Donny Schatz’s 16th World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season was definitely a sweet one on Sunday night at Nodak Speedway. His win completed a weekend sweep of his native North Dakota and in the city where he was raised.
Schatz became the first Outlaw to repeat as winner at Nodak, and it continued an impressive hot streak as he attempts to catch Daryn Pittman in the overall championship battle. Since the Brad Doty Classic on July 10, Schatz has eight victories and only one finish outside the top three, which was a sixth-place run in the Knight Before the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway.
On Sunday night, it looked as if Schatz was going to have to settle for the runner-up position as his Tony Stewart Racing teammate, Steve Kinser, was in control of the 35-lap main event. With four laps to go, though, Kinser and Schatz were in traffic when a slight bobble by the 20-time champion gave Schatz the break he needed. Schatz pounced, drove to the front and took the checkered flag in what’s becoming a familiar sight on the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series tour.
Kinser held on for second, while California native Tim Kaeding captured third. Jason Sides put together a strong run to finish fourth with Joey Saldana, who earlier in the night broke his own track record in qualifying, rounding out the top five.
Cody Darrah was set to lead the field to green, but a mechanical issue on the opening lap wound up sending him to the tail and put Kinser on the pole. Darrah charged all the way back into the top three before another issue forced him out of the race.
Kinser took advantage of the pole position as Schatz had trouble getting started on the outside and fell to Kaeding a lap into the feature. A caution on lap 8 bunched the field and a lap after the ensuing restart Kaeding got loose in turn four and allowed Schatz back to second. A caution again flew on lap 15, erasing Kinser’s lead and setting up a double-file restart with Schatz to the outside. Kinser again held the lead, but Schatz clung to his rear bumper.
For the next 15 laps Schatz tried every line on both ends of the race track trying to find the grip he needed to pass his teammate as the duo weaved in and out of traffic. On lap 30 Kinser found a lapped car exiting turn four causing him to check-up and get loose allowing Schatz to advance to the lead around the outside.
Schatz clocked four more clean laps in his STP/Armor All J&J to capture victory in his childhood hometown.
“It’s pretty neat to win it at home, and it was definitely a hard earned battle,” said Schatz, a Minot native who now resides in Fargo. “Steve was setting a pretty torrid pace. There were parts of the race I thought we were better than he was. Then we would get into traffic and he would kind of drive away. We caught him at a week moment, he made a mistake and we were able to capitalize on it.”
Kinser found himself on the podium for the second time in three races after winning on Tuesday in McCool Junction, Neb.
“I started getting awful loose in four, and then I started cheating it and going in a little higher,” said Kinser, of Bloomington, Ind. “I got on the gas and got it sideways, and a few laps before that almost spun out. If I would have choked it down and got on the bottom I would have at least make him pass me around the top. You hate to lead that many laps and lose in the last four laps. Oh well, it’s not the first one I’ve lost late and it probably won’t be the last one either.”
Kaeding has seven victories this season, but after a run of tough luck he was happy to find a podium finish.
“She was definitely a rocket ship, especially towards the end and were probably going a little better than Donny and Steve, but just ran out laps,” said Kaeding, of San Jose, Calif. “Cody went to the back and had some issues, but then he drove around us like we were standing still on the top. We’ll take a third-place here, I’ve never been here before, and run to the west coast.”
Schatz’s victory slices into Pittman’s lead in the overall championship race. Pittman continues to hold onto the top spot, a position he has enjoyed since the first race of the season. Schatz now trails by just 42 points as the series heads north to Edmonton, Alberta, for the two-night Oil City Cup at Castrol Raceway on Fridayand Saturday.