The tide has turned for Donny Schatz since the calendar flipped from April to May.
Without a top-10 finish in seven races between March 31 and the end of April, Schatz and his No. 15 Tony Stewart Racing team were searching for answers.
Though the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series trip to Ohio’s Eldora Speedway early in the month was a breath of fresh air, as Schatz finished second and third during the doubleheader weekend.
Friday’s Morgan Cup feature at Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway, won by Kasey Kahne Racing’s Brad Sweet, continued the TSR team’s surge as Schatz drove from sixth to third for his third podium in four races.
The 10-time World of Outlaws champion was proud of the team’s effort at the half-mile dirt track, though believes second was within reach if the cards had fallen his way.
“I think we should’ve been second. If the race would’ve stayed yellow, I think we probably could’ve been second,” Schatz told SPEED SPORT. “The 49 (Sweet) was really good, he was rolling through there. They’ve been really consistent, so when you’re consistent, those things sort of go your way.
“We’ve been more consistent, but we gotta get some wins here, we gotta get ourselves knocking on the door every night. Hats off to these guys for what they’ve accomplished. It’s kind of been a kick in the stomach really for most of the season.”
When it comes to shedding the performance issues that have troubled the team to begin the year, Schatz believes it’s a longer process than eradicating it overnight.
“There’s so many variables that you just can’t pinpoint one thing to put it on,” Schatz said. “It’s a lot of different things, so I’m glad we at least got ourself in a position where we can compete in a little bit better position.”
The performance of the Ford engine in his familiar No. 15 machine has been a topic of concern the past few seasons, along with adjusting to a different style of racing now seen on the World of Outlaws tour.
Though a second-half surge last year saw Schatz earn his 11th Knoxville Nationals crown, and collect a pair of wins during World Finals weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.).
The road to an 11th Outlaws title is far from over for Schatz with plenty of racing left in the season, though regaining championship form comes down to consistency.
For Schatz and the No. 15 team, controlling what they can control is all they can ask for in achieving that goal.
“They’re doing their job the way they should. They’re adjusting things, getting things, right,” Schatz said. “You just can’t have these, you know, 12 to 15-race sprees at the beginning of the year where it takes you that long to get going.
“There’s so many variables that it comes down to the way these motors run in different types of air. The fact that there’s things we can’t get. There are so many things that are out of our control, and we’re trying to control everything that we can, within our realm, and they’ve done a great job of that.
“It’s just better to be in this position we are in today versus the one we were a month ago.”Follow @DHoffmanMedia22