series’ all-time greats. This weekend, Schatz and the TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team look to put an exclamation point on his 20th season by not only claiming the 2016 WoO Championship, but also coming out on top in the season’s final two races at the 10th annual Bad Boy Off Road World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
He’s come a long way since winning the WoO Rookie of the Year award and, by signing in Thursday, the Fargo, North Dakota racer will clinch his eighth WoO crown. Schatz leads the world’s best Sprint car drivers back to Charlotte as the Outlaws’ series leader in 2016 with 24 victories, 58 top-five finishes and 75 top-10s behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J. He’ll close the season with his third championship in the last four years following WoO A-Feature races 83 and 84 of 2016 and 1,426 and 1,427 of his illustrious career.
And, for the third consecutive season, he will be pulling double duty in the season finale for both WoO series by virtue of his entry in the Late Model division driving his family owned No. 15 Fastlane Car Wash/Schatz Crossroads/K3 Farms/Petro Rocket.
It’s been another historic season for Schatz as he became the first driver in WoO history to win 20 or more races in four consecutive seasons. Since he started the 2013 WoO campaign, Schatz has won almost one-third of the races he’s competed in – 104 out of 318 – to give him 228 career triumphs. He trails only Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell in all-time WoO wins. The run to the 2016 WoO championship wasn’t the juggernaut it was last season, when Schatz won a career-best 31 times and claimed the point title by 544 markers, the fourth largest margin in the series’ 39-year history. But it was a special season that showcased the determination and strength of the TSR organization.
Schatz opened the campaign by racing from 17th to second at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida but suffered his first DNF since late in the 2013 season. Eight races later, he didn’t qualify for the A-Feature at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California, dropping the team in a significant hole in the standings. But he, along with his crew of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti, bounced back like the champions they are by winning three of the next four races. Schatz took the lead in the championship following a June 8 victory at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putmanville, Indiana and never relinquished the top spot. A surge in early July that included three wins in four starts and, two weeks later, a Brad Doty Classic victory and his Kings Royal triumph, separated him from the competition. A four-race winning streak following the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals cemented his run to an eighth title and he’s been the model of consistency to close the championship quest with 11 consecutive top-seven finishes.
Finishing strong has been a part of Schatz’s DNA during his WoO career. In 1999, he closed the season with three wins in the final four races, including the Western World Championship at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix and that year’s season finale at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He wrapped up the 2004 schedule with another Vegas triumph before capping his first WoO championship season in 2006 with his third victory in Las Vegas. Schatz concluded his first season driving for TSR by claiming the final checkered flag at the 2008 World Finals, and he also swept both nights of the 2011 World Finals. His most recent victory in the World Finals came in 2013 during the Friday-night program, when he was trying to chase down Daryn Pittman in the standings.
Racing at The Dirt Track at Charlotte has been a welcome sign for Schatz since the track opened in May 2000. Schatz is the all-time winningest driver on the 4/10-mile dirt oval that is situated between the zMAX Dragway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. From his first victory in October 2000 to his run from 10th to first in May 2007, Schatz has always had a flair for the dramatic at Charlotte. He put on a show in 2014, charging from 23rd to third after being involved in an early race accident with Kerry Madsen. That same year, he became the first driver to qualify for the A-Feature in both WoO classes – Sprint cars and Late Models.
This week, he’ll look to duplicate that feet by attempting to transfer through the night and earn a position in both main events, which would be another historic accomplishment considering the quality of cars entered this year’s World Finals.
After driving a special pink-schemed TSR No. 15 the previous seven races to promote Chevrolet’s campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness, Schatz will conclude the season driving the Bad Boy Off Road STAMPEDE-schemed No. 15. Schatz will also participate in a special Bad Boy Off Road event for fans prior to action Friday and Saturday from 2 to 2:45 p.m. EDT outside the main gate near the vendor trailers.
World Finals competition begins with a pair of qualifying sessions Thursday night to set the lineups for Friday’s and Saturday’s complete race programs. Each night of action includes heat races and a dash and will conclude with a 30-lap feature.
Thursday, the pit gates will open at 11 a.m. with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. For the programs Friday and Saturday, the pit gates will open at noon with the grandstands opening at 3 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Contact Charlotte Motor Speedway at (800) 455-3267 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com earn more about the Bad Boy Off Road World Finals.
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 Sprint 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.
The TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team can be followed on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TonyStewart_Rcg, liked on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TonyStewartRacing, and followed on Instgram @TonyStewart_Rcg.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
This week, you will close out your 20th season with the World of Outlaws by earning an eighth championship. Did you ever dream it could turn out like this?
“There’s no way I ever thought I’d be able to say that I raced with the World of Outlaws for 20 years. All I cared about when I was a kid was just being able to race with them. My parents gave me the opportunity to go out and try to make it work in 1997 and here we are today. There have been so many people who have been part of my career and that’s really what makes it all special. All the races and places you go and the fans from all across the country and the world. All the guys who have worked with you and the other teams you’ve raced against. The common dominator in all of it is the people. I said it a few years ago at the Knoxville Nationals, that you can only dream so big and, man, I just don’t want to wake up. To have the season like we did in my 20th year, it’s really gratifying. Tony Stewart brought me to his team nine years ago and he’s given me such a great opportunity. We’ve been so fortunate to work with great partners like Bad Boy Off Road and Chevrolet and be aligned with Mike Curb and the Agajanian Family. It’s hard to believe sometimes. That’s why you just have to keep working hard every day. I’m going to have fun while I can, and I’m enjoying the heck out of myself here.”
The World Finals has grown over the past 10 years. Is it the kind of an event that you would expect to end the World of Outlaws season?
“The World of Outlaws has always been about having the best Sprint car drivers competing at the highest level. Ted Johnson had a vision years ago and I’m sure he would love being able to see what the World Finals has become. It’s so competitive and everyone wants to be the last winner of the year. We’re excited to celebrate a championship, but there’s nothing better than winning the last race and celebrating a championship. I know my team – Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti – has worked extremely hard all season and to reward them with both celebrations this week would be a fitting way to cap our season. We started the year strong in Florida back in February and want to bookend it with two really good nights in Charlotte. To do that, you do have to be on your game from the start. The event attracts a lot of cars and we’ve seen with the format we have this year how important starting up front in the heat races has been. We’ve had some good runs in Charlotte in the past, but it’s been a while and that’s something that hasn’t been lost on this team. We are an extremely competitive group and really want to close out the season on a good note.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine