Different track, same Donny Schatz. The hottest driver in sprint car racing brought his game to Grays Harbor Raceway on Monday night and earned his 19th World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season, tying his single-season mark, as the series’ Gold Rush Tour continues down the Pacific Coast for six more nights in a row.
Since winning the Knoxville Nationals in mid-August, five-time series champion Schatz has won five of eight World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series A-mains and closed to within 20 points of the series’ overall championship points leader, Daryn Pittman. From a historical perspective, Schatz has 143 victories in his career, 10 away from tying Mark Kinser for third all-time.
Pittman started alongside Schatz on the front row Monday night and stole the lead from Schatz on lap 13 with an incredible slide job that took all of turns three and four to complete as Schatz was tied up trying to pass a lapped car. Pittman led until a caution with 17 of 30 laps complete forced a restart. Pittman’s car bobbled just a bit but it was enough for Schatz to reclaim the top spot, a lead Schatz would not relinquish despite four more cautions.
Steve Kinser pushed up from the ninth position to round out the podium while Tim Kaeding earned a fourth-place finish and Kerry Madsen’s streak of top-five finishes reached its fifth consecutive race.
Back up front, Schatz continued an incredible streak in his STP/Armor All J&J that has seen him finish outside the top three only once since the Kings Royal in mid-July.
“We are just trying to do the best we can,” said Schatz, of Fargo, N.D., who also had 19 wins in 2007. “We may not have been the best car tonight, but we got the win. Daryn made a mistake on the restart and I made a mistake in lapped traffic so it was just a tricky place tonight. We were both making mistakes. A lot of racing left this week and we’re just going to keep rolling and doing what we can.”
Pittman, who earned a point in qualifying, was able to match pace with Schatz in his Great Clips GF1, but was unable to mount another charge for the lead.
“Put the championship aside, we just want to win a race,” said Pittman, a native of Owasso, Okla., who has led the points since the opening night of the season but last won on July 23. “We haven’t really been close in a month it feels like and tonight it felt like we had a car that could win. I figured we would lose the starts, the original starts, but after a few laps I could pull right up to his bumper and wait until he a made a little mistake, which it seems like he never does. I just butchered up the restart terribly, I didn’t roll into the restart and nearly spun into the infield.”
Kinser took the Bad Boy Buggies Maxim to a podium position with the help of a few cars in front of him tangling earlier in the race.
“I caught Daryn by surprise going into one and got around him, but he wasn’t going to let me do it again,” said Kinser, the 20-time series champion from Bloomington, Ind. “We had a good run and hope that we can keep up this week. We could move around quite a bit, but the top was just a little better.”
Pittman was set to lead the opening lap but Sammy Swindell, Friday night’s winner at Skagit Speedway, flipped coming off of four, causing a complete restart. The ensuing restart would complete about nearly two laps before Cody Darrah, Joey Saldana and Paul McMahan tangled in turn four, bringing the caution back out with with Schatz up front.
Other drivers encountering bad luck included Brad Sweet, who blew a tire, a spin by Rico Abreu and a massive wheel stand leading to a broken tail tank by Kyle Larson, ending his night.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series is back in action Tuesday night at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore., as its continues stampeding down the West Coast.