The crowd of thousands hushed. Only the relentless wind was brave enough to make a sound. Anxiety and impatience brewed in people’s chest as they watched the field of Outlaws pace their steps before hammering the trigger, hoping to be the fastest to fire first.
Leading the field at Dodge City Raceway Park Friday night was 10-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz with Knoxville Nationals winner David Gravel to his outside. Both eyed another win for their team. Both looked to be the best in Kansas. And both were determined to take the lead on the start.
The green flag flew, and the showdown was on. Schatz hit the trigger first, launching to the lead. But Gravel fired back.
He dove to the bottom of turns three and four under Schatz and outgunned him for the lead down the front stretch. The reigning champion was loaded for another attack, though.
Gravel slid off the bottom on the exit of turn two, holding his car sideways onto the backstretch. With a clean run around the bottom of the track, Schatz fired back to the lead and went on to win the first night of the Outlaw Boot Hill Showdown weekend doubleheader. It was his ninth win of the season and second win in-a-row at the raceway – fifth overall.
“Hats off to my guys,” Schatz said. “They’re hitting on all cylinders. They always have. Sometimes the drivers falter and that’d be me. Tonight, we didn’t have any of them faults.”
Schatz started the night strong by qualifying fourth, while Gravel picked up his 16th Quick Time of the year. The two drivers then had their first front row battle of the night during the first Drydene Heat race. Schatz got the jump on the outside of Gravel at the start and drove away with the win.
Shortly after, the duo found themselves on the front row together again during the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash. Schatz started on the bottom with Gravel up top. Gravel got the jump this time. The Connecticut-native charged to the lead, but Schatz methodically ran him down and passed him for the win.
The 25-lap Feature placed Schatz and Gravel back on the front row for the start. After their one lap duel around the 3/8-mile track for the lead, Schatz pulled away from Gravel to about a straightaway lead.
“When they threw the green, I thought it was going to take a while for it (the bottom of the track) to go away,” Schatz said. “I think as you’ve seen what happened with David when he went down in there, we were able to get back by him right away. It went away real quick. I didn’t expect it to do that, either. I like it when it does that.”
Schatz reached lap traffic by Lap 6, but was able to pass every slower car with ease. However, nearing the end of the race, the pack of lap cars grew. They raced each other side by side, sometimes going three-wide. Schatz no longer had an easy passage by. There was now hope for Gravel, who began reeling in Schatz.
Before Gravel could take another shot at the North Dakota-native, the caution came out for Mike Woodruff stopping in turn two. While it put him on Schatz’s bumper for the restart, Schatz was rewarded with clean air again.
“Clean air was going to win there,” Gravel said. “Wish I could have had the lead there on the first lap, I thought we would have had a good chance to win there. Sucks to come up second. We had a shot. Lap traffic was my only shot.”
Once the race restarted Schatz launched back to the lead and cruised to his 292nd career Series victory, with Gravel second and Logan Schuchart third. He also increased his points lead over Brad Sweet, who finished ninth after struggling to find his way forward. Schatz now leads Sweet by 28 points.
“It’s not the year you’ve had when you’ve won 20 plus a year, but, hey, it’s a very competitive deal at the moment,” Schatz said. “I mean, look at all of the cars that have run good. We’re in a position to try and run for a championship and that’s all you can ask for when you start the year.”
He and the rest of the field will again be gunning for the win in the final day of the Outlaw Boot Hill Showdown at Dodge City Raceway Park on Saturday.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series on Saturday, Sept. 21, will return to Dodge City Raceway Park for the Outlaw Boot Hill Showdown. Get tickets and more information.
As always, if you can’t make it to the race, you can watch all of the action LIVE on DIRTVision.com.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 15-Donny Schatz [$8,000]; 2. 41-David Gravel [$4,000]; 3. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$2,500]; 4. 18-Ian Madsen [$2,200]; 5. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$2,100]; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,000]; 7. 83-Daryn Pittman [$1,800]; 8. 2-Carson Macedo [$1,600]; 9. 49-Brad Sweet [$1,500]; 10. 5-Shane Stewart [$1,300]; 11. 41S-Dominic Scelzi [$1,200]; 12. 19-Brent Marks [$1,100]; 13. 9X-Jake Bubak [$1,000]; 14. 1A-Jacob Allen [$700]; 15. 33M-Mason Daniel [$600]; 16. 7S-Jason Sides [$600]; 17. O-Steven Richardson [$600]; 18. 91-Jeff Stasa [$600]; 19. 10C-Jeremy Campbell [$600]; 20. 1X-Don Droud [$600]; 21. 72-Ray Seemann [$600]; 22. 2C-Wayne Johnson [$600]; 23. 88-Mike Woodruff [$600]; 24. 10-Jordan Knight [$600]; 25. 11-Tyler Knight [$600]; Lap Leaders: David Gravel 1, Donny Schatz 2-25; KSE Hard Charger Award: 41S-Dominic Scelzi[+5]
Qualifying – 1. 41-David Gravel, 12.164; 2. 18-Ian Madsen, 12.209; 3. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 12.252; 4. 15-Donny Schatz, 12.278; 5. 33M-Mason Daniel, 12.286; 6. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 12.352; 7. 83-Daryn Pittman, 12.363; 8. 2-Carson Macedo, 12.379; 9. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 12.38; 10. 49-Brad Sweet, 12.398; 11. 19-Brent Marks, 12.412; 12. O-Steven Richardson, 12.424; 13. 5-Shane Stewart, 12.442; 14. 1A-Jacob Allen, 12.507; 15. 7S-Jason Sides, 12.52; 16. 41S-Dominic Scelzi, 12.538; 17. 2C-Wayne Johnson, 12.55; 18. 9X-Jake Bubak, 12.665; 19. 91-Jeff Stasa, 13.266; 20. 1X-Don Droud, 13.413; 21. 10C-Jeremy Campbell, 13.579; 22. 72-Ray Seemann, 14.009; 23. 88-Mike Woodruff, 13.38; 24. 10-Jordan Knight, 13.679; 25. 11-Tyler Knight, 14.016