AUTO RACING: Dominating Donny

Last Saturday, Donny Schatz raced his late model at the Devils Lake Speedway, winning his heat and finishing seventh in the feature. The night before, Schatz--the country's best sprint car driver--raced his yellow late model at River Cities Speed...

Fargo-native Donny Schatz, a driver for the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, straps into his late model car. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

Last Saturday, Donny Schatz raced his late model at the Devils Lake Speedway, winning his heat and finishing seventh in the feature. The night before, Schatz-the country's best sprint car driver-raced his yellow late model at River Cities Speedway, where he dominated the 20-lap feature.

On Sunday, Schatz flew to Sun Prairie, Wis., where he continued his dominating season on the World of Outlaws circuit. Schatz won that feature as well, increasing his commanding lead in the WoO season points race. He's well on pace for his eighth WoO season title.

Schatz simply is a race car driver. Schatz competes whenever and wherever he can, whether it's in his late model or sprint car.

Tonight, Schatz likely will do double duty again, racing his late model before trying to win another WoO feature at The Bullring, where more than 5,000 fans are expected.

Schatz has won the past three WoO features at RCS. And he's captured seven of the previous 18 WoO features in Grand Forks, dating back to 2007.


"That won't have any bearing on tonight," said Schatz. "It's a new day and we have to try to do what we do best."

Schatz also won five of the past six Knoxville Nationals-the Super Bowl of sprint car racing. He narrowly missed a sixth-straight Nationals win two weeks ago when Jason Johnson edged Schatz at the flagstand for the $150,000 pay day.

Despite all the pressures and demands of racing full time on the WoO circuit, Schatz continues to race his late model when he can.

Sometimes, however, he wonders if he's racing too much, considering the grinding Outlaws' season runs from February to November.

"There are times when you ask yourself, 'Should I be doing this,' " said Schatz of his hectic schedule. "But when you get to the race track, it's great. I'll enjoy this as long as I keep having fun doing it."

There are major differences between racing a late model and sprint car, said Schatz.

"Driving a late model is so much different; it's like a wrestling match," said Schatz. "Driving a sprint car takes a lot more finesse. It's a lot easier to drive physically. One's a wrestling match; the other is like a chess match.

"Driving both really makes you understand and appreciate both. Those late model drivers really do a great job."


Schatz has won the past three WoO features at RCS, mainly due to his ability to handle lapped traffic on the high-banked track.

In short-track sprint car racing, handling lapped traffic is everything.

"You have to have a car that maneuvers anytime," Schatz noted. "It's really hard to pass in open race track anymore. Everybody's equipment is so good and everyone's motors are top-notch. You have to have traffic to get yourself in good positions and get around guys that are equal to you or the same speed as you. It's a fun place to have that happen and you do get to traffic quick. Hopefully we have the same scenario when we get there this time.

"Lapped traffic can help you or it can break you."

Schatz enters tonight's WoO event with 222 career wins, third all-time behind the legendary Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell.

Earlier this week, Kinser announced he is retiring from sprint car racing.

Schatz is in his 20th season with the Outlaws and has no desire to do anything else.

"I've been around it for 20 years and I love what I do," said Schatz. "You keep your nose to the ground and keep doing what you love to do and here we are 20 years later. It's been a fun 20 years and has gone by in the blink of an eye. I try to think back and have probably forgot about more fun things than people ever get to do, and that's because of racing. I've always enjoyed racing and it's what we do - traveling and racing with these guys. Hopefully I can be around for another 20 years, but that might be pushing it."

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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