Schatz World of Outlaws winner for Stewart, again

Another World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series season is in the books, with another Donny Schatz championship for Tony Stewart-Curb Agajanian Racing’s (TSR).

Schatz reflected on just how incredible his 21st season of racing competition has been. It was only appropriate for the now nine-time WoO champion to conclude the 2017 season making daily headlines during the season-ending Textron World Finals last month at Charlotte, North Carolina, after starting the campaign dominating the news.

With the 2018 WoO season-opener less than three months away, the time to celebrate what has been another remarkable season for Schatz and the Stewart team might not carry on for too long. But the accomplishments from 2017, the 10th season for Schatz as driver at Stewart, add to what continues to be a historic run for the team across all forms of motorsports. Tony Stewart Racing 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, breathe 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 must 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 Stewart team, and he is quick to credit his owner, three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart, for providing the foundation for him and the team to achieve such greatness. With his victory at Charlotte last month in the World Finals, 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,” Stewart said Stewart. “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, Mobile 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 Tony Stewart Racing. 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. 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 team closed the campaign impressively in Charlotte by first qualifying second in the 52-car field for both the Friday and Saturday night programs. Schatz won the opener to earn his 10th career triumph at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and the 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 past six seasons, and Schatz has finished first or second in the WoO championship standings all 10 seasons he has driven for Tony Stewart Racing.

Stewart enters Fort Wayne event

Stewart has announced his intentions to compete in this year’s 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne at the city’s Memorial Expo Center on Dec. 29 and 30.

Stewart will be dusting off his famed “Munchkin” midget to compete against nearly 40 other competitors.

Joining the midgets each night will be winged and non-winged 600cc machines and multiple divisions of go-karts and quarter midgets.

For more information, visit rumbleinfortwayne.com.

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