Donny Schatz Takes 2020 World Of Outlaws Season Opener
Barberville, FL — February 8, 2020
Donny Schatz celebrated his 295th career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series win Friday night during the season opening race at the DIRTcar Nationals presented by Bozard Ford like it was his first. The smile that never left the 10-time Series champion’s face said more than the words he gave in Victory Lane at Volusia Speedway Park.
Schatz, of Fargo, ND, who in 2019 won 11 races and lost the championship by four points, admitted last year he faced mental blocks throughout the season – dealing with things in his personal life.
This year, though…
“Those are definitely gone,” Schatz said. “I had a lot of mental blocks. Yeah, they’re gone. I learned a lot of things through that process. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“I’m here. I’m happy. These (Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing) guys are motivated. They’re doing everything right. We’re going to have a lot of fun. We may not win as many races as we like, but we’re going to have fun along the way. And that’s the name of the game.”
That new level of fun showed throughout the night with Schatz winning his Drydene Heat Race and making a power move on the first lap of the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash to take the lead and win — giving him the pole for the 30-lap Feature.
His biggest competition throughout the night was Hanover, PA driver Logan Schuchart. Coming off a career season in 2019, Schuchart gave a career best performance at Volusia Speedway Park Friday night.
After finishing second to Schatz in his Heat Race and the Dash, Schuchart outmuscled him on the start of the Feature to take the lead. However, a lap later Schatz powered back by. With lap traffic in Schatz’s way by Lap 4, Schuchart worked his way back to the lead two laps later.
While traffic helped Schuchart get the lead, it also led to his loss of it. While Schuchart lead for the next 20 laps, Schatz patiently and methodically worked his way back to the Shark Racing driver. He moved to the high side of the track once rubber built up and slid back by Schuchart for the lead, forcing him to take a runner-up finish – before the night, Schuchart had never led a lap at the half-mile speedway and had a best finish of seventh.
“When you got that car (Schatz) behind you nothing is ever wrapped up,” Schuchart said. “I know it was going to be close there. He showed his nose, five, six, seven laps to go. I knew he was there. He set me up just right. That’s why he’s so good.”
There was edge-of-your-seat and hold your breath close quarters racing among the top five throughout the entire race. Schatz and Schuchart even made contact racing side-by-side down the front stretch, which Schatz owned up to and admitted was a mistake.
Reigning champion Brad Sweet knocked on Schatz and Schuchart’s back door for the majority of the race. The Grass Valley, CA driver passed Schatz for second on Lap 10 but made a mistake and lost the position. Unable to make another run at the top two, he had to settle for third.
“It was an intense race,” Sweet said. “Lap traffic made it really interesting. That’s what wins and loses these races … We were probably a little too good too early and weren’t as good as we needed to be late.”
Despite missing out on the win, Sweet continues to lead the DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championship points — having won the first Sprint Car race of the DIRTcar Nationals with the All Star Circuit of Champions and placing runner-up in the second All Star event. He currently leads David Gravel by 32 points. Sweet’s Kasey Kahne Racing teammate James McFadden is third, Schatz is fourth and Schuchart is fifth.
After practicing a Stock Car at Daytona International Speedway all day, Gravel showed up at Volusia claiming the first Quick Time of the year — after earning 21 in 2019 — and finished the night fifth.
Parker Price-Miller, driving for Dietz Motorsports — owned by Gravel’s crew chief Philip Dietz and making its World of Outlaws debut — had an impressive run, winning his Heat race and finishing fourth in the Feature.
Schatz is now only five wins away from his 300th career win and off to a good start in his hunt for his 11th Series title. However, to get his first Big Gator since 2018 and another Series championship, he knows the next race is still just as important as the first or last.
“It’s always good to win the first one,” Schatz said. “That means you’re going to have a good year, but it’s that two through eighty-four race that count more than the first and the last one.”
It’s probably safe to say, this year, he’ll be smiling all of the way through the season.
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