MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Donny Schatz brings a competitive fire wherever he goes with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series, so his description of Williams Grove Speedway explains why it’s always suited him well.
“This is one place that’s fiery,” Schatz said Friday night after a podium finish. “The fans have comments. And the fans, we get to hear them. It’s always a good thing.”
Tonight Schatz takes aim at his seventh National Open title. If the complexion of this evening is anything like his sixth title last year, Schatz could be in for another joyride.
Last year, Schatz had struggled and didn’t look like his championship self for the first time in a long while. Some fans saw it as a window to harass the 10-time World of Outlaws champion.
“I was trying to wave at them guys in the infield in turn three,” Schatz said last year, some of his first words in victory lane. “They told me that I suck before the race started, so I figured that I would remind them that before that race I was the only five-time National Open champion.
“Now it’s six,” he said. “Thank you, guys, for the motivation in turn three. That’s just what I needed.”
Schatz insists he is the same person, the same competitor, especially, wherever travels. Not just him, but all the World of Outlaws competitors.
“It’s not like we go third to fourth gear for big events,” Schatz said.
His response in victory lane, on the other hand, suggested something different.
“Yeah, you get a little motivation when people say derogatory things,” Schatz said.
The heightened intensity thanks to the words of Pennsylvania fans, whether cheerful or insulting, is just a small piece to Schatz’s greatness at Williams Grove.
In another year where things are off kilter, his strength at Williams Grove hasn’t weakened.
Schatz has finished eighth, eighth, fourth, third and third in five races at the tricky half-mile this year, in that order. He could have battled eventual winner Kyle Larson and Logan Schuchart for the win Friday, but the 25-lap main event didn’t get deep enough in lapped traffic.
“Every time we come to Williams Grove with the Fords, we have ourselves in a really good position,” Schatz said. “It’s just the way the track races, the horsepower is key here.
“Our car is really balanced right now,” Schatz added. “Our motors have a ton of horsepower, a ton of torque. We can get ourselves qualified well, but when it comes to racing, at the end of the race, there’s that … it’s hard to get it corralled and make it do the things it needs to do in traffic.
“We had a solid night, really solid night,” Schatz continued. “Tonight, we were there at the end of the race. Kyle out front, baby Jesus driving the 57, what are you going to do?”
For Schatz, he’s perfectly content with his career-long, run-of-the-mill routine.
“I go to bed every night the same way, I get up the same way, tomorrow is a different day,” Schatz said. “It just happens to be the same race track tomorrow we raced at tonight. The dynamic is going to be the same, it’s just I’ll wake up in a different hotel bed.
“We’ll see what happens,” Schatz said. “We’re all pretty confident at the moment.”