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WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Donny Schatz the driver beat Friday at RCS

Sprint car professional Donny Schatz previously won the main event at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. (Luke Franke/ Grand Forks Herald)

The Bullring at River Cities Speedway is a high-banked, quirky race track that some sprint drivers find challenging.

That challenge hasn’t bothered Donny Schatz, however. He’s conquered The Bullring in his past two appearances at RCS.

Friday, it’s likely Schatz — unquestionably the top driver in the country — will be in the mix for another World of Outlaws feature win.

The Outlaws return to RCS for their second show of the season, and Schatz leads the way. The Fargo driver won last week’s prestigious Knoxville Nationals — the eighth time he’s accomplished that feat in the past nine years — and he won at McCool Junction, Neb., on Tuesday.

No driver has been able to match his performance of the past month.

Schatz also won the June race at RCS, passing Cody Darrah with two laps remaining to take the win. At the August 2013 WoO race at RCS, Schatz led all 40 laps to take the win. He’ll be looking for his third straight WoO win at RCS when the green drops Friday.

  “Yeah, it’s been good lately, kind of like living in a dream,” said Schatz. “It happens, so I’m enjoying it. This group of guys on this STP team have continued to work incredibly hard to give me a great race car every time we take it out of the trailer.

“We’ve had a great six weeks. We had a number of second-place finishes and then went to Canada and swept three races. Knoxville has always been a good place for us and this year we got better each night and had an awesome A-Main.”

Schatz said he likes racing at RCS.

“I can’t wait to get back in the car at Grand Forks,” he said. “It’s an awesome track and the World of Outlaws put on a great show up there. Our qualifying program has continued to get better and you can always race there no matter where you start. We hope we can make it three in a row there and keep on charging on.”

Friday’s event will be the 15th WoO event at RCS since the series began racing in Grand Forks in 2007.

The night also will be special since it will be Steve Kinser’s last appearance with the Outlaws at RCS.

Kinser, a 20-time WoO champion, is racing his last season with the Outlaws. The Bloomington, Ind., driver will be honored by RCS officials during the program.

Kinser and Schatz put on one of the best sprint car races in RCS history when they staged a classic finish in 2011.

Kinser and Schatz exchanged the lead nine times in the final eight laps, with Kinser edging his teammate by 0.138 of a second.

Schatz, who has a 140-point lead over Daryn Pittman in the season points race, will be the busiest driver Friday. He’ll also compete against the RCS regulars in the late model division, Friday’s support class.

Saturday night racing

It will be a busy weekend at RCS.

A separate night of racing is scheduled for Saturday night as well.

The program will feature NOSA sprints and NLRA late models.

RCS officials are considering some kind of format change for the night, but that decision had not yet been made.

The sprint field could grow by a couple of cars as some non-WoO drivers who race Friday night may stick around for Saturday’s show. The Outlaws are scheduled to race at the Nodak Speedway in Minot on Sunday.

However, if Friday’s WoO show is rained out, the event will be rescheduled for Saturday night.

World of Outlaws

RCS winners:

  •  2014 — Donny Schatz, June 20
  •  2013 — Cody Darrah, Donny Schatz
  •  2012 — Kraig Kinser, Sammy Swindell
  •  2011 — Craig Dollansky (2), Steve Kinser
  •  2010 — Steve Kinser, Joey Saldana
  •  2009 — Donny Schatz, Craig Dollansky
  •  2008 — Donny Schatz
  •  2007 — Joey Saldana

Outlaws at a glance

2014 wins

  •  Donny Schatz 14
  •  Daryn Pittman 11
  •  Kerry Madsen 5
  •  Joey Saldana 5
  •  Brad Sweet 5
  •  David Gravel 4
  •  Paul McMahan 4
  •  Cody Darrah 2
  •  Sammy Swindell 2
  •  Steve Kinser 1
  •  Rico Abru 1
  •  Dale Blaney 1
  •  Christopher Bell 1
  •  Lance Dewease 1
  •  Greg Hodnett 1
  •  Roger Crockett 1
  •  Mark Dobmeier 1
  •  Stevie Smith 1
  •  Shane Stewart 1

Friday’s show

  • Cars expected: 30-35.
  •  Feature: 40 laps.
  •  Prize money: $10,000 to the winner.
  •  Race day tickets: Adults $35; children (12-and-under) $15.
  •  Support class: NLRA late models.
Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
(701) 780-1268