Donny Schatz Gold Cup Race of Champions preview
CHICO, CA - In the past calendar year, Donny Schatz has won his share of prestigious sprint car races around the world. This weekend, Schatz will pilot the ParkerStores/Featherlite Coaches J&J sprint car in the 48th annual Gold Cup Race of Champions ...
CHICO, CA - In the past calendar year, Donny Schatz has won his share of prestigious sprint car races around the world. This weekend, Schatz will pilot the ParkerStores/Featherlite Coaches J&J sprint car in the 48th annual Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, CA. For Schatz, the Gold Cup represents a chance to add another marquee event to his growing list of accomplishments.
"I'd really like to have a great weekend and win the Gold Cup," said the 24 year old Schatz. "Last fall, we won the National Open at Williams Grove and in January, we were able to win "The Classic" in Australia. The Gold Cup is the biggest race every year in California, and we'd like to have this championship under our belt, too."
Schatz is having the best season of his Pennzoil World of Outlaws career and will be making his fifth Gold Cup appearance this weekend. In his World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year season in 1997, he qualified 20th, won his heat race and finished 11th in the preliminary feature before finishing 18th in the Gold Cup finale. The following season, he qualified 23rd, won his heat race and finished 14th in the preliminary feature prior to his 14th place Gold Cup finish. In 1999, Schatz qualified second, finished third in his heat race and scored a fifth in the preliminary main event. He finished a career-best fourth in the 1999 Gold Cup after spinning early and roaring through the field from the back of the pack. Last season, he qualified fifth, finished fourth in his heat, finished sixth in the prelim feature and had a 20th place finish in the Gold Cup "A".
"We were probably a lot better than where we finished last year," continued Schatz. "In 1999, we had a really good shot, but got spun around early. This is always a tough race, but I love all the action on these smaller tracks. We don't get to race too many nights on small tracks, and Silver Dollar Speedway is almost identical to Grand Forks (ND) Speedway where I started my sprint car career."
The "Minot Missile" currently ranks fifth in the WoO points standings, just 11 points behind fourth place Craig Dollansky, and has won the second most overall feature events trailing only point leader Mark Kinser. He's won six "A" features and four preliminary feature events. He came from 11th to first to win his first "A" feature of the season on April 29 at Huset's Speedway (SD) and drove from 10th to first in the opener of the Channellock Challenge at Bristol Motor Speedway in June.
Other highlights during the season have been his sweep of two feature events at Williams Grove Speedway on July 26th and winning his first career feature event at Knoxville Raceway in the second qualifying program at the Amoco Knoxville Nationals. He's also added feature event wins in New York (Lebanon Valley), Kansas (Heartland Park Topeka), New Jersey (New Egypt), Montana (MetraPark) and pocketed an extra $10,000 by winning the Kele World Challenge from the 15th starting position.
"We've had a pretty good season, but lately things haven't been going well," said Schatz. "We are looking for something to get us back on track. There's no better place than Chico for us to get back to victory lane. We've been really competitive and in position to win a lot of races this season and our mindset coming in is to be in a position to win on Saturday. (Crew Chief) Kenny Woodruff and the Anderson brothers (Shane and Brent) have worked really hard all season to give me a great race car. Jack Elam builds us good race cars and Ron Shaver does a great job with our motor program."
Schatz will qualify the #15 ParkerStores/Featherlite Coaches J&J on Friday night as the field will be split in half. Schatz admits that he used to think it made a difference when you qualified, but now realizes that if you can get your car dialed in that it makes no difference which night you qualify on.
"I used to think it was always better to qualify on the first night," said Schatz. "The first two years I was here we went the second night and weren't real good, and then the last two years we were much better on the first night. Our program has gotten a lot better in the last two years too, so it probably doesn't make a big difference. We qualified on the second night at the Knoxville Nationals and things worked out pretty well for us there, so hopefully we'll have the same success here."