Here’s the latest team report from the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. In this report the series previews Tony Stewart Racing’s approach to the upcoming Texas event.
Indianapolis, IN — Texas Two-Step: Donny Schatz Looks to Continue Winning Ways at Lone Star, HRP Behind the Wheel of Tony Stewart Racing’s Armor All Sprinter
IWith more than 80 nights of racing on the 2009 World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series schedule, there aren’t many Saturday nights when “The Greatest Show on Dirt” isn’t playing to a full house at a dirt track somewhere. Even though last weekend was one of those rare ones without a Saturday race, three-time and defending WoO champion Donny Schatz was still right in the thick of combat of a different kind.
Following his disappointing night March 28 in the final WoO appearance ever at historic Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, the driver of the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) No. 15 Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J was ready to put that finish behind him and head to the next track. But with the next scheduled race nearly two weeks away, he returned to his home in Fargo, N.D., where the battle turned out to be with Mother Nature rather than the best Sprint car drivers in the world.
The Fargo-Moorhead area has been besieged by rising water levels from the Red River during the past few weeks, and each day the water continues to rise. The best guess is that the river will crest sometime in the next week, relegating the 31-year-old lifelong North Dakota resident and the rest of the community to only hope better days are ahead.
This weekend, racing duty calls again for Schatz as the WoO schedule resumes with two races in Texas. He’ll once again be slinging mud with his Armor All Sprinter and chasing his fourth WoO win of the season. That mission begins on Friday night at Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore, Texas, and continues the following night Houston Raceway Park (HRP) in Baytown, where Schatz has won the last two WoO feature events.
The race at Lone Star Speedway will be the Outlaws’ first at the track since March 2004 and the third time Schatz will compete on the half-mile dirt oval. In both of his previous appearances, he has been very strong, finishing second in his debut and charging from ninth to a fourth-place finish in his last visit.
Schatz’s career results at HRP are even better. He led the final 18 laps of the 35-lap feature in March 2005 and led all 35 laps in the March 2007 feature. Prior to those victories, he had a pair of second-place finishes and a third to give him five consecutive top-five finishes at the track that was reconfigured from a 4/10-mile to a quarter-mile layout in 2006.
The 2009 WoO campaign will pick up steam starting with the Texas doubleheader, which begins a six-week stretch that includes 13 races in 10 different states. With nine nights of action completed this season, Schatz has three victories, four top-five finishes and five top-10s. He continues to lead the WoO Sprint Series Championship standings with 1,244 points.
On Friday, the pit gates at Lone Star Speedway will open at 2 p.m. CDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. For more details, contact Lone Star Speedway at (903) 986-9731. The official Web site of Lone Star Speedway is www.lonestarspeedway.com.
On Saturday, the pit gates at Houston Raceway Park will open at 2 p.m. CDT with the grandstands opening at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For more details, call SLS Promotion at (815) 344-2023. The official Web site of Houston Raceway Park is www.houstonraceway.com.
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.
Donny Schatz, driver of the No. 15 TSR/Armor All/Chevy/ParkerStore J&J:
Instead of having a couple weeks of down time between races, you’ve been pretty busy. Probably not the kind of activity you were hoping for?
“No, definitely not. The schedule came out a long time ago, so we knew that we would have a couple of Saturday nights when we weren’t
racing. But, we figured we’d be doing normal things back home. We certainly didn’t think we’d be trying to figure out how to keep the water out of my backyard.
“Mother Nature has a funny way of working, and life surely has a way of keeping things in perspective. The problems we’ve been having in Fargo are something you wish didn’t happen. We just have to have everyone in the area pull together and get through this. That’s the only way we can look at it – pitch in and work together. It will be a while before things settle down, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
This week, the schedule takes you back to Texas and couple of tracks where you’ve had success. Does that give you an advantage, heading back to places where you’ve won before?
“Well we haven’t won at Lone Star but we were close. I always say that, once you win a race, you kind of have to forget about it and move on to the next one. When you come back, though, there’s a little bit of extra confidence knowing that you’ve been able to get the job done at that place on a given night. It’s not any guarantee that you’re going to win there again … unless you do all the things necessary. I think we won 18 Outlaw features last year, and something like 10 of them came at places were I had won before.
“The biggest thing is having a team that is willing to take chances and try to get better. This Tony Stewart Racing team (crew chief Rick Warner and crewman Shane Bowers) works really hard, both at the shop and at the track, and they pay attention to details. We’ve got pretty extensive notes on just about every place, and that usually helps us get started on the right foot.
“This is a big weekend for us. Things didn’t go as planned in California and at Manzanita, and we’re ready to get back on top of the mountain. We know what it takes to get there, and I know everyone associated with the Armor All/ Chevy/ ParkerStore team is going to put in the effort it takes.”