Story By: TYLER ALTMEYER / TONY STEWART RACING – BROWNSBURG, IN – Nine-time and defending World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion, Donny Schatz, opened his 2018 campaign with the Greatest Show On Dirt in fantastic fashion, not only scoring back-to-back World of Outlaws victories, but also claiming four out of the five contested sprint car main events during the 47th Annual DIRTcar Nationals to score the overall Gator championship.
It was a first-ever DIRTcar Nationals championship for the 40-year-old.
Schatz, pilot of the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing/ Textron Off Road/Ford Performance/Sage Fruit/No. 15, scored Florida victories on February 7, 8, 10 and 11; two against the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 and two against the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, respectively. Impressively enough, Schatz’s lone start at Volusia Speedway Park not resulting in a victory lane appearance equaled a fourth place run, charging ahead from 14th on the feature grid to open the 40th Anniversary Season of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series on Friday, February 9.
“This just goes to show what this team is capable of doing. We’ve been strong for a long time,” Donny Schatz explained. “To come out and be this successful right out of the gate feels great, especially considering how long of a season we have ahead of us. We had to do it early in the week without Rick [Warner], but he was able to come down later on and unify the team. Our job is to win, so we’re going to keep working as hard as we can to make that happen.”
Before kicking-off the World of Outlaws season officially, Schatz joined the All Star Circuit of Champions for a pair of events at Volusia Speedway Park on February 7-8, each ending on top of the feature podium. The $5,000 victory on Wednesday, the first sprint car program of the 2018 DIRTcar Nationals, was the result of a “hard charge” from the outside of row six, ultimately claiming the MSD Performance Hard Charger Award in the process. Schatz’s victory on Thursday came from the front row, securing his pole position after winning his respective heat race and dash. Despite making it look easy, Schatz’s All Star victory on Thursday was a product of patience. The now 18-time All Star winner was forced to track down race leader, Chad Kemenah, in traffic, cutting down a near-two second advantage with just five laps remaining.
Schatz’s World of Outlaws effort during the DIRTcar Nationals was nearly flawless, charging from the outside of row seven to finish fourth to open the 40th Anniversary Season of the World of Outlaws, followed by back-to-back victories worth $10,000 each. The pair of World of Outlaws victories attained on Saturday and Sunday, February 10-11, were enough to propel the Fargo, N.D., native above the 250-mark, now with 251-career victories with the Greatest Show On Dirt since joining the national touring series in 1997. Schatz now trails Steve Kinser (577) and Sammy Swindell (294) on the all-time World of Outlaws wins list.
In dramatic fashion, Schatz secured his first of two World of Outlaws victories, his 250th-career victory with the World of Outlaws, with just two circuits remaining in the 30-lap feature, driving around race leader, Jason Johnson, on lap 29 after starting sixth on the grid.
Donny Schatz and Tony Stewart Racing will return to World of Outlaws competition on Friday and Saturday, February 23-24, with a two-race stint in Texas, visiting Cotton Bowl Speedway and Lone Star Speedway, respectively. It has been two seasons since Donny Schatz last visited Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas. The defending World of Outlaws champion finished fifth during main event action in late-February 2016, climbing forward from the inside of row seven.
Schatz is the defending World of Outlaws winner at Lone Star Speedway, scoring $10,000 on March 3, 2017, after starting from the pole position. It was Schatz’s third feature victory of the season, just two weeks after scoring two victories in one day at Volusia Speedway Park.
Before returning to World of Outlaws competition in the Lone Star State, Donny Schatz will pilot his super late model during action at Volusia Speedway Park, entering a pair of UMP events, followed by four consecutive nights of World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series competition on February 12-17.