INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 1 2017) – Winning a championship is the annual goal for Tony Stewart-Curb Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz, but the competition in the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series makes it tougher to accomplish every season.
Schatz opened his 21st season of competing with “The Greatest Show on Dirt” by winning five of the first six races aboard the TSR No. 15 Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J, setting the stage for another historic season. This weekend, Schatz and the TSR team of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti will capture their fourth consecutive WoO championship and look to bookend the campaign by racing to victory in the season’s final two races at the 11th annual Textron Off Road World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Schatz, the series Rookie of the Year in 1997, leads the Outlaws back to Charlotte needing only to sign in Thursday to officially clinch his ninth career series championship. The Fargo, North Dakota racer has a 172-point advantage in the championship standings and is the Outlaws’ leader in 2017 with 19 victories, 62 top-five finishes and 72 top-10s. He’ll close his 10th season driving for TSR racing in WoO A-Feature numbers 83 and 84 of the year, and 1,509 and 1,510 of his career.
And, for the fourth consecutive season, he will be pulling double duty in the season finale for both WoO series on site this weekend by competing in the Late Model division driving his family owned No. 15 Fastlane Car Wash/Schatz Crossroads/DKW Transport/K3 Farms/Petro Rocket.
“Winning races” has been the mantra for Schatz over the past decade, and the results over the past five years rival some of the best ever posted in the WoO’s 40-year history. Since he started the 2013 campaign, Schatz has won more than a quarter of the races he’s competed in – 123 of 400 – to give him 248 career triumphs, trailing only Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell in all-time WoO wins. The run to the 2017 WoO championship started with wins in Florida and, if Schatz can come out on top in either of the final two races in North Carolina, he will become the only driver in series history to post 20 or more A-Feature wins in five consecutive seasons. Consistent win totals and a fifth Outlaw championship in six years underscores the determination and strength of the TSR organization.
Schatz opened the campaign by making history at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, becoming the first driver since Jeff Swindell in 1999 to win two WoO races in the same day. A clean sweep at LoneStar Speedway in Texas, followed by a two-night sweep in Las Vegas and last-lap pass at Thunderbowl Raceway in California cemented the team’s early season momentum. A weekend sweep in Missouri and Kansas and a dominant run one week later at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway highlighted the month of May before three triumphs in June, which included wins at Knoxville Raceway, River Cities Speedway and Route 66 Raceway, had the team prepared for a run in the season’s “Month of Money.” In a four-week stretch from mid-July through mid-August, the team once again flexed its muscle with Schatz becoming the first driver in Kings Royal history to win the $50,000 prize in consecutive seasons. Three nights later, he picked up his fifth $25,000-to-win Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup and, three weeks later, Schatz scored his 10th Knoxville Nationals crown. Victories in the Harvest Classic at Calistoga (Calif.) Speedway in September and Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway in October fueled a late-season push to wrap up the championship.
Finishing with a flurry has been a part of Schatz’s legacy during his illustrious WoO career. In 1999, he closed the season with three wins in the final four races, including the Western World Championship at Manzanita Speedway and season finale at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He wrapped up the 2004 schedule with another Las 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. Last fall, he capped the campaign by winning his 25th A-Feature of the season and ninth career triumph at The Dirt Track.
Racing at The Dirt Track at Charlotte has been a welcome occurrance 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 in 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 heat races each night and earn a position in both main events, which would be another historic accomplishment, considering the abundance of quality cars entered in this year’s World Finals.
World Finals competition begins with a pair of qualifying sessions Thursday night to set the lineups for Friday 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 to learn more about the Textron Off Road World Finals.
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.
The TSR Bad Boy Off Road/Chevrolet Performance team can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TonyStewart_Rcg, liked on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TonyStewartRacing, and followed on Instgram @TonyStewart_Rcg.
Fans are encouraged to follow the progress of Schatz, TSR and the No. 15 Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J 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/TonyStewartRacing or on Twitter and Instagram @TonyStewart_Rcg.
Donny Schatz: Facebook at www.facebook.com/DonnySchatz or on Twitter and Instagram @DonnySchatz.
Textron Off Road: Facebook at www.facebook.com/TextronOffRoad/ or on Twitter and Instagram @TextronOffRoad
Arctic Cat: Facebook at www.facebook.com/arcticcat.snow/ or on Twitter and Instagram @ArcticCat_atv @ArcticCat_Snow
Curb: Facebook at www.facebook.com/CurbRecords or on Twitter and Instagram @CurbRecords.
Ford Performance: Facebook at www.facebook.com/FordPerformance or on Twitter and Instagram @FordPerformance.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J:
You started the season winning three of five All-Star races in Florida, and then five of the first six WoO races. How important to the big picture was getting off to start like that? Was it a factor in success you had later in the season and ultimately played a big factor in winning the championship?
“All wins play into the championship. Nothing feels better than leaving Florida after winning races, but you also have to remember that racing in Florida is not like anyplace else we go. We left there, we were good. Got off to a torrid pace, probably as good as you could ask for. It told everyone else that you are going to have to get up on the wheel, try different things, do different things, and I think that made for a pretty competitive year.”
There were several highlights during the season, but the “Month of Money” stretch where you won your second consecutive Kings Royal, the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup and your 10th Knoxville Nationals has to be something you are really proud of?
“With the format we race with the World of Outlaws, you have to qualify well to start up front and, when you do that all season, you kind of get used to that. When you go to races like the Kings Royal and the Knoxville Nationals, where they invert the heat, you wonder if that’s going to affect you in a negative way. But, fortunately, it didn’t. We qualified well at both and were able to make it up through there and put ourselves in a position to win. That’s part of the experience from 21 years of being on the road with the Outlaws. You can overcome a lot of things when needed. Hopefully, we can continue to build on it and make it better in the future.”
This is your 10th season driving for Tony Stewart Racing. Did you have any idea when you joined the organization that you would win seven championships, eight Knoxville Nationals, three Kings Royals and reach milestones of 100 and 200 WoO wins?
“You can dream about it, but it’s not reality that those things are going to happen. You can think about things maybe a year or two down the road, but it’s not possible to think of what might happen over a 10-year span. Especially in this sport, you never know what might happen. It’s been a great 10 years – hard to believe that’s it gone by so quickly. I guess that means we were having a lot of fun along the way. I just hope we can have another 10 years together and be just as successful as the first 10, if not even more successful.”
You are on the verge of winning your 9th WoO championship in the last 12 seasons. Those are historic accomplishments in a sport that is one of the most demanding in all of motorsports. How have you and your team been able to stay at or near the top for so long?
“It’s not easy by any means. Some days I ask myself how we do it. And then I realize it’s everybody who makes it possible, starting with those three guys on the team. And the sacrifices they make being away from their family. The dedication they give to the performance of the car and all the travel that’s involved. Really, it’s all the things they do. It’s a group effort. They are the best there is. You know it might be easy for them to get lazy after winning a championship, but they have as much drive to win the next one. That says a lot about their character, and a lot about who they are as people. It’s fun to be around those guys and fun to be able to race with them and have success with them, but also getting to experience the tough nights together. That’s where the championships are won. Those guys excel at trying to figure out how we get better.”
The World Finals has become a marquee event on the WoO schedule. What does winning the final race of the year do for a team?
“It doesn’t really do much more than, you are only as good as your last race. Traveling down the road after a win makes everyone feel pretty good. The guys will leave Charlotte and head back to Indy and, if we win the last race, they can savor it a little longer. It might give them a little bit of a boost over the winter. We’ve been in the position where we haven’t won the last race of the year and it might have motivated the guys, as well. It’s not really something you think too much about. We are out here to win races and we have two left. If we can put ourselves in a good position and win that race, there is nothing better. But, if you come up short, you don’t dwell on it for too long. You know the platform you have under you is incredible because of how hard the guys will work to be ready for the first race of next year. It’s something you take a lot of pride in, you definitely do everything you can to close the season out with a victory. We are going to have a lot of our partners there from Textron Off Road, Arctic Cat and Ford to celebrate a championship with us. To close out the season strong is something that gives you a great sense of pride and hopefully gives everybody a lot of motivation for the upcoming season.”
And why have you and your team been so consistent at The Dirt Track ?
“It’s a fast place. It’s such an incredible facility. It seems like, at those tracks where there is a lot of speed, Rick and the guys seem to find a way to get the car to roll around there and get it qualified well no matter what the conditions are – slick, wet or whatever. That’s attributed to them. They are able to read those track conditions and make the right adjustments. For me, it’s been a place I’ve always enjoyed. I was there for the first WoO race back in 2000 and that’s pretty neat to be able to say I was there when it first opened. Maybe that has a lot to do with our success, the experience of being there that many times. You’ve seen it in so many ways. And you have seen the changes and been able to adapt to them. It’s definitely an incredible place to race and a great spot to finish up our season.”