WEEDSPORT, N.Y. — After 42 races away, Donny Schatz made his long-awaited return to victory lane with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series on Sunday night.
Recording a perfect night at Weedsport Speedway, the 10-time series champion banked his 304th career win and his second of the season aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, Ford Performance, Carquest Auto Parts No. 15.
The box score will show a clean sweep of the evening for the Fargo, N.D., native, but it was no easy task come feature time as a hard-charging David Gravel and Logan Schuchart made their presence felt in the final laps of the Empire State Challenge.
On the 29th circuit with the white flag waving, the top three were separated by only.911 seconds and it was truly anyone’s to take.
It was a 44-year-old champion of the sport vs. a 30-year-old proven Weedsport ace and a 29-year-old rising star within the series. By the time the checkered flag waved, it was Schatz’s veteran prowess and mental fortitude paying off against the young guns.
“In my 26 years, I was always taught to worry about what is in front of you, and not what was behind you,” Schatz said. “As long as I’m doing things rights, then it’s their job to pass me so I’m not going to change what I’m doing for what hasn’t impacted me yet. Every race is made for winning, but we just haven’t been there. I don’t know if we were the best car at the end tonight, but we were able to get out front and stay there and battled through lap traffic. It’s been a tough learning curve these last few years with all the changes going on, but I feel like we’re getting a better handle on it.”
The victory ives Schatz three wins in six starts at Weedsport Speedway, one of the quirkiest surfaces on the schedule with The Greatest Show on Dirt.
“You hear fans talk about how unique this place, but I wish you could see it from our perspective,” Schatz said. “It’s just different. You have to be on your game 110% of the time and that makes it a ton of fun to race. I’m glad we could pick up another win here.”
Earning the KSE Hard Charger Award with his ninth-to-second run, David Gravel was only .480 seconds away from making it three consecutive wins at Weedsport Speedway on Sunday. The Big Game Motorsports No. 2 was operating in the caution-free 30-lap finale as he quickly made it to fifth on Lap five, third on lap 14, and then second on lap 20.
Gravel was 2.284 seconds behind Schatz when he drove by Brock Zearfoss for second, but promptly whittled that advantage down to nothing as he made it to Schatz’s rear bumper in the final laps. With lappers clogging the high lane and Gravel’s distinctive line boxed in a corner, he ran out of options and settled for a stellar runner-up result to continue cutting away at the championship lead.
“I know I was gaining down the straightaways, but it didn’t pay off in the corners with where I needed to get going,” Gravel noted. “It was a really good weekend in all, though. This is great momentum for us leading into the Ironman 55 and Knoxville Nationals. I’m excited for the rest of the season, this team is feeling good.”
Ending a 15-race absence from the podium, Logan Schuchart scored his first top-three outing in more than a month as he offered a spectacular showing in the late stages at Weedsport.
“I think a little iRacing helped out tonight,” Schuchart joked. “I could sail it off in there into turn one with a lot of speed and bounce it off the cushion in turn two, and I think I made a ton of speed that way. I thought I had a good shot to maybe surprise Donny and David, but the lapper hurt my momentum when I needed it most. It feels good to be back up here on the podium, and we did it by passing some great cars. This definitely gets the confidence up ahead of Ironman and Knoxville.”
Zearfoss and James McFadden rounded out the top five.
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 15-Donny Schatz (1); 2. 2-David Gravel (9); 3. 1S-Logan Schuchart (7); 4. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss (2); 5. 83-James McFadden (3); 6. 99-Larry Wight (4); 7. 49-Brad Sweet (8); 8. 5-Spencer Bayston (12); 9. 01-Danny Varin (6); 10. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild (15); 11. 10-Paulie Colagiovanni (11); 12. 41-Carson Macedo (10); 13. 11K-Kraig Kinser (20); 14. 98-Joe Trenca (18); 15. 9-Kasey Kahne (14); 16. 1A-Jacob Allen (5); 17. 7S-Robbie Price (17); 18. 7NY-Matt Farnham (21); 19. 20G-Noah Gass (13); 20. 5H-Chris Hile (16); 21. 79-Jordan Thomas (19); 22. 2X-Dave Axton (22); 23. 41R-Dalton Rombough (24); 24. 6-Bill Rose (25); 25. 28F-Davie Franek (23).
Keyword: Schatz Is Perfect In Weedsport Score