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LAKE ODESSA, Mich. — May 31, 2014 — For the fifth time this season Donny Schatz found himself in victory lane after powering through traffic Saturday night to win the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars’ NAPA Auto Parts Rumble at I-96 Speedway.
Schatz, who started fifth, fell back to seventh at the start of the race. Through the next 20 laps he progressed his STP/Armor All car through the field, eventually catching leader Brad Sweet. On lap 21, after a restart two laps earlier, Schatz found the opportunity he needed.
“It just feels good to have a car that good,” Schatz said. “The track’s tricky... You’re always learning, always trying to find new ways around it. I’ve wanted to win here for a long time.”
This was Schatz’s first win at I-96 Speedway, his fifth win on the season and his 152nd career win. He is now just one win away from tying Mark Kinser for third on the Outlaws all-time win list.
In his quest for a sixth World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars championship, the win also gave Schatz an eight point lead over second place Daryn Pittman.
The green flag flew on the three-eighths mile I-96 Speedway with Sweet and Cody Darrah in the first row. Joey Saldana and Sammy Swindell rounded out the top four. Sweet jumped out to an early lead as the cars behind him battled for position.
By lap 10, Schatz was already beginning to make his move through the field, battling Paul McMahan, Pittman and Swindell.
The caution flag flew for the first time on lap 17 after Swindell had a tire cut down.
As the green flag again flew, Sweet led Cody Darrah, Schatz and Saldana. A good restart for Schatz moved him into the second position as the cars hit the front stretch.
A flat right rear tire for Darrah brought out another caution on lap 19. This restart proved pivotal for Schatz and David Gravel. As Schatz worked his way around Sweet for the lead, Gravel was able to advance four spots and eventually challenge Saldana for third.
In the closing laps, Gravel took third from Saldana. As Sweet and Schatz worked their way through lapped traffic, Sweet tried to reel Schatz in, but was not able to catch him.
“You always get worried when the 15 is next to you on a slick race track like this,” said Sweet, who has three wins so far this season. “We had a great car though. The SureTest guys worked really hard all night.”
“Donny did everything right. We just got beat by a better driver tonight. I felt like our car was capable of winning. I felt like we could keep up with him in lapped traffic – we had a chance back at it. So hats off to those guys.”
Sweet said his team continues to make progress every week and learn a little bit more. He said he looks forward to the month of June.
Gravel, who also has three wins on the season in his Roth Motorsports car, said the track conditions changed a lot over the course of the night. He credited his team with making good changes to his car.
“I’m glad we made the right adjustments. I had a really good restart on the last restart, got up to fourth and Joey messed up there on a few corners,” Gravel said. “To get on the podium is great. We’ve been struggling to get into the dash, and we finally got into the dash and it paid off.
“You’ve got to adjust as a driver as the race goes on and we made a lot of changes there before the feature and it was right choices.”
Kokomo Speedway in Kokomo, Ind. hosts the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars on Wednesday, June 4. The Outlaws then head to I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. on June 6 and Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. for the FVP Outlaws at Lakeside on June 7.
I-96 Speedway NOTES: Donny Schatz now has five wins on the season, second only to Daryn Pittman’s seven wins... After tonight’s Napa Auto Parts Rumble at I-96, Schatz also took an eight point lead in the championship standings... Shane Stewart was tonight’s KSE Hard Charger Award winner, gaining six positions from his starting place.