Donny Schatz is running out of milestones to accomplish in his career. On Friday night at Clay County Fair Speedway, he reached another mark when he earned his 20th World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the year, the first time he’s reached that plateau in a season.
The victory was also the 144th of his career, moving the five-time series champion and seven-time Knoxville Nationals winner to within nine wins of Mark Kinser for third all-time.
It wasn’t easy, though. Schatz was chased to the checkered flag by a resurgent Joey Saldana after Mark Dobmeier pushed him in the early going before settling for third.
Championship leader Daryn Pittman minimized the point damage from Schatz’s victory by finishing fourth after starting 11th. Jason Sides was strong throughout the feature and rounded out the top five.
After a couple of attempts at the original start polesitter Kerry Madsen jumped out to the lead, but it was Schatz who used his position on the outside of the front row to charge in front as the first lap was completed. The North Dakotan then went on to lead the next 29 laps to claim the win.
Schatz went to the bottom early in the race in the STP/Armor All J&J as Dobmeier surged around Madsen for second. Dobmeier continued to pound into the cushion, closing on Schatz on several occasions, but the temperamental line fought back, forcing Dobmeier to lift. Saldana used a mid-race restart to move his Motter Equipment GF1 into second.
“Getting that dash draw helped to put us upfront,” said Schatz, of Fargo, N.D. “We got our car rolling on the bottom real well and just did what we had to. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment, but we don’t really look at the numbers, we just look at it like we’re here, let’s keep winning. A win like this is a tough thing to do. I don’t know how we do it some days, but these guys just keep digging.”
Saldana, fresh off a victory last Friday during the Gold Cup Race of Champions weekend, powered to another podium finish in the Motter Equipment car.
“I think right now Donny is the best car there is,” said Saldana, of Brownsburg, Ind., whose team changed chassis last month. “At moments the top was better, but he could run anywhere. I think for our whole team that was a great effort, and to run second to him right now is not too bad. We’re definitely getting better since switching cars so we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Dobmeier, driver of the Senske & Son Eagle, held second until a restart just past the midway point of the 30-lap A-main. Saldana got a great jump from third to grab the position.
“We got two really close strikes at Donny, and I was on the cushion the whole time and he was on the bottom and I knew he was going to have that covered,” said Dobmeier, of Grand Forks, N.D. “On the restarts there was a little moisture on the bottom and I just tried to stay with him, but we didn’t quite have enough. We’ll just keep going at it.”
Schatz tightened up on Pittman in the championship battle with the victory, cutting his deficit to 59 points with just nine features remaining in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series 2013 campaign.