KNOXVILLE, Iowa - Aug. 15, 2015 - Donny Schatz's domination of the FVP Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey's General Store continued Saturday night as he led wire-to-wire in the 55th running of the event and won his ninth Nationals title in ten years.
The Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing driver was the top point earner coming into the final feature and started on the pole. Through 50 laps he skillfully worked the half-mile Knoxville Raceway to hold the fast line and fend off challenges. Though Danny Lasoski and Kerry Madsen made attempts, Schatz was in a league all his own.
With pyrotechnics ablaze behind him, Schatz stood on the back of his No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance/J&J Auto Racing car and celebrated among his team members, friends and family and again claimed the $150,000 Knoxville Nationals prize.
"The minute I took that checkered flag I was teary-eyed," Schatz said. "To see the race team, to see the excitement in their eyes, the manufacturers, all the people we get to work with, that makes this so much more special than me just getting the biggest check and the biggest trophy and the most prestigious race of the year. It's the people that get to go along with you… when you can get them all in one spot and enjoy something like that it makes it worth living."
Schatz wrapped up the World of Outlaws 'Month of Money' with three wins.
Lincoln Electric is a proud partner of Tony Stewart Racing.
Schatz jumped out to an early and commanding lead in the final feature as the battle behind him heated up. Joey Saldana, David Gravel and Danny Lasoski were locked in a fight for third through the opening two laps with Saldana settling in third and the other two behind.
Schatz hit the first bit of traffic on lap 10 and began working his way through. As the pace slowed, Schatz had difficulty getting around the soon-to-be lapped cars and at one point had a close call with the 19M of Brent Marks.
The real challenge though, Schatz said, was getting through the restarts - the first of which fell on lap 15.
"It's not the open race track that's the hard part, it's making sure those restarts, you actually keep right and don't miss your first corner so someone gets a run on you," Schatz said.
On the restart Schatz maintained his lead as Brad Sweet began his ascent to the podium in the No. 49 Ollie's Bargain Outlet/Razorback Professional Tools car, as he pushed to fourth. Lasoski meanwhile got around Saldana for third and worked on the No. 29 American Racing Custom Wheels car of Kerry Madsen in the laps ahead. As Schatz built a one and a half second lead on Madsen, Lasoski battled past the Aussie just two laps short of the scheduled halfway stop.
In the intermission, Schatz changed gears as other teams made adjustments for the second half of the race.
"(My crew members) talked about it before we started the race and I said look, if we're going to be bad, let's be bad for the first 25 and not the last 25," Schatz said. "Let's leave it where it's at and be ready to change it should we have that stop. We decided to make that change. That's what these races come down to, making those decisions."
When racing resumed, Madsen had his hands full with Sweet, losing his position to the Kasey Kahne Racing driver on several laps. Madsen however maintained and shifted his focus to retaking the second place position from Lasoski. On lap 31 he threw a big slider on Lasoski in turns three and four to retake the second spot.
Through two more restarts, Lasoski fell off as Sweet continued his assault on the front, trying to run down and get around Madsen. On the final restart of the night, Sweet had a challenger in Shane Stewart who tried to slide Sweet on two consecutive laps through turns three and four, but both times, Sweet battled back.
Ultimately, it was Schatz who, in addition to winning his ninth Knoxville Nationals, scored his 23rd World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series victory of the season. Madsen, Sweet, Stewart and Saldana rounded out the top five.
"Mentally (the Knoxville Nationals) is tougher than anything," Schatz said. "The mental part is always a tough part of racing and when you get to this race, the magnitude of it, you always look at things as if they're slipping away."
"I've cost myself a lot of races in the last month, run second a lot of times and a third. I didn't want to see that happen tonight. I was ready to race at six o'clock tonight and we didn't get to get on the race track until nine something. I was ready to go and when I was able to get in the car we were able to get solid laps in right away, the racecar was underneath me from the word go, it was fast and that gives you a lot of confidence going through that 50-lap race."
Sweet said he was disappointed he did not finish a couple of spots higher but commended his team, which includes new crew member Lee Stauffer, for a solid finish. He said the SPEED SPORT Knoxville World Challenge the previous night helped his team.
"Me and Lee Stauffer are new working together, so there's a little bit of a buffer zone, we've got to try to figure each other out and we actually hit on it and we felt really confident coming back tonight," Sweet said. "I'm excited to be up here on the podium. It's definitely a step in the right direction."
Sweet said the result is a momentum builder for his team specifically and Kasey Kahne Racing as a whole which has struggled at the Nationals in recent years.
Madsen, who finished third last year and second this year said he hoped the trend continued in his favor next year. Ultimately, he said Schatz was just consistent and mistake free.
"I kind of made my bed that I was going to run the top. We freed the racecar up to run the top in the second sector and we had a fast car but the problem was Donny's pace was hindering my pace a little bit. I would make a move and you would get tucked up, lose air, bounce around so that would always give Brad a run… I was hoping we could get Donny to make a bit of a wiggle here and there and pounce but it didn't quite work out that way."
2015 FVP Knoxville Nationals Notebook
Race Notes: With his win tonight, Donny Schatz has won nine of the last ten FVP Knoxville Nationals… Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser now share the record for most consecutive wins at five… The win tonight was the 23rd World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series victory of 2015 for Donny Schatz… Greg Hodnett was the night's Hard Charger, advancing from 23rd to 10th… Kerry Madsen's Keneric Racing team took home the 'Best Dressed Award' while the 1D of Justin Henderson won 'Best Appearing Car'… Terry McCarl was name the Jesse Hockett Mr. Sprint Car winner.
World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championship Points
|Pos ||Car ||Driver ||Total ||Diff ||Wins ||Top 5's ||Top 10's ||QT |
|1 ||15 ||Donny Schatz ||7661 ||0 ||23 ||43 ||51 ||3 |
|2 ||2 ||Shane Stewart ||7296 ||-365 ||7 ||28 ||42 ||4 |
|3 ||29 ||Kerry Madsen ||7175 ||-486 ||0 ||20 ||45 ||7 |
|4 ||71M ||Joey Saldana ||7150 ||-511 ||2 ||27 ||41 ||12 |
|5 ||49 ||Brad Sweet ||7144 ||-517 ||3 ||20 ||42 ||2 |
|6 ||51 ||Paul McMahan ||7082 ||-579 ||2 ||21 ||38 ||4 |
|7 ||9 ||Daryn Pittman ||7041 ||-620 ||3 ||20 ||38 ||1 |
|8 ||7s ||Jason Sides ||6818 ||-843 ||1 ||10 ||26 ||2 |
|9 ||7 ||David Gravel ||6654 ||-1007 ||0 ||6 ||20 ||1 |
|10 ||1S ||Logan Schuchart ||6404 ||-1257 ||0 ||3 ||18 ||1 |
|11 ||11k ||Kraig Kinser ||6361 ||-1300 ||0 ||3 ||10 ||1 |
|12 ||41 ||Jason Johnson ||5528 ||-2133 ||0 ||4 ||9 ||0 |
|13 ||1A ||Jacob Allen ||5421 ||-2240 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
|14 ||24 ||Rico Abreu ||2708 ||-4953 ||2 ||6 ||10 ||3 |
|15 ||83 ||Craig Dollansky ||2671 ||-4990 ||0 ||1 ||5 ||0 |
|16 ||35AU ||Jamie Veal ||2567 ||-5094 ||0 ||2 ||5 ||1 |
|17 ||1 ||Sammy Swindell ||2364 ||-5297 ||0 ||5 ||9 ||2 |
|18 ||3 ||Tim Kaeding ||2149 ||-5512 ||1 ||2 ||9 ||0 |
|19 ||24 ||Terry McCarl ||2050 ||-5611 ||1 ||3 ||6 ||0 |
|20 ||21 ||Brian Brown ||1971 ||-5690 ||1 ||4 ||6 ||0 |