A Fremont Comeback for Donny Schatz
Wins the Last Chance Showdown and then battles through the field to score his 26th World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season
FREMONT, Ohio – Oct. 18 2014 – Donny Schatz proved Saturday night at Fremont Speedway that nothing can keep him down on the way to his sixth career World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championship.
After qualifying second, Schatz looked well positioned at Fremont – and then disaster struck.
In the second heat of the night, Schatz, who started fourth, slipped back to fifth. In the closing laps he battled Paul McMahan for the fourth and final transfer spot. On the last lap, Schatz tried to get around McMahan, whose car was damaged from contact earlier in the heat, but missed the spot. This put him in the Last Chance Showdown.
“In the heat race we just seemed to get caught up there on the outside by the guys on the front row and made some bad laps and got ourselves behind and had to run the (Last Chance Showdown),” Schatz said.
Schatz started on the pole of the Last Chance Showdown and easily took the win – transferring into the A main.
From an 11th place starting position, Schatz drove his STP / Armor All car into eighth by the first caution on lap three. From there, he made steady progress throughout the feature. After closing on the top-two in lapped traffic, Schatz passed leader Shane Stewart in turns three and four with five to go. He never looked back.
“The racetrack was tricky. I just couldn’t quite figure out how to get my car to roll in the right spot until later in the race,” Schatz said. “I got so tight on entry I just couldn’t get in a right spot on exit. It took me that long to figure out how to do it and lucky I was able to stay in a good spot and stay with them. You’ve got to move around on the racetrack – you can work on these cars as much as you want but you have to run the pedal, you have to move the wing, you have to do a lot of things.”
Schatz’s win was the 26th of the season – the most he has ever won in a single season. It is also the most since Mark Kinser’s 27 win season in 1996.
“It was a great race,” Schatz said. “Great effort by this team. You’re going to have nights like that. We came back and rallied back. Phenomenal job.”
Schatz was the only driver in the field to have previously won an Outlaws event at the track – he won at Fremont in 2013. It was his second win in a row.
Chris Andrews, a Sandusky, Ohio-native and seven-time Fremont winner, started the A main on the pole after battling 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser for the Dash win. Stewart started in second in his Larson Marks Racing / Go Pro car.
Through the first three laps it was Stewart leading. A caution came out on lap three after contact between Cody Darrah and Craig Mintz. When the race restarted, Andrews and Stewart battled side-by-side through laps four and five. Andrews led first and then Stewart retook the lead.
Traffic came in to play on lap 10, as Stewart worked his way through and tried to build a lead over Andrews.
By the halfway point Schatz had moved into third as Andrews kept the pressure on Stewart. As Andrews and Stewart worked their way through lapped traffic, Andrews closed on Stewart, but Schatz closed faster on both of them. Schatz took the lead with five to go.
A late caution forced a green, white, checkered finish.
On the single file restart, Stewart, who finished in second, said he did not have anything for Schatz.
“I don’t know if I sealed my tire up or what, but after that caution I felt like I had a little bit more grip than what I did previous,” Stewart said. “That team, Donny and Ricky and all those guys, they’ve mastered this type of race track. It’s made everybody in the pit area work extra hard to try to beat him. My hats off to him because he’s done a great job all year.”
Stewart said he was happy with the progress his young team has made in their inaugural season – from struggling at the track during Ohio Speedweek to competing for a win Saturday night.
“Happy to be here on the front straightaway,” Stewart said. “We’ve just got to get a tick better to beat that darn 15.”
Andrews, who finished the night in third with his Burmeister Racing team, said his experience at the track helped tonight, but the Outlaw series regulars were tough competition.
“We’ll take this. I thought we could pass Shane for the win and then here comes the computer, Donny Schatz, to pass everybody,” Andrews said. “I’ll take it. I wish we could have come in second but we’ll come back next year.”
With just three events remaining before the conclusion of the 2014 season, Schatz has a 313 point lead over second place Daryn Pittman. Paul McMahan is in third 456 points out of the lead.
Dale Blaney, a Hartford, Ohio native and winner with the Outlaws this season, received the KSE Hard Charger Award of the night after advancing 13 positions to finish in 10th.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series returns to action next Saturday, Oct. 25 at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway – the first time in a decade the series has raced at the track. The 2014 season then draws to a close at World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte on Nov. 6, 7 and 8.