CALISTOGA, Calif. - April 12, 2015 - Donny Schatz powered past two formidable foes in Sunday night's Wine Country Outlaw Showdown at Calistoga Speedway - illness and Craig Dollansky.
"I was a little nervous there," Schatz said in victory lane. "These guys carried this whole race team tonight. I don't know what I did last night - either I've got the flu coming on again or something but I feel like hell. I've been having the chills here for the last hour but I'm just glad to get the win."
It was the fifth World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series victory of the season for Schatz - the most of any driver so far this season. The six-time series champion also extended his points lead over second place Shane Stewart to 30.
While the night may have belonged to Schatz and his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing team, it was series veterans Craig Dollansky and Jason Sides, with an appearance from Shane Stewart, who put on the biggest show throughout the feature.
Dollansky, who has 59 series wins and last stood in victory lane at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 nearly two years ago, led the field to the green flag. By lap six, the Elk River, Minn.-native had built up a sizable half-straightaway lead. Then disaster nearly struck. As Dollansky exited turn two on lap seven, he nearly lost control of his car.
"Initially they had rolled the top in and I had raced more around the top part and it was coming apart - some ruts were developing in both corners," Dollansky said.
The driver recovered and maintained the lead, but Schatz was able to close the gap.
In the third position, Joey Saldana, who started the night in fifth but battled forward in the opening lap, was fending off a challenge from third place starter Jason Sides. After a two lap fight, Sides took over the position on lap nine.
A three-way battle at the front commenced with Schatz trying to get around Dollansky while fending off a challenge from Sides. Both Schatz and Sides got around Dollansky on lap 12. A caution flag flew the next lap by.
Dollansky ultimately slipped as far as the fourth position before he worked his way back to second. A caution flag with eight to go bunched the field back up and gave Dollansky and Stewart the opportunity they needed.
On the restart, the Destiny Motorsports driver powered his No. 7 Aggressive Hydraulics car forward. He battled Schatz through the next several laps as he tried to regain the lead. Stewart got around Sides to take over the third position, but it was a short-lived five laps, as Sides worked his way back.
As Schatz extended the lead for his No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies car in the final three laps, all eyes turned to the battle for second. Dollansky and Sides worked the low side and the middle on the cushion - Dollansky held off Sides with two to go.
"Then the last lap, Craig was hung on the outside there and I just kept hitting the bottom," Sides said. "There was a little bit of moisture coming down the front straightaway and I hit it and drag raced by him."
With the checkered flag in the air, Sides drag raced his No. 7s Mesilla Valley Transportation car past Dollansky to the finishline, taking home a second place finish.
"It's just one of those things where we just kept plugging away on the bottom," Sides said. "We were actually pretty good early. Some of the cautions there we felt like we had a right rear flat and it took three or four laps to get back going but the longer it went, the better it was and we'd get back on a rhythm."
Dollansky led the first 12 laps of the feature on the way to scoring the best finish of the season for his team.
"We're leaps and bounds ahead of where we have been and this Destiny Motorsports team is just going to keep working hard," Dollansky said. "These two guys who beat us tonight, they've been on their game and obviously Donny has been in a class of his own for a while. I raced with him, raced with Jason, some good clean racing. Those guys are the best it gets."
After a run Saturday night at Calistoga that saw his team as far back eighth, Schatz said they learned from their mistakes and entered the night with changes in mind. As Dollansky set the pace early, Schatz said he was confident the bottom line would be the best as the night wore on.
"I didn't figure it would come in until we got to traffic and (Jason) kind of showed me the bottom there and got down there and was able to get by Craig and stay there," Schatz said. "The car just got better and better and better, and that's what this Bad Boy team does. They just make phenomenal decisions and do all the right things."
Logan Schuchart was the night's KSE Racing Hard Charger, advancing 11 positions to finish in eighth.
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series wraps up its spring California swing next weekend at Keller Auto Speedway at King's Fairgrounds in Hanford and Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway.
Lincoln Electric is a proud partner of Tony Stewart Racing.