THE PIT STOP
By SCOTT WATSON
---- — Hello race fans and welcome to The Pit Stop.
Last week, the title of The Pit Stop referred to Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D., gunning for his seventh Knoxville Nationals title. This past Saturday night, he did win his seventh title in the last eight years, but he did it in dramatic fashion.
Schatz’s qualifying night on Wednesday did not go as well as he had planned. He timed in at eighth quickest and he followed that up with a fifth-place finish in his heat race, which put him in the B Main race. After finishing third there, with the top four moving into the A Main, Schatz started 23rd on Wednesday and worked his way through the field to finish in tenth place.
When it was all said and done after the second qualifying night on Thursday, Schatz had accumulated enough points for a starting position in the B Main on Saturday night. However, 2013 marked the second year that drivers could erase their qualifying points and start with a clean slate and try their luck on Friday night by re-qualifying.
Most everyone assumed that Schatz would take advantage of this option. However, he did not and elected to stay with his B Main start on Saturday night. Schatz made the most of his Saturday night by making a last-lap, last-turn pass for the lead of the B Main and he took the checkers for the win. That got him a 21st starting position in the A Main.
The A Main was a 50-lap event where officials would stop the race somewhere around lap 25 for the teams to re-fuel and make changes to the car for the remaining segment of the race. None of the race teams knew which lap the caution would come out, but it would be somewhere around the midway point.
The caution came out after 24 laps had been completed and Schatz had already worked his way into fifth place. Brian Brown of Grain Valley, Missouri, had led the first 24 laps and appeared to be on his way to his first Nationals win.
The teams had five minutes to make the changes and then they were pushed back out onto the track. Brown drove to a good lead at the drop of the green flag while Schatz worked his way into second.
Brown had built up a three-second lead when Schatz finally made his way into second and started chopping away at the lead. Schatz caught Brown and passed into the lead on lap 41.
Brown made a valiant effort to try to regain the lead but Schatz pulled away for the victory and $150,000. All of this was done on Schatzs’ birthday and with his car owner, NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart, still in the hospital recovering from his wreck at Oskaloosa on Monday, August 5.
Stewart did have a second operation Thursday morning to insert a metal rod in one of the bones in his right leg. Everything went well and he was released from the hospital Sunday. Schatz won the race from the deepest starting position in the Nationals history. Brown finished in second place to Schatz for the second consecutive year with Justin Henderson of Tea, South Dakota, in third place.
Brown took home $75,000 for his second place finish. Schatz has been racing a Late Model the past few summers which has helped him learn how to drive a race car without depending on the wing as much and he credited that Late Model racing to making him a better driver.
“We just wanted to get into the A Main field," said Schatz. “It was a 50-lap race and I told the team that we needed to be in the top five at the half-way point. Once we got there we felt good about making our way to the win.” The 'King of the Outlaws,' Steve Kinser of Bloomington, Indiana, finished in ninth place while Danny Dietrich of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was awarded the 'Rookie-of-the-Nationals' award. Kevin Swindell of Bartlett, Tennessee, earned the Jesse Hockett 'Mr. Sprint Car' title by amassing the most points during the ten straight nights of racing between The Knoxville Raceway and The Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa.
Jeff Gordon was in attendance and they held some fundraising events for the 'Kick It' Foundation he is involved with which is focused on helping kids with cancer. They raised over $43,000 in one of the events and held a kick ball tournament on Friday where they raised a lot more money for the foundation. The 53rd Annual FVP Knoxville Nationals are in the books and once again the officials and workers at Knoxville deserve a big pat on the back for their efforts on putting on a great event. I'm counting down the days until the 54th Annual Knoxville Nationals are upon us. Eddyville Raceway Park has their World Fuel Altered Nationals this weekend. This is another one of the events I look forward to each year. These nitro-methane belching machines put on a fantastic show and if you haven’t been to this event, you really need to be there.
Friday night is a test-and-tune night for all vehicles as well as preliminary qualifying for the Nitro Fuel Altereds. Saturday action will have the Nostalgia Gassers, Casey’s General Stores Stick Shifters, Super Street, Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Nostalgia Drag Classes, regular bracket classes as well as the final qualifying and eliminations for the World Fuel Altered Nationals.
Sunday action will be a bracket point race along with the Super Street, Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Modified and Modified Jr classes. If you have the opportunity to attend this show, you won’t be disappointed. The Bloomfield Speedway has Open Wheel Friday action where the 360 Sprint Invaders are in action on Friday night. Also on the card of racing will be the Sport Modifieds, Stock Cars, Hobby Stocks and Sport Compacts. It will be night four of the Budweiser Six Pack Shootout where the Stock Cars will be racing for an $800 top prize.
Hot laps get underway at 7 p.m. at Bloomfield on Friday.
The Knoxville Raceway and The Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa are taking the week off from racing. I have to go for this week. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you at the track. Gone racin’.