BARBERVILLE, Fla. – Donny Schatz is starting the new season firing on all cylinders, which is bad news for the rest of the competition.
Schatz fought off a pesky Brian Brown early in the race and held off charges from Sheldon Haudenschild and Brad Sweet late to capture his fourth win in five nights at Volusia Speedway Park, claiming the DIRTcar Nationals sprint car finale on Sunday night.
For the nine-time and defending World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion, who has won just about everything there is to win in sprint car racing, Sunday night marked his first-ever DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator title, however.
Schatz’s lone finish outside of victory lane was a fourth-place run during the Friday feature.
Brian Brown started from the pole of the 30-lap feature alongside Rookie of the Year contender Parker Price-Miller, leading the opening circuit before Schatz flew underneath the FVP No. 21 to lead lap two.
Rico Abreu brought out the lone yellow flag of the feature on lap six, and on the ensuing restart, Brown muscled his way back by Schatz to lead laps seven and eight before Schatz overtook him once again to take command for the remaining distance.
“We slowed down in traffic a lot,” Schatz said in victory lane. “We thought we had a solid car in the dash, but this is the time to learn. Sometimes you win some you shouldn’t, and I think we were lucky we started up front in this one.”
Haudenschild worked forward from 13th on the grid to crack the top three on lap 12, then moved by Brown into second four circuits later.
But while Huadenschild had his eyes set on Schatz, Sweet powered his NAPA No. 49 around the cushion, eventually claiming the runner-up spot in turn two with five laps remaining.
Sweet closed on Schatz, but was never able to mount a series charge and settled for second, earning his fourth podium finish in five nights.
“My guys worked hard all week and we are still chasing the (No.) 15 (Schatz),” said Sweet. “He makes us better, though. We’ll take second.”
In his first year with the Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing No. 17 team, Haudenschild brought the capacity crowd to their feet as he closed in on Schatz, but couldn’t quite make the pass, ultimately settling for third in the end.
“Catching Donny Schatz and passing Donny Schatz are two completely different things,” Haudenschild admitted with a smile.
Haudenschild picked up KSE Hard Charger honors, advancing 10 positions on the night.
Jason Johnson finished his strong week with a fourth-place finish and 15th-starting Chad Kemenah completed the top five.
The Outlaws return to action in two weeks at Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas on Feb. 23.
RESULTS: World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series; Volusia Speedway Park; Feb. 11, 2018
A-Main (30 laps): 1. 15-Donny Schatz [$10,000]; 2. 49-Brad Sweet [$5,500]; 3. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$3,200]; 4. 41-Jason Johnson [$2,800]; 5. 10H-Chad Kemenah [$2,500]; 6. 2-Shane Stewart [$2,300]; 7. 21-Brian Brown [$2,200]; 8. 13X-Paul McMahan [$2,100]; 9. 5-David Gravel [$2,050]; 10. 4-Parker Price-Miller [$2,000]; 11. 49X-Tim Shaffer [$1,500]; 12. 27-Greg Hodnett [$1,200]; 13. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$1,100]; 14. 18-Ian Madsen [$1,050]; 15. 26-Joey Saldana [$1,000]; 16. 2M-Kerry Madsen [$900]; 17. 9-Daryn Pittman [$]; 18. 1K-Kyle Larson [$800]; 19. 7S-Jason Sides [$800]; 20. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$800]; 21. 5W-Lucas Wolfe [$800]; 22. 70-Dave Blaney [$800]; 23. W20-Greg Wilson [$]; 24. 44-Trey Starks [$800]; 25. 24-Rico Abreu [$800]; 26. 1A-Jacob Allen [$800]; 27. 13-Clyde Knipp [$]
Lap Leaders: Brown 1; Schatz 2-6; Brown 7-8; Schatz 9-30.
KSE Hard Charger: #17 – Sheldon Haudenschild (+10)
CREDIT: World of Outlaws