ALGER, Wash. — official release — Skagit Speedway photo — On the way to winning his fifth World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series feature in a row, Donny Schatz has had easier nights than Saturday’s Monster Energy Meltdown at Skagit Speedway.
After first fighting his way past Joey Saldana, he had to battle through lapped traffic and then hold off a hard charging Brad Sweet.
In the end though the result was the same as it had been 18 other times this season – Donny Schatz stood in victory lane as the winner.
“I’m just very fortunate to be around great people from my race team to my family, car owner, everyone that’s surrounding us, our marketing partners with STP and Armor All,” Schatz said. “It just fits all together. It’s pretty amazing what these guys all do. They give me an awesome racecar every night and I get to do a lot of fun things and I got to do another fun one tonight.”
Schatz started the feature on the pole but it was Saldana who led the first lap and the 11 that followed. Through early cautions and battles farther back, including one between Schatz and Paul McMahan for second, Schatz kept his sights on the lead.
On lap 11, as the Outlaws were just four laps back from a caution, Schatz made his move on Saldana. After a battle down the front stretch, he cleared Saldana coming out of turn two.
“The racetrack changed a lot during that feature I was kind of surprised,” Schatz said. “I thought it would be around the top but it got pretty good on the bottom too. So that’s when having a great STP race team comes in and those guys just had a flawless racecar.”
As the race progressed and Sweet, who moved into the second position after getting around Saldana in lapped traffic, bore down on him, Schatz fought his way through lapped traffic.
“You’ve always got to assume that there’s someone coming behind you and be racing ahead of you,” Schatz said. “You’ve got to be smart and know who it is and kind of read the racetrack.”
With one more win, Schatz, who now has 19 on the season, becomes the first driver since Steve Kinser in 2002 and 2003 to have back-to-back seasons with 20 wins or more. He extended his championship points lead over second place Daryn Pittman to 214.
Sweet, the Outlaws’ leading rookie, started the feature in fourth and was able to take advantage of the cautions to move into the top-three. In the middle of the feature as he worked his way through lapped traffic, he was able to close the gap on Saldana and get around him for second.
As the feature moved into its closing laps, Sweet tried different lines to catch Schatz as the two continued to maneuver through lapped traffic. Sweet was not able to make it happen.
“Donny just made all the right moves,” Sweet said. “He’s tough to beat right now. He’s got a lot of confidence and that’s why he wins so many races. We had a car capable of competing with him tonight which is really nice. And we had chances there but he never left the door open and made all the right moves through traffic and we came up a little short.”
Sweet, who is leading the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year presented by ButlerBuilt standings, said the season has been up and down for his SureTest Supplies team.
“It’s a long grueling tour out here on the World of Outlaws and this is my first full year under my belt and I think I underestimated a little bit of the traveling and some of the places we go… I just wish we could be a little more consistent. If we can end the year on a high note I think that would be good.”
Saldana led the first 12 laps of the feature in his Motter Equipment car. As the A main wore on, Saldana said he didn’t adjust quickly enough to changing conditions.
“You’re never really happy with third but we’ve been struggling of late so I’ll take it,” Saldana said. “When I got to lapped traffic I needed to get my wing back faster. Once I did get my wing back I was a lot better – I just did it too late.”
Saldana credited Schatz for his adeptness in maneuvering through lapped traffic. He said that skill is really the key to winning on short tracks like Skagit.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series heads south to Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, Wash. on Mon., Sept. 1. The Outlaws then race at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore. on Sept. 2 and Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, Ore. on Sept. 3 before heading to California for a three race swing.