Knoxville, IA — The Summer of Donny rolled on Saturday night when Donny Schatz dominated the 47th Annual SuperClean Knoxville Nationals Presented By Factory Value Parts at Knoxville Raceway.
Schatz survived a couple of tense moments with Terry McCarl on Lap 18 before surging to a huge lead and driving away with his second consecutive title — and $150,000 — in sprint car racing’s biggest event.
The victory continues his unreal streak this season of capturing the crown jewels of the sport. Already atop the World of Outlaws championship standings, Schatz has won the Kings Royal, the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup, the Summer Nationals and now the biggest of them all, the Knoxville Nationals.
Schatz, of Fargo, N.D., started on the pole in his ParkerStores car and found a comfort spot on the cushion, easily pulling away from the field as each lap passed. But a caution with 12 laps down set up a restart with McCarl’s Big Game Treestands machine on his tail. McCarl, a six-time Knoxville Raceway track champion, was trying to become the first Iowan to win the Nationals title and pushed hard on the restart, nearly clipping Schatz in Turns 1 and 2 and again in Turns 3 and 4 before Schatz grabbed control once again.
“Terry obviously had a good run,” said Schatz, who just turned 30. “When you slide somebody like that, you don’t really see them until the last second when they’re in front of you. There wasn’t anything else I could have done. If I had hit the brakes we both would have crashed. I just let it go and I just about had to hit the fence, but that’s the way you have to race to win this race. Terry took it to the edge and I had to take it past the edge to keep from crashing him and crashing myself. Things like that kind of open your eyes a little bit and teach you to slow down and keep that from happening. That’s taking it to the limit for both of us and that’s what makes it fun.”
McCarl and Schatz have been battling back and forth on the World of Outlaws tour, as well. Two weeks ago at K-C Raceway McCarl brazenly waved at Schatz as he grabbed the lead, then last week at Charter Raceway Park Schatz managed to run down McCarl late in the race, helping him capture the SuperClean Summer of Money championship on ESPN2.
“I had a great run on him and I thought I had a good shot at him right there,” McCarl said of the move with 18 laps to go. “That was my best shot at him. He did an awesome job because I thought I had him no problem and then all of a sudden I saw this yellow thing out of the corner of my eye. … He had to make it happen right there, but he’s a champion and that’s why he’s a champion, because he can make moves like that.”
It certainly made the leaders narrow their focus, with Schatz again pulling out front to a large lead as the field gave chase. Schatz was smooth in traffic, too, making it nearly impossible for anybody to catch him.
Joey Saldana, who finished second to Schatz in 2006 at Knoxville, caught and passed McCarl in his Mopar-powered Open Joist car with eight laps to go. Lapped cars racing each other made it difficult for Saldana to cut the gap to Schatz. As the laps ticked off, Craig Dollansky went by McCarl with five to go before McCarl could refocus and pass Dollansky at the end to gain a spot on the podium worth $37,500.
“We cost ourselves a shot at winning this race,” said Saldana, of Brownsburg, Ind., who collected $75,000 as the runner-up. “We tried to over-engineer our racecar and we paid the price. I just want to have a shot at racing Donny for the win. I think that would have been the coolest thing ever, we just have to come back next year.
“I felt really good. I could see him and felt like I was catching him but when we got to the lapped cars they decided they wanted to really race. It slowed me down a lot and once I got going again the race was over. That’s sprint car racing.”
Dollansky was fourth in his Karavan machine to earn $26,000 with Paul McMahan driving the Tony Stewart Racing Bass Pro Shops car to a top-five finish worth $21,000.
Schatz’s victory marked the first time a driver has won consecutive Knoxville Nationals titles since Danny Lasoski won in 2003 and ’04.
“You never know when you’re last one is going to be,” Schatz said. “Last year was awesome but any time you can come back and double up on anything it’s great. Last year never set in until the next night. Today we’re like, ‘Hey, this is the Knoxville Nationals.’”
The victory was especially sweet for Schatz because before the start of racing on Saturday night, it was officially announced that his Schatz Motorsports team will merge with Tony Stewart Racing, reuniting Schatz with Ricky Warner, the crew chief who guided him to the 2006 World of Outlaws and Knoxville Nationals championships.
“I’m really excited by it,” Schatz said. “Where our sport is going with the technology. If you look at Joey’s program (owned by Kasey Kahne), they’ve really stepped up with all the technology that’s out there. We’ve done everything there is with our own team and it’s time for me to do something different. When the opportunity came to me, I wasn’t even going to mention it to my family, but they found out and said it’s probably the best opportunity you can have. We’re awful excited about it and can’t wait for next year. Hopefully we can finish this year the way we want and win a championship and start over again next year.”
What made the news most interesting is that Schatz started on the pole Saturday night alongside Tony Stewart Racing’s McMahan, who topped the standings on Thursday’s opening night of action at Knoxville.
“Sometimes when you start on the pole you’re in the wrong spot,” Schatz said. “Paul is really good at running the cushion and I kind of thought that’s where we needed to be since the bottom got so narrow. On the second restart I tried the bottom in Turns 3 and 4 but I stayed up there and figured if somebody was going to sneak under me they were going to have to be really good. We just kept pounding it and pounding it. I just drove it as hard as I could. It was pretty rough and choppy up there, but it worked. Nobody really pressured me so I tried to play where it was comfortable for me.”
Nobody managed to do it any better on Saturday night. Now Schatz has his sights set on becoming the first three-time winner of the event since Steve Kinser captured five in a row from 1991 through 1995.
• World of Outlaws rookie Sam Hafertepe Jr. captured the Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year Award. Hafertepe, who had the help of former champion Sammy Swindell during the week, wound up 11th in the B-main at the prestigious 105-car event. “This is probably my favorite place to come,” Hafertepe said. “Having Sammy Swindell behind us really boosted our efforts. He’s made so many laps he knows more than I’ll ever know, probably. … This is what I want to do. I want to be a full-time Outlaw driver. It’s been my dream ever since I started racing go-karts. Sammy Swindell has been one of my idols growing up. Having him in our pits boosts my confidence every time I hit the track.”
• When Steve Kinser started third last night in the A-main, it marked his record 29th career A-main appearance in the Knoxville Nationals. Sammy Swindell is second with 26 starts. Danny Lasoski marked his 21st A-main start last night.
• Rain forced Wednesday’s program to run on Friday, moving the originally scheduled scrambles and non-qualifier events to Saturday afternoon. Terry McCarl captured the A-main scramble but Donny Schatz and Paul McMahan earned enough points to remain on the front row. McCarl earned enough points in the scramble move up from 10th to 6th on the grid.
• Kerry Madsen captured the non-qualifier feature event on Saturday afternoon, earning the 11th starting position for the C-main Saturday night. “We didn’t get where we wanted to be but we’re not out of it yet. … We’re going to give it a go.” Madsen wound up third in the C-main, missing a transfer to the B-main by one spot.
• A complete rebroadcast of the 47th Annual SuperClean Knoxville Nationals will air from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, with a two hour highlight package airs at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14.
47th Annual SuperClean Knoxville Nationals Statistical Report; Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway; Aug. 11, 2007
E Feature, 10 laps
1. Chris Schmelzle, Victoria BC Can ; 2. Matt Wasmund, Jackson MN; 3. Rager Phillips, Pleasantville IA; 4. T.J. Winegardner, Pierson FL; 5. Brent Antill, Ankeny IA; 6. Garrett Ishii, Caruthers CA; 7. Ray Allen Kulhanek, Conroe TX; 8. Ben Gregg, Glendale AZ; 9. Jack Dover, (R)Springfield NE; 10. Robert Bell, Colfax IA; 11. Neil Shepherd, Warsaw IN; 12. Ty Bartz, Sheboygan Falls WI; 13. Bob Bennett, Lewisberry PA.
D Feature, 12 laps
1. Ryan Farrell, Perth, WA, Aust ; 2. Travis Rilat, Forney TX; 3. Scott Winters, Butterfield MN; 4. Sean Michael, Allentown PA; 5. Jesse Hockett, Warsaw MO; 6. Chad Hillier, Sedro Woolley WA; 7. Calvin Landis, Knoxville IA; 8. Lynton Jeffrey, Sydney, NSW, Aust./Prairie City IA; 9. Kim Mock, Pleasant Prairie WI; 10. Larry Pinegar II, Des Moines IA; 11. Mike Moore, East Des Moines IA; 12. Mike Deavers, (R)Normal IL; 13. Davey Heskin, (R)St. Michael MN; 14. Jan Howard, Byhalia MS; 15. Chris Schmelzle, Victoria BC Can ; 16. Bob Weuve, Newton IA; 17. Todd King, Sheboygan Falls WI; 18. Tony Shilling, Knoxville IA; 19. Clint Garner, Sioux Falls SD; 20. Chad Blonde, Litchfield MI; 21. Kaley Gharst, Decatur IL; 22. Matt Wasmund, Jackson MN.
C Feature, 15 laps
1. Lance Dewease, Fayetteville PA; 2. Justin Henderson, Sioux Falls SD; 3. Kerry Madsen, Sydney, NSW, Aust. ; 4. Jason Meyers, Clovis CA; 5. Dean Jacobs, Wooster OH; 6. Jac Haudenschild, Wooster OH; 7. Greg Wilson, Benton Ridge OH; 8. Jason Johnson, Greenville TX; 9. Jonathan Allard, Chico CA; 10. Bob Felmlee, Franklin PA; 11. Seth Brahmer, Wisner NE; 12. Brock Mayes, Bucyrus OH; 13. Travis Rilat, Forney TX; 14. Jeff Mitrisin, Oskaloosa IA; 15. Billy Alley, Lincoln NE; 16. Kenny Jacobs, Holmesville OH; 17. John Lambertz, Sioux Falls SD; 18. Ryan Farrell, Perth, WA, Aust ; 19. Tayler Malsam, Sammamish WA; 20. Jack Potter, Pleasant Hill MO; 21. Mark Dobmeier, (R)Grand Forks ND; 22. Skip Jackson, Sydney, NSW, Aust.
B Feature, 22 laps
1. Randy Hannagan, Pittsboro IN; 2. Shane Stewart, Bixby OK; 3. Brian Brown, Grain Valley MO; 4. Tim Kaeding, San Jose CA; 5. Daryn Pittman, Owasso OK; 6. Justin Henderson, Sioux Falls SD; 7. Lance Dewease, Fayetteville PA; 8. Greg Hodnett, Thomasville PA; 9. Danny Smith, Danville IN; 10. Garry Lee Maier, Cimarron KS; 11. Sam Hafertepe, Sunnyville TX; 12. Mark Smith, Selinsgrove PA; 13. Dusty Zomer, Brandon SD; 14. Bronson Maeschen, Knoxville IA; 15. Jeremy Campbell, Monroe MI; 16. Brian Paulus, Mechanicsburg PA; 17. Chad Kemenah, Findlay OH; 18. Brandon Wimmer, Fairmount IN; 19. Tony Bruce Jr., Liberal KS; 20. Rob Chaney, Millersburg OH; 21. Rob Chaney, Millersburg OH; 22. Randy Martin, California MO; 23. Toni Lutar, (R)White Rock, BC, Can.
A Feature, 30 laps
1. Donny Schatz, Fargo ND; 2. Joey Saldana, Brownsburg IN; 3. Terry McCarl, Altoona IA; 4. Craig Dollansky, Elk River MN; 5. Paul McMahan, Nashville TN; 6. Steve Kinser, Bloomington IN; 7. Brooke Tatnell, San Souci, NSW, Aust. ; 8. Tim Shaffer, Aliquippa PA; 9. Jason Solwold, Mt. Vernon WA; 10. Jeff Shepard, Upperco MD; 11. Wayne Johnson, Mustang OK; 12. Danny Lasoski, Dover MO; 13. Brian Brown, Grain Valley MO; 14. Lucas Wolfe, Mechanicsburg PA; 15. Randy Hannagan, Pittsboro IN; 16. Jason Sides, Bartlett TN; 17. Dion Hindi, Albuquerque NM; 18. Don Droud Jr, Lincoln NE; 19. Ed Lynch Jr, Apollo PA; 20. Jason Martin, Liberal KS; 21. Travis Cram, Knoxville IA; 22. Stevie Smith, Broken Arrow OK; 23. Shane Stewart, Bixby OK; 24. Tim Kaeding, San Jose CA.
Lap Leaders: Schatz 1-30