GRAND FORKS, N.D. — official release — Rick Rea photo — It seems only fitting that in his native North Dakota, Donny Schatz achieved a milestone moment on Friday night at River Cities Speedway when he earned the 153rd World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of his career, tying him with Mark Kinser for third all-time behind only Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell.
On an “edge-of-your-seat” kind of night, with battles for position seemingly on every inch of the bullring, Kerry Madsen dominated the 40-lapper early, then Cody Darrah surged to the front in heavy traffic, and finally Schatz and Darrah raced side-by-side before Schatz slid in front with two laps to go and held on for the emotional win.
“It wasn’t pretty, I know that,” said Schatz, who was born in Minot, N.D., and resides in Fargo, about an hour-and-a-half south of River Cities. “It was on two wheels, no wheels, it was kind of all over the place. I was kind of nervous there the first part, I just could not get the thing to roll the corners very well. This STP crew, I can’t say enough about them. They’re unbelievable. We got qualifying a lot better. Generally we race a lot better, but tonight it wasn’t that way. They did a great job, they deserve this. They kept digging and let me have a little fun and we got the victory.”
Schatz, who was pulling double-duty at the track by also racing a dirt late model on Friday night, topped qualifying for only the third time this season in his Tony Stewart Racing STP/Armor All car. An eight-car invert in the dash forced him to dig hard, leading to a fifth-place dash finish and setting him up for a big push forward in the A-main, eventually moving in front for good on lap 39.
The victory, his sixth this season, is just the latest milestone for Schatz, who at only 36 is one of the top sprint car drivers in history. Among his 153 World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victories and five championships, he has seven Knoxville Nationals titles, a record five National Open victories at Williams Grove, four Silver Cup wins at Lernerville Speedway, two Kings Royal crowns at Eldora Speedway, and a Gold Cup Race of Champions victory at Silver Dollar Speedway.
“I enjoy them all, but I got to pass one of my heroes on the win list tonight,” said Schatz, who will go for his 154th win on Saturday night at I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, Minn. “It’s kind of heart-breaking really. When you get to a milestone, it’s like crossing a bridge. You get to it and you never know if you’re going to get to the other side. Every time I get to one of them it’s like I stop, I can’t get across the bridge. It’s going to be a hell of a long time before I cross another one so we can just have fun from here on out.”
Steve Kinser has a record 577 victories and Sammy Swindell has 293 wins.
As for the action on the track Friday night, it was fast and furious. Madsen was the driver to beat, dominating his heat race by a straightaway and charging out to big leads in the A-main despite a handful of red flags and cautions.
Daryn Pittman applied early pressure on Madsen before he bobbled on the top, allowing Paul McMahan to take a shot at the Aussie in the American Racing Custom Wheels car. McMahan nearly had the lead just after the halfway point, but a caution negated his hard work and left Madsen to strategize where to race on the high-banked oval.
By lap 28 in heavy traffic, Darrah shot from third to the lead, pulling Schatz along with him and dropping Madsen to third. Darrah, who won last June at River Cities, was trying to duplicate that effort, but Schatz was too much on Friday night.
“I actually looked down and thought I saw [Madsen] there for a minute,” said Darrah, of Red Lion, Pa. “Donny Schatz, that guy, he’s my hero. To lose the race to him, it’s tough to get beat when you get so close, but I feel disappointed I didn’t get my guys this win. Just another exciting night at this racetrack.”
The heartbreak was evident for Madsen, who was strong on the top side of the track.
“It’s not bad, I just had the wrong strategy,” said Madsen, a native of St. Marys, New South Wales, Australia. “We had the run and as soon as I got to traffic on the top I would lose some speed. I thought this race is always won on the bottom so this time when I get in traffic switch to the bottom … I got to the bottom, it was a good strategy, I just didn’t deal with traffic well enough. I got passed by Cody, and I was coming back, then Donny just got the best of us all.”
And that’s something that has now happened 153 times in Schatz’s career.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars remain in the upper Midwest on Saturday night as the series makes only its second appearance ever at I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, Minn.
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RESULTS: World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series; River Cities Speedway; Grand Forks, N.D.; June 20, 2014
A-Main – (40 Laps): 1. 15-Donny Schatz  [$10,000]; 2. 4-Cody Darrah  [$5,500]; 3. 29-Kerry Madsen  [$3,200]; 4. 13-Mark Dobmeier  [$2,800]; 5. 71M-Joey Saldana  [$2,500]; 6. 51-Paul McMahan  [$2,300]; 7. 59-Tim Kaeding  [$2,200]; 8. 9-Daryn Pittman  [$2,100]; 9. 7S-Jason Sides  [$2,050]; 10. 1-Sammy Swindell  [$2,000]; 11. 49-Brad Sweet  [$1,500]; 12. 18-Ian Madsen  [$1,200]; 13. 83-David Gravel  [$1,100]; 14. 11-Steve Kinser  [$1,050]; 15. 8-Casey Mack  [$1,000]; 16. 9N-Wade Nygaard  [$900]; 17. 1K-Chris Shirek  [$800]; 18. 82-Roger Crockett  [$800]; 19. 27-Chris Ranten  [$800]; 20. 20K-Thomas Kennedy  [$800]; 21. 2A-Austin Pierce  [$800]; 22. 1A-Jacob Allen  [$800]; 23. 11K-Kraig Kinser  [$800]; 24. 21K-Lou Kennedy  [$800].
Lap Leaders: Kerry Madsen 1-27, Cody Darrah 28-38, Donny Schatz 39-40.
KSE Hard Charger Award: 13-Mark Dobmeier [+7]
Qualifying: 1. 15-Donny Schatz, 10.344; 2. 71M-Joey Saldana, 10.350; 3. 49-Brad Sweet, 10.452; 4. 51-Paul McMahan, 10.516; 5. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 10.526; 6. 1-Sammy Swindell, 10.542; 7. 13-Mark Dobmeier, 10.556; 8. 82-Roger Crockett, 10.562; 9. 9-Daryn Pittman, 10.567; 10. 83-David Gravel, 10.603; 11. 59-Tim Kaeding, 10.678; 12. 8-Casey Mack, 10.678; 13. 7S-Jason Sides, 10.697; 14. 18-Ian Madsen, 10.749; 15. 4-Cody Darrah, 10.779; 16. 29-Kerry Madsen, 10.794; 17. 20K-Thomas Kennedy, 10.848; 18. 11-Steve Kinser, 10.950; 19. 2A-Austin Pierce, 10.955; 20. 1K-Chris Shirek, 11.115; 21. 6N-Greg Nikitenko, 11.153; 22. 21K-Lou Kennedy, 11.169; 23. 5-Dave Glennon, 11.189; 24. 27-Chris Ranten, 11.201; 25. 9N-Wade Nygaard, 11.211; 26. 92-Mitch Mack, 11.254; 27. 13X-Ty Hanten, 11.322; 28. 1A-Jacob Allen, 11.399; 29. 8H-Jade Hastings, 11.429; 30. 10TRB-Bob Martin, 11.477; 31. O-Nick Omdahl, 11.552; 32. 1s-Logan Schuchart, 11.574; 33. 19-Jason Tostenson, 11.599; 34. 20A-Jordon Adams, 11.622; 35. 4T-Tee Young, 11.719; 36. 99-Jordan Graham, 12.204; 37. 10-Amber Balcaen, 12.627