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INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 7, 2017) – During the final days of the 2017 World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series season, Tony Stewart-Curb Agajanian Racing's (TSR) Donny Schatz reflected on just how incredible his 21st season of competing with "The Greatest Show on Dirt" had been. It was only appropriate for the now nine-time WoO champion to conclude the season making daily headlines during the season-ending Textron World Finals this past weekend after starting the campaign dominating the news.
Schatz clinched the 2017 WoO championship at The Dirt Track and Charlotte Motor Speedway by completing a qualifying lap Thursday night, won his 20th WoO A-Feature of the season Friday night, was part of an epic season-finale 30-lap A-Feature Saturday night, and Sunday night was celebrated amongst his peers during the WoO's "Night of Champions" banquet.
With the 2018 WoO season opener less than three months away, the time to celebrate what has been another remarkable season for Schatz and TSR might not carry on for too long. But the accomplishments from 2017, the 10th season for Schatz as driver at TSR, add to what continues to be a historic run for the team across all forms of motorsports. TSR now has eight WoO championships and 22 overall when including the organization's 14 United States Auto Club (USAC) titles.
"It's been a great year," Schatz said. "This race team is phenomenal. Tony Stewart has built an incredible team and we are top-three finishers seemingly every night. The car does not drop out of races. That's a testament to the three guys who live, breath and sleep Sprint-car racing. Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti have a passion for winning that words cannot describe. I know I'm hard on them, at times, but I appreciate so much how hard they work. We couldn't be out here without marketing partners like we have in Textron Off Road, Arctic Cat, Ford Performance and Mike Curb. This is a total team effort and it all has to work together to have the results we aspire to reach. We'll all enjoy this for a little while, but then it's back to work."
The bar continues to rise for Schatz and the TSR team and he is quick to credit his owner, three-time NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, for providing the foundation for him and the team to achieve such greatness. With his victory Friday night, the Fargo, North Dakota driver became the only WoO driver in the series' 40-year history to win at least 20 WoO A-Features in five consecutive seasons.
"I'm so proud of Donny, Ricky, Scuba and Brad", team owner, Tony Stewart said. "To do what this team has done these past four years (win the Outlaws championship) is truly remarkable. Donny is hands down the best Sprint-car driver of his generation and I'm lucky to be a part of it. It's extremely difficult to stay on top year in and year out and this team has proven they are up to the task every year. I have to thank Arctic Cat, Textron Off Road, Ford and Ford Performance, Mike Curb, Mobil 1, Rusty Rush and all of our other partners that make it possible to compete at a championship level every year."
The final stats from the 2017 campaign underscore the consistency that carried the team to its fourth consecutive WoO championship and eighth overall for TSR. In 81 nights of WoO competition, Schatz won 20 A-Features and finished on the podium 46 times. He finished inside the top-five 66 nights and collected 74 top-10 finishes. Six of his seven finishes outside the top-10 occurred during the first 39 races, including his only DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season. His 11th-place finish Sept. 9 in the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California was the single finish outside the top-10 in his final 42 starts of the year. Streaks were also prevalent as Schatz posted a season-high five-race winning streak starting at the DIRTcar Nationals in Florida and concluding with the FVP Outlaw Showdown in Las Vegas. He earned 28 consecutive top-10 finishes between his victory June 27 in the Route 66 Rumble in Chicago and his run from 25th to ninth in the Gold Cup opener Sept. 8. He closed the season with 14 consecutive top-five finishes.
"Staying on top in this sport is not easy, by any means," Schatz said. "Some days, I ask myself how we do it. And then I realize it's everybody who makes it possible, starting with those three guys on the team and the sacrifices they make being away from their families, the dedication they give to the performance of the car and all the travel that's involved. Really, it's all the things they do. It's a group effort. They are the best there is. You know, it might be easy for them to get lazy after winning a championship, but they have as much drive to win the next one. That says a lot about their character, and a lot about who they are as people. It's fun to be around those guys and fun to be able to race with them and have success with them, but also getting to experience the tough nights together. That's where the championships are won. Those guys excel at trying to figure out how we get better."
The championship campaign started with a bang as Schatz hit the track at full speed behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J. Winning his first night out in the black-and-green number No. 15 competing with the Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida. Schatz would win three of the first five All-Star main events in Florida before taking five of the first six WoO A-Features of 2017, including winning twice in the same day at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida and sweeping two nights of action at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the first week of March. He made it six wins in eight starts two weeks later by passing Daryn Pittman late in the race at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California.
A weekend sweep in Missouri and Kansas and a dominant run one week later at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway highlighted the month of May before three triumphs in June, which included wins at Knoxville Raceway, River Cities Speedway and Route 66 Raceway, had the team prepared for a run in the season's "Month of Money."
In a four-week stretch from mid-July through mid-August, the team once again flexed its muscle with Schatz debuting the new Textron Off Road-branded TSR No. 15 and becoming the first driver in Kings Royal history to win the $50,000 prize in consecutive seasons. Three nights later, he picked up his fifth $25,000-to-win Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup and, three weeks later, Schatz scored his 10th Knoxville Nationals crown. Victories in the Harvest Classic at Calistoga (Calif.) Speedway in September and Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway in October fueled the late-season push to wrap up the championship.
The team closed the campaign impressively in Charlotte by first qualifying second in the 52-car field for both Friday and Saturday night's programs. Schatz won the opener to earn his 10th career triumph at The Dirt Track and 249th WoO A-Feature of his career, then led 25 laps in the season finale before finishing second.
Schatz earned 11,410 points and finished 210 points ahead of Brad Sweet in the final championship standings. The championship is the team's fifth in the last six seasons and Schatz has finished first or second in the WoO championship standings all 10 seasons he has driven for TSR.
Donny Schatz Driver of the No. 15 Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J in the WoO Craftsman Sprint Car Series
Date of Birth:Aug. 10, 1977
Hometown:Minot, North Dakota.
Residence:Fargo, North Dakota
Marital Status:Married, Erica
Highlights:2017 World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion (his ninth title 2006-2009, 2012, 2014-2017)… 2017 Kings Royal Winner (his fourth win in the event 2007, 2009, 2016, 2017) … Third all-time winningest WoO driver with 249 career WoO A-Feature victories ….10-time Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals winner (2006-2009, 2011-15, 2017) … Nine-time $50,000 Sprintcar International winner in Sydney, Australia … Winner of every major Sprint Car race during his 21-year World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series career … 1997 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year … 1996 WISSOTA National 360 Sprint Car Champion … Made his debut in Sprint car in 1993 as a 15-year-old at State Fairgrounds Speedway in Sedalia, Missouri.