By Matt Levins, The Hawk Eye
MIDDLETOWN — If Steve Kinser is the “King of the Outlaws,” then Donny Schatz just might be the “Crown Prince.” Schatz, 36, makes his home in Fargo, N.D. But on most race nights, he makes himself
right at home wherever the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series happens to be. Schatz, a five-time Outlaws champion and seven-time Knoxville Nationals champion, recently won his 153rd career WoO feature race, tying him for third on the all-time wins list with Mark Kinser.
Schatz enters Friday night’s stop at 34 Raceway in first place in the series points with 5,500 points, 27 points ahead of second-place Daryn Pittman. In addition, Schatz has six wins this season (second only to Daryn Pittman’s seven), leads the series with 25 top-five finishes and is tied for most top-10s with 34. Schatz’s last win in the series came two weeks ago. He is hoping to start another winning streak Friday at 34 Raceway.
“We don’t usually have a whole lot of races in Iowa other than Knoxville, so we are looking forward to coming to Burlington and putting on a good show for the fans,” Schatz said. “It would be great to get another streak started there. We’ve had some really good runs lately and the guys all got to go home this week and recharge their batteries a little bit. We are looking forward to coming to Burlington.” Schatz, like many race car drivers, got his start from his father, who was a racer in his day. Donny Schatz got started in go-karts, then followed his father’s
footsteps and got behind the wheel of a sprint car at the age of 15.
Three years later, he joined the World of Outlaws, realizing a dream he had since he was little. “Driving a sprint car has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a dream of mine to race with the World of Outlaws,” Schatz said. “My family has always been an integral part of it for me. Tony Stewart has been a great car owner. He brought Armor All and Chevrolet into it and it’s just taken off from there.” Schatz said that while the team is on the road much of the year, he manages to get home to see his wife, Erica, and daughter, Savanna, more often than most people might think. Family has always been important to Schatz, but it is his team — and others like it — who make the biggest sacrifice to be on the road. “The race team really takes a beating,” Schatz said. “I get home a lot. I travel back and forth a lot. But the race team is the one out there on the road, wrenching on the car, going to the car wash and traveling up and down the road all night. Drivers have a little different lifestyle. This is all I have ever done, so I really don’t know anything different.”
Schatz said this season has been different with Kinser announcing his retirement from full-time touring with the World of Outlaws. Kinser has 577 career wins, but has just one win to his credit this season. Schatz said it’s tough watching “The King” struggle, especially in his last season. “It’s been different with all the hype around his retirement, but he’s been struggling a little bit. That’s disheartening to see,” Schatz said. “Steve deserves all of the accolades. He has meant everything to this sport. No one will ever do what he has done. It’s sad to see him go, but it’s been good to be around him.”“ Schatz is hoping that as the weather heats up, so will his driving. He hopes it starts Friday night at 34 Raceway, a track where he has finished seventh, second and fourth in the series’ previous three stops. Schatz likes his chances this year and hopes to get on a roll like he did last year at this time. “Last year was pretty stellar. We won 23 races last year. We have to get the speed picked up,” Schatz said. “Usually when the weather warms up, so does our team. We’d like to get a little streak started this weekend in Burlington.”
Schatz said he doesn’t see an end to his racing career any time soon. He’s having too much fun right now. A few more wins would make it even more enjoyable. “If it stops being fun, I’ll probably think about getting out of it. But it’s jut too much fun right now. I don’t see myself getting out of this in the next 25 years or so,” Schatz said. “It’s fun when you win, but it is fun when you don’t win, too.
It’s fun to go out and put on an exciting show and have the fans tell you they had a great time. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”