Schatz prepares for home state stretch in pursuit of 10th racing title
WEST FARGO—Donny Schatz is the third-winningest driver in the history of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series with 271 career victories.
The series is in North Dakota, Schatz's home state, for its next two events. On Friday, June 15, the series hits Grand Forks for the first leg of the Gerdau Recycling Northern Tour. Then, on Sunday, the World of Outlaws heads to Minot, N.D., for the Magic City Showdown presented by Schatz Crossroad and Fastlane Car Wash.
He leads all drivers at Grand Forks' River Cities Speedway with nine wins in World of Outlaws competition. This stretch of the season is special for the Minot native.
"When the World of Outlaws comes to town, everyone wants you to do good," Schatz said. "It puts so much emphasis on it that it becomes one of your main events for the year. When you get to come back here and see all the people you know—friends, family—there's ten-fold versus what you do anywhere else. That makes it a lot more special."
Schatz began racing in the World of Outlaws in 1997. He earned rookie of the year in his first season, the first of many accolades during his decorated career.
After 10 seasons, Schatz reached the next level by capturing his first World of Outlaws Championship in 2006. Since then, he has added eight more championships, and five of the last eight. He won the 2017 title and surpassed the 20-win mark for the fifth consecutive season.
Schatz has won 10 races this season and is pursuing his 10th career World of Outlaws championship.
Last year marked Schatz's 10th driving for three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart.
"Having Donny as part of our race team is an amazing asset to our race team itself and to the Tony Stewart Racing brand," said Tony Stewart Racing Program Manager Misha Geisert. "We are, at this point, the top active World of Outlaws race team in the country, and it's due in large part to Donny's success. Tony is extremely proud to have Donny and the gentlemen who are part of his team as part of TSR."
Though Schatz sits atop both the driver and team standings, he would like to improve down the stretch to get title No. 10.
"We've been very blessed with winning nine championships and have a great group of guys to try and win 10," Schatz said. "We've run some races, we've had some bad nights, but we have to get in a better position to win No. 10."
The sport of sprint car racing is constantly changing, according to Schatz. The setup for the car, track conditions and opponents' racing styles are all aspects he has to adapt to in order to put together a championship season.
On top of always making adjustments, surviving the middle of the season stretch is the most challenging part for Schatz.
"July is a very tough part," Schatz said. "All the racing, all the traveling in the middle of the summer heat, the guys get worn down. ... There's no reset button. You're not calling in sick like a normal job where people do that when they're fatigued or worn out."
Through the long, tiresome season, the competition aspect is what pushes Schatz to continue grinding for championships year after year. He loves the uncertainty of racing—thinking he has a problem solved and then realizing his car still isn't running how it should be.
One thing Schatz has certainly figured out is how to win. And sometimes, even though he wins his fair share of races, contending for championships doesn't necessarily coming in first place every night on the track.
"You can't win championships if you're going for the win all the time," Schatz said. "You have a job to do not only for yourself, but for these people at Textron Off Road, Ford Performance, Sage Fruit. They want their cars to finish, they want their cars to have great nights. They want to see us win the championship."