MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Moments before starting on the pole for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series dash Wednesday night at Lincoln Speedway, Donny Schatz relished the scene.
He was again within reach of his 300th WoO victory, but he was sharing the front row for the dash with Pennsylvania legend Lance Dewease.
“I felt a little nostalgia lining up for the dash,” Schatz said during a phone interview Thursday evening before shifting to a humorous tone. “I’m calling it ‘The Old Boys Club’ on the front row. That’s probably what half the pit area was calling it.”
Schatz is 43 years old and Dewease is 55.
Through all the things that could possibly grow stale over two aged, illustrious careers, the long rivalry of Schatz and Dewease is far from fleeting. If anything, it’s reached its climax and die-hard fans know the exact script heading into the Morgan Cup at Williams Grove Speedway on Friday and Saturday.
This weekend, Schatz’s ongoing pursuit of series win No. 300 trudges along. If it ends, he’s on a tier only accompanied by Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell. The stage, however, is the stomping ground of Dewease, who is trying to become the first driver in the track’s long history to win 100 features in a single division.
The two have been battling at the front of sprint car fields for decades.
“It really was because when you start next to somebody like Lance you know there’s no games or no preconceived ‘I’m going to do this or that,’” Schatz continued. “We both know this: it’s not the start that wins the race. It’s what happens after that. If you’re worried about the start, you’re probably focused on the wrong timeline. You’re supposed to be worried about the finish.
“For him to be knocking on the door of 100 wins at one race track is freaking incredible,” Schatz added. “I don’t know how else you describe it.”
Dewease is also aware of the similarities between the two.
“He races the way I like to race,” Dewease said. “That’s what probably makes my respect for him so high. He’s going for his 300th career win and he doesn’t use anybody up to win the race. I think our driving styles are a lot alike. I think that’s why we have the respect for each other.”
Schatz of course grew up in Fargo, N.D., cutting his teeth at tracks like Huset’s Speedway with his respected father, Danny, leading the way. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, raised and will forever hoist the legend of Dewease.
Schatz and Dewease both entered sprint car racing with family-owned cars, not powered by loads of money, but by knowledge and desire. Their personalities are comparable, too.
“I think we’re both a lot alike,” Dewease said. “We kind of keep to ourselves. We’re not very, I don’t want to say, social because he’s social and I’m social, too, to a certain extent. But when we’re at the race track, we’re just kind of there worrying about our own deals.”
Schatz, an outgoing guy at heart, has been intentionally reserved through his travels over the years.
“I try to lead a different life that way,” Schatz said of his reservedness. “Things happen, and they change the way you think about what’s happening around you.”
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