DUBUQUE, Iowa – In the historic debut of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series at Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway, Donny Schatz finally wrote a page of history months in the making.
Ending a 38-race winless drought with the Outlaws dating back to Oct. 3 of last season, Schatz collected his milestone 300th career victory in thrilling fashion at the high-banked, three-eighths-mile dirt oval.
After inheriting the lead 12 laps in when Aaron Reutzel ducked to the work area with a flat left-rear tire, Schatz held the field at bay for the duration of the feature, despite a green-white-checkered finish.
The driver of the Ford Performance-backed, Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing-prepared No. 15 sprint car drove away from James McFadden over the race-ending two-lap sprint to win by .973 seconds.
Schatz’s 300th Outlaw win came in his 1,913th career start with The Greatest Show on Dirt.
It made for an emotional victory lane scene, with Schatz receiving hugs from his father Danny and his mother Diane before speaking with Dave Rieff in victory lane – emotion thick in his voice.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Schatz admitted before taking a moment to collect his thoughts.
As he soaked in the moment, Schatz reflected on the series of near-misses that punctuated the first 31 races of his World of Outlaws sprint car season. Multiple times, the Fargo, N.D., native believed he’d be in victory lane before circumstances snatched his glory away.
Friday night, everything finally came together for the 10-time Outlaw champion.
“I thought that was going to happen about 15 times this year,” Schatz noted. “We’ve been in good spots, it’s just that’s the way racing is some days. It doesn’t go the way you want or expect it to. But tonight was the night. There was something about the atmosphere here that kind of made me feel that tonight was going to be the night. It’s a real awesome setting on the fairgrounds; I don’t know.
“There’s just something about this part of the country that is real neat.”
Though Schatz ultimately celebrated as the victor, Friday’s feature appeared like it was setting up for a battle between David Gravel and Aaron Reutzel early on.
Gravel started from the pole after winning the DIRTvision Fast Pass Dash, leading the opening lap by six car lengths over Reutzel before a war for second broke out through the early stages.
Schatz and Reutzel traded the silver position four times between one another in the first seven laps, before Reutzel finally laid claim to the spot on the seventh lap and set his sights on Gravel out front.
The change for the lead came on lap 10, when Reutzel made an outside-inside switch off the second turn to pass the lapped car of Josh Schneiderman, then overtake Gravel for the race lead down the backstretch.
Reutzel led the next two laps before Gravel slowed with a flat right-rear tire to bring the first caution of the night out on lap 12, but the problems were only beginning for the frontrunners at that point.
Under the yellow, Reutzel slowed and ducked to the work area with a left-rear tire issue of his own, handing Schatz a lead he wouldn’t relinquish and casting worries about tires into the heads of every team in the pit area.
Schatz, however, kept a level head. He commanded the ensuing restart with ease over Macedo before a big flip by 17th-running Wayne Johnson forced a red-flag stoppage with 14 laps in the books.
The restart spelled disaster for series point leader Brad Sweet, who was tagged into a spin on the frontstretch before being hit by Jacob Allen. Though Sweet was able to return without damage, Allen headed to the work area for major repairs and ended up 17th in the final rundown.
Schatz held true on the next green flag, as McFadden rose to second when Macedo popped a wheelie on approach to turn one. From there, McFadden was Schatz’s chief competition through the second half.
Though McFadden closed to within a half second of Schatz, the modern-era Outlaw kingpin appeared ready to cruise into victory lane – before a tire issue for Macedo after the leaders took the white flag brought Macedo to a halt off turn two and led to a green-white-checkered, overtime finish.
The two-lap sprint for all the marbles extended the 30-lap feature to 31 laps, but it didn’t matter as Schatz pulled away from McFadden down the stretch for the historic score, worth $10,000.
The red flag was, Schatz admitted, where he was most nervous all night long. But he capitalized late.
“When I started the race again, I bounced because my tires were so low. So I had to do something to kind of be cautious and not get myself in trouble,” Schatz explained. “At that point, I just had to get up on the race track and go. I felt we had a race won at Eldora and the car changed and the way things moved at the end of the race and I didn’t change with it.
“Tonight, I wasn’t going to let that get away from me on the top. “If they were going to beat me, they were going to have to do it on the bottom,” he added. “I don’t know if anyone was able to do it or not.”
Making Friday’s win more special was the fact that it came on Father’s Day weekend, with Schatz’s father in attendance for the historic night.
“I’m glad that my father was here for this one,” Schatz said. “He doesn’t get to all of them anymore, but he made it here.”
Schatz’s TSR teammate Kerry Madsen completed the podium, followed by Sheldon Haudenschild and Logan Schuchart, who was the night’s KSE Hard Charger after advancing from 15th to fifth.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.