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Team owner Tony Stewart and driver Donny Schatz celebrate after winning the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Championship. Submitted

Donny Schatz again proved to be the man to beat in the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series in 2016.

Schatz a native of Fargo, North Dakota, notched his eighth career WoO championship, and the seventh for his car owner Tony Stewart Racing. The 39-year-old pulled away from a midseason points battle to take the title.

Schatz, in his ninth season driving for Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, thanked his crew for putting him up front.

“I have to thank my crew chief, Rick Warner, car chief Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti. We ran in 84 World of Outlaw Races and won the championship for the third year in a row. Without the help of those guys, it would be impossible. We finished the season strong and look forward to an even better 2017.”

Throughout the season, Schatz took home a lot of hardware, claiming wins in 25 races to go along with 60 top-fives, 77 top-10s and five Quick Times. The awards banquet held in Charlotte in October was no exception. He he took home a few more pieces to add to his collection from the 2016 season — a trophy, a championship ring, a new Craftsman Tool Chest and a check for $150,000.

Schatz won his eighth World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series Championship, as well as the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award and the VP Racing Fuel Award.

Schatz wasn’t the only member of his team to walk away with awards for his impressive season. His chassis builder, J&J Auto Racing, won Chassis Builder of the Year. And his engine builder, Shaver Specialties Racing Engines, was awarded with Engine Builder of the Year.

Schatz captured the championship over Daryn Pittman, David Gravel, Brad Sweet, Joey Saldana, Shane Stewart, Jason Johnson, Logan Schuchart, Jason Sides and Paul McMahan. Greg Wilson was named “Rookie of the Year.”

“I’m extremely proud of this team and what they accomplished this year,” Stewart said on the team’s website. “This is probably the one group that has gelled together more than any team I’ve ever been around. The chemistry the team showed was evident with their performance this year. We’re thrilled to win another championship with Bad Boy Off Road and Chevrolet Performance and to have partners like Mike Curb as part of this incredible ride.”

The team was in a tight point battle until early July when things started to come together. The Tony Stewart Racing team separated itself from the competition. The stretch included three wins in four starts and, two weeks later, a Brad Doty Classic victory and his Kings Royal triumph at Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. After coming up an agonizingly close second to Jason Johnson in the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa, the team amassed a four-race win streak to cement its run to the title.

“The organization that Tony Stewart has built and continues to refine is nothing short of incredible,” Schatz said. “There were a lot of factors that went into winning this championship. I want to congratulate all the teams that started this journey in February and pushed our team to continue to get better. It’s been a privilege to represent the World of Outlaws, and now Craftsman as your champion, and I’m honored that I get to do it again next year.”

USAC Midgets conclude season

NASCAR driver Kyle Larson won the Annual Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Speedway in Ventura, California, to cap off the 2016 USAC National Midget Series season. The event held on November 24 drew 52 cars.

Larson won the event over Brady Bacon, Carson Macedo, Rico Abreu and Damion Gardner. He was driving the Columbus-based Keith Kunz-Curb Agajanian Motorsports/Bullet/Speedway Toyota.

With his sixth-place finish in the season finale, Tanner Thorson of Minden, Nevada, clinched the 2016 season championship for car owner Keith Kunz and crew chief Pete Willoughby. Thorson earned the top spot in the final standings over Spencer Bayston, Brady Bacon, Chad Boat and Carson Macedo.

Castor passes away

Jerry Castor of Bloomington, who along with Dave Norris of Columbus, originated the Columbus Racers Reunion passed away on Nov. 23. He was 79.

Castor worked for several years at the 25th Street Speedway in Columbus as the public-address announcer for promoters Ed Adair and J.B. Branum. He announced at the track from 1960-72. Starting in 1970 and for the next 35 years, Castor promoted demolition derbies around the area.

A Wake and Celebration of Life will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at the Columbus Elks Lodge No. 521 located at 4664 Ray Boll Bvld. at the Columbus Municipal Airport.

James Essex writes a motorsports notebook for The Republic. Send comments to sports@therepublic.com.