Gravel records career-best season on tour
CONCORD, N.C. - Oct. 29, 2016 - Donny Schatz orchestrated the celebration of his 229th career trip to victory lane differently Saturday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. The 20-year World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series superstar - as usual - hoisted the flag into an erupting confetti machine after the Bad Boy Off Road World Finals. But the thousands of fans erupted too when he casted the VP Racing Fuels checkered flag into the stands among the falling confetti.
Another extraordinary component to Schatz's night-cap was his reflection on the other 24 wins during the season. Each victory added value to his season - alongside the 60 top-five's and 77 top-10's in a season with some-90 points races. Collectively, his consistent success throughout the rigor of one of the most premier national tours led to a dominant 314-point spread in the series' points race. With the points lead, Schatz officially captured his eighth series championship; Schatz has won a championship in 40 percent of his seasons with the Outlaws.
"I know fans would have loved to see it go down to the wire," said Schatz about his championship campaign. "It's hard to say in this sport when you take 92 events coast-to-coast you have during the season. We left Florida to start this season 100-plus points in the hole. We had to win. We dug out of that hole - a 100-point deficit to a 300-point deposit with four DNFs along the way. To me, it was one of the hardest fought comebacks that we've had, and I'm really proud of my guys for that. After that, it says there's nothing my guys can't do."
Like Schatz alluded to, he and his Tony Stewart Racing team encountered adversity at DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. Though he captured his first win of the season on the second night of the three-day event, Schatz did not make the feature in the opener and concluded the event placing outside of the top 10. For the reigning series champion, who won 31 races in 2015, he felt the pressure early-on.
"On paper, we won a lot of races and had no DNFs," said Schatz recollecting on 2015. "The hardest thing you can ever do is come out of a hole. We came out of that hole, and had consistent top-five and top-three finishes. But, there were also some things we left on the table. We left a championship out of Knoxville [Nationals], but this championship somewhat makes up for that."
This year's championship and a victory at the highly-regarded King's Royal at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway were two redeemable up-sides to the season. To him, those moments are still "hard to put into perspective." In the 10-month span of preparation and competition, Schatz's successes have yet to resonate with him. Though it will take Schatz some time to absorb the total success of the year, his triumph for the finale of World Finals was felt immediately in victory lane.
Schatz, who started fifth for the 30-lap feature, used his momentum from the previous night toward his 2016 season send-off. Schatz was honored with the KSE Hard Charger award the previous night, climbing 10 spots to a third place finish. Starting nine spots better than Friday's feature, Schatz was in a better position to contend for the win.
Platinum driver David Gravel, who won his heat race and the Craftsman® Club Dash earlier in the program, was seeking his 10th win of the season; by doing so, he would have joined Schatz as the only two drivers in the series to record double-digit win totals. Gravel led the field into the green flag. From there he alternated from the top in turns one and two to the bottom in turns three and four to maintain the top spot.
The first of four cautions on the second lap not only diminished Gravel's buffer, but also regrouped the field. On the restart, Schatz charged forward. He picked-up his podium spot then, thereon setting his sights on quick-timer Greg Hodnett and Gravel ahead of him. Schatz eventually used lapped traffic to take over the second spot on the backstretch. More importantly, a trend was developing: Schatz used the breaks in momentum from the cautions to his advantage.
The race's second caution on the 13th lap again regrouped the field; the top-three was beginning to separate by half-second intervals before the yellow flag waved. His strategy of using cautions came into play three laps later when it paired him with Gravel. Gravel defended his top spot on the restart and more importantly in turns one and two. However, the following lap reopened the door in Schatz's favor. Schatz, unable to get under Gravel the first time, made a successful move the second time around before another caution on the 15th lap.
Halfway home, Gravel dipped below Schatz in an attempt to reclaim the lead. But, a strong restart from Schatz made it an ill-attempt. Gravel stayed on pace with Schatz thereafter, maintaining a sub-second distance away from him. The race's final caution with nine laps remaining gave Gravel another opportunity to strike.
Gravel, taking the same approach, tried to leverage his racecar underneath Schatz's in turns three and four. However, Schatz's raw speed kept the battle at bay; he led Gravel by 0.472 seconds with eight laps to go. Within those laps, Platinum driver Joey Saldana sealed the deal for third. Saldana started seventh in the feature.
"As the run went on, the more and more [Schatz] slipped off turn four," said Gravel, explaining his strategy. "The bottom was definitely better there later, but I just could not keep up on the restarts. He just checked-out on the restarts, and I just couldn't close the gap."
While Schatz and Gravel protected their spots for the rest of the feature, Hodnett sought revenge. In the closing laps, Hodnett was able to reclaim the final podium spot. Even so, seven Outlaws finished inside the top 10. Schatz ultimately won the race by a 0.788-second margin.
"Joey races really hard, but I could squeeze in under him a couple of times enough to get out front," Hodnett said. "But I'll tell you what, hats-off to Schatz, Gravel and those guys. All these guys are really tough, and just to be able to half-ass compete with them, I'm just really proud of it. Would have liked the turn out to be better, but we'll be back God-willing to see what we can do in front of these great fans."
Gravel, the 2013 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year, recorded his best season with the Outlaws since joining the national tour. He improved on last year's winless season, taking nine more checkered flags and earning 36 more top-five performances.
The Dirt Track at Charlotte Notebook
RACE NOTES: Donny Schatz finished the 2016 season strong, winning the Bad Boy Off Road World Finals finale at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Starting fifth, Schatz used lapped traffic and a series of cautions to eventually overtake polesitter David Gravel. Greg Hodnett maintained his podium after a late push from Platinum driver Joey Saldana.
CONTINGENCY WINNERS: MSD Ignitions ($25 cash): Greg Wilson; MSD Ignitions ($50 cash): Donny Schatz; Penske Shocks ($50 cash): Danny Lasoski; JE Pistons ($50 cash): Logan Schuchart; VP Racing Fuels ($50 cash): Daryn Pittman; Edelbrock ($50 cash): Jason Sides; Comp Cams ($50 cash): Jason Sides; Morton Buildings ($50 cash): Tim Shaffer; Cometic Gasket ($50 cash): Jason Johnson; Super Flow ($50 cash): Danny Dietrich; Craftsman Club Fast Five ($100 cash): David Gravel, Shane Stewart, Joey Saldana; Craftsman/Sears: Ian Madsen; KSE Hard Charger: Logan Schuchart; Comp Cams ($50 product certificate): Donny Schatz; JE Pistons (Set of Rings): Brad Sweet; JE Pistons (Set of Rings): Paul McMahan
SEASON WINNERS: Donny Schatz - 25 (Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 14, The Dirt Track at Las Vegas on March 4, Stockton Dirt Track on March 18, Stockton Dirt Track on March 19, Silver Dollar Speedway on April 2, Lincoln Speedway on May 19, Weedsport Speedway on May 22, Lincoln Park Speedway on June 8, Knoxville Raceway on June 11, River Cities Speedway on June 17, Rockford Speedway on June 29, Badlands Motor Speedway on July 3, Cedar Lake Speedway on July 9, Attica Raceway Park on July 12, Eldora Speedway on July 16, Ohsweken Speedway on July 26, Junction Motor Speedway on August 16, Angell Park Speedway on August 21, River Cities Speedway on August 26, Nodak Speedway on August 28, Willamette Speedway on September 7, Clay County Fair Speedway on September 16, Lernerville Speedway on September 24, Fulton Speedway on October 8, The Dirt Track at Charlotte on October 28); David Gravel - 9 (Thunderbowl Raceway on March 12, Tri-State Speedway on May 14, I-96 Speedway on June 6, Eldora Speedway on July 14, Lernerville Speedway on July 19, Wilmot Raceway on July 30, Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 on Aug. 5, Skagit Speedway on Sept 2 and 3); Shane Stewart - 8 (Arizona Speedway on March 6, Devil's Bowl Speedway on April 23, Lawrenceburg Speedway on May 30, Granite City Speedway on June 15, Brown County Speedway on June 19, Silver Dollar Speedway on September 9; Hartford Speedway on September 22; Eldora Speedway on September 24); Brad Sweet - 8 (Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 13, Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 14, Cotton Bowl Speedway on Feb. 26, Ocean Speedway on April 1, Bakersfield Speedway on April 15, Plymouth Speedway on May 13, Badlands Motor Speedway on July 2; Lakeside Speedway on October 21); Daryn Pittman - 8 (Royal Purple Raceway on Feb. 27, Perris Auto Speedway on April 16, USA Raceway on April 18, New Egypt Speedway on May 24, Jackson Motorplex on June 24, Eldora Speedway on July 15, Williams Grove Speedway on July 22; Salina Highbanks Speedway on October 22); Joey Saldana - 5 (The Dirt Track at Las Vegas on March 3, Devil's Bowl Speedway on April 22, Jacksonville Speedway on May 4, I-80 Speedway on June 22, U.S. 36 Raceway on September 17); Jason Johnson - 4 (Placerville Speedway on March 24, Knoxville Nationals on August 13, El Paso County Raceway on September 14, The Dirt Track at Charlotte on October 28); Lance Dewease - 2 (Williams Grove Speedway on May 20, Williams Grove Speedway on July 23); Kerry Madsen - 2 (Eldora Speedway on May 6 and 7); Rico Abreu - 2 (Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 on Aug. 6, Silver Dollar Speedway on September 10); Logan Schuchart - 2 (Cedar Lake Speedway on July 9; Port Royal Speedway on October 15); Bill Balog - 1 (Beaver Dam Raceway on June 25); Chad Kemenah - 1 (Fremont Speedway on June 3); Terry McCarl - 1 (Knoxville Raceway on June 10); Jason Sides - 1 (I-30 Speedway on April 26); Greg Wilson - 1 (The Dirt Track at Charlotte on May 27); Danny Dietrich - 1 (Williams Grove Speedway on October 14)
World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series Statistical Report; The Dirt Track at Charlotte, N.C.; Oct. 29, 2016
Feature - (30 Laps) -1. 15-Donny Schatz [5] [$12,000]; 2. 5-David Gravel [1] [$5,500]; 3. 27-Greg Hodnett [3] [$3,200]; 4. 83-Joey Saldana [7] [$2,800]; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart [14] [$2,500]; 6. 21-Brian Brown [9] [$2,300]; 7. 2-Shane Stewart [4] [$2,200]; 8. 9-Daryn Pittman [12] [$2,100]; 9. 10H-Chad Kemenah [13] [$2,050]; 10. 7S-Jason Sides [18] [$2,000]; 11. 49X-Tim Shaffer [6] [$1,500]; 12. 99-Brady Bacon [17] [$1,200]; 13. 41-Jason Johnson [10] [$1,100]; 14. 48-Danny Dietrich [11] [$1,050]; 15. 2L-Danny Lasoski [21] [$1,000]; 16. 49-Brad Sweet [16] [$1,000]; 17. 1B-Dale Blaney [20] [$1,000]; 18. 5W-Lucas Wolfe [23] [$1,000]; 19. 23-Trey Starks [24] [$1,000]; 20. 17B-Bill Balog [15] [$1,000]; 21. 71M-Dave Blaney [22] [$1,000]; 22. 7-Paul McMahan [25] [$]; 23. W20-Greg Wilson [26] [$]; 24. 18-Ian Madsen [2] [$1,000]; 25. 93-Sheldon Haudenschild [8] [$1,000]; 26. 82-Sammy Swindell [19] [$1,000]Lap Leaders:David Gravel 1-14, Donny Schatz 15-30KSE Hard Charger Award:1S-Logan Schuchart [+9]
Heat 1 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature) -1. 27-Greg Hodnett [1]; 2. 49X-Tim Shaffer [2]; 3. 21-Brian Brown [4]; 4. 10H-Chad Kemenah [5]; 5. 99-Brady Bacon [3]; 6. 3G-Carson Macedo [6]; 7. 11K-Kraig Kinser [8]; 8. 49H-Doug Esh [11]; 9. 23-Trey Starks [7]; 10. 4-Cole Duncan [10]; 11. 91-Chad Boespflug [12]; 12. 2MX-Hunter Schuerenberg [9]
Heat 2 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature) -1. 18-Ian Madsen [1]; 2. 93-Sheldon Haudenschild [2]; 3. 48-Danny Dietrich [4]; 4. 17B-Bill Balog [3]; 5. 82-Sammy Swindell [8]; 6. 17W-Kerry Madsen [9]; 7. 5W-Lucas Wolfe [5]; 8. 2M-Brent Marks [7]; 9. A67-Cale Conley [11]; 10. 23M-Lance Moss [12]; 11. 67-Tanner Thorson [10]; 12. 1A-Jac Haudenschild [6]
Heat 3 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature) -1. 2-Shane Stewart [1]; 2. 83-Joey Saldana [2]; 3. 41-Jason Johnson [4]; 4. 1S-Logan Schuchart [3]; 5. 7S-Jason Sides [9]; 6. 19-Paige Polyak [6]; 7. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [8]; 8. 2L-Danny Lasoski [5]; 9. 77X-Parker Price-Miller [10]; 10. 94-Ryan Smith [7]; 11. W20-Greg Wilson [11]; 12. 27G-Jay Galloway [12]
Heat 4 - (8 Laps - Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature) -1. 5-David Gravel [2]; 2. 15-Donny Schatz [3]; 3. 9-Daryn Pittman [1]; 4. 49-Brad Sweet [4]; 5. 1B-Dale Blaney [7]; 6. 51S-Stevie Smith [6]; 7. 7-Paul McMahan [8]; 8. 23C-Tyler Courtney [9]; 9. 71M-Dave Blaney [5]; 10. 25-Tyler Bear [10]; 11. 4S-Danny Smith [11]
Craftsman Club® Dash - (6 Laps, finishing order determined first 8 starting positions of A-feature) -1. 5-David Gravel [4]; 2. 18-Ian Madsen [3]; 3. 27-Greg Hodnett [1]; 4. 2-Shane Stewart [2]; 5. 15-Donny Schatz [8]; 6. 49X-Tim Shaffer [5]; 7. 83-Joey Saldana [6]; 8. 93-Sheldon Haudenschild [7]
C-Main - (10 Laps - Top 2 finishers transfer to the B-feature) -1. 4-Cole Duncan [1] [-]; 2. 23C-Tyler Courtney [2] [-]; 3. 49H-Doug Esh [5] [$150]; 4. 77X-Parker Price-Miller [4] [$150]; 5. 67-Tanner Thorson [3] [$150]; 6. 25-Tyler Bear [6] [$125]; 7. W20-Greg Wilson [8] [$125]; 8. A67-Cale Conley [7] [$125]; 9. 91-Chad Boespflug [9] [$125]; 10. 23M-Lance Moss [11] [$125]; 11. 4S-Danny Smith [10] [$125]; 12. 27G-Jay Galloway [12] [$125]; 13. 1A-Jac Haudenschild [13] [$125]; 14. 13-Clyde Knipp [14] [$125]; 15. OO-Dane Lorenc [15] [$125]
Last Chance Showdown - (12 Laps - Top 4 finishers transfer to the A-feature) -1. 2L-Danny Lasoski [2] [-]; 2. 71M-Dave Blaney [4] [-]; 3. 5W-Lucas Wolfe [1] [-]; 4. 23-Trey Starks [5] [-]; 5. 3G-Carson Macedo [3] [$300]; 6. 51S-Stevie Smith [8] [$250]; 7. 2M-Brent Marks [7] [$225]; 8. 94-Ryan Smith [10] [$200]; 9. 7-Paul McMahan [14] [$200]; 10. 11K-Kraig Kinser [9] [$200]; 11. 17W-Kerry Madsen [13] [$200]; 12. 2MX-Hunter Schuerenberg [11] [$200]; 13. 19-Paige Polyak [6] [$200]; 14. 4-Cole Duncan [15] [$200]; 15. 23C-Tyler Courtney [16] [$200]; 16. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [12] [$200]
Unofficial World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series Championship Standings
Pos.
Car
Driver
Total
Diff
Wins
Top 5's
Top 10's
QT
1
15
Donny Schatz
11321
0
25
60
77
5
2
9
Daryn Pittman
11007
-314
8
45
68
7
3
5
David Gravel
10978
-343
9
46
68
8
4
49
Brad Sweet
10973
-348
8
45
65
13
5
83
Joey Saldana
10800
-521
5
31
62
10
6
2
Shane Stewart
10773
-548
8
39
66
5
7
41
Jason Johnson
10256
-1065
4
19
46
4
8
1S
Logan Schuchart
10127
-1194
2
20
39
3
9
7s
Jason Sides
9866
-1455
1
5
28
2
10
7
Paul McMahan
9454
-1867
0
1
18
0
11
W20
Greg Wilson
9084
-2237
1
4
13
0
12
1A
Jacob Allen
8814
-2507
0
2
10
0
13
29
Kerry Madsen
6703
-4618
2
12
30
2
14
13
Clyde Knipp
6018
-5303
0
0
0
0
15
11k
Kraig Kinser
3444
-7877
0
3
8
0
16
1
Sammy Swindell
3417
-7904
0
2
6
1
17
18
Ian Madsen
3415
-7906
0
1
12
1
18
24
Terry McCarl
3226
-8095
1
1
5
0
19
41
Dominic Scelzi
3076
-8245
0
1
5
0
20
21
Brian Brown
3047
-8274
0
4
11
1

The World of Outlaws is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including: Bad Boy Off Road (Official Side-by-Side Vehicle), Craftsman (Official Tool), Hoosier Racing Tire (Official Tire), Morton Buildings (Official Building), Sears (Official Home Store), The Kenny Wallace Dirt Racing Experience (Official Racing Experience) and VP Racing Fuels (Official Racing Fuel); in addition to contingency sponsors, including: Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, JE Pistons, KSE Racing Products, MSD, Penske Shocks, and Superflow Dynos; along with manufacturer sponsors, including: Impact Racing Products, Intercomp, Racing Electronics, S&S Volvo and TNT Rescue.

Founded in 1978, the World of Outlaws®, based in Concord, N.C., is the premier national touring series for dirt track racing in North America, featuring the most powerful cars on dirt, the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series and the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series. Annually, the two series race nearly 140 times at tracks across the United States and Canada. CBS Sports Network is the official broadcast partner of the World of Outlaws.

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