KNOXVILLE, Iowa (August 13, 2018) – In what was a Knoxville Nationals that will go down in the record books as an all-time classic, Donny Schatz and the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing No. 15 came home with a solid runner-up effort.
Schatz, who was in search of his 11th Knoxville Nationals title, began the $150,000-to-win, 50-lap main event with a fierce battle with Kyle Larson. The two drivers traded slide jobs lap after lap before Schatz was able to clear Larson for the third position on lap four. From there, Schatz set his sights on Chad Kemenah for the second spot.
Schatz took the position on lap 10, but the leader, Brad Sweet, had over a full straightaway advantage.
On lap 15, Larson applied heavy pressure on Schatz once again. Schatz was able to hold the position until the race was slowed on lap 19. On the restart, Larson found a way around the Textron Off Road Wildcat XX No. 15 as Schatz ran third at the fuel stop on lap 25.
After fading back in the second half of the race, Schatz’s car came on strong in the closing laps. The nine-time and defending World of Outlaws champion got back by Larson for second with nine laps to go before setting his sights on Sweet for the lead.
A 1.6 second lead for Sweet was cut down to a half-second in a matter of laps of Schatz had his fellow World of Outlaws competitor in his crosshairs.
A red flag with two laps to go set up a dramatic green-white-checkered finish to decide the winner of the biggest event in all of sprint car racing. Sweet and Schatz were separated by just a car length at the white flag. Sweet tip-toed around the low side of the speedway, while Schatz ran the cushion up top. Schatz had a run on Sweet coming to Doug Clark’s twin checkers, but came up a car length short.
“We were good at the end and just had to go where [Sweet] wasn’t,” said Schatz after the race. “The restart with two to go helped us out and gave us a chance. We made the best of it, but he was really good. It’s fun to come out here and be fast all week. I wish we could have capitalized on it, but that’s the way it goes. This is the Knoxville Nationals. Nobody holds any punches. We did our best, it was just second best.”
The runner-up finish for Schatz extends his streak of finishing either first or second in the Knoxville Nationals to 14 consecutive years. Overall, Schatz has finished first or second in 17 of the last 19 years with an average finish of 3.1 over that span.
Schatz battled adversity on his qualifying night. After timing in fourth quick in time trials, Schatz missed the transfer spot in his heat race by one position. A second place finish in the B-main (which later became a win after the original winner failed to scale after the race), put the Fargo, N.D. in the 21st starting position for the A-main. Schatz methodically worked his way up to the fifth position by the end of the 25-lap main event.
This weekend, Schatz will return to his home state of North Dakota for a pair of World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series events. On Friday, August 17, Schatz will look for the season sweep at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D. On Saturday, Schatz will look to claim his first win at Red River Valley Speedway since 2006.
2018 World of Outlaws Stats:
Top Fives: 34
Top Tens: 43