On Friday night at Lakeside Speedway, Donny Schatz will almost certainly celebrate a World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series championship. Simply qualifying for the main event will be enough for Schatz to achieve that feat for the eighth time in the past 11 seasons.
But in the days before his appearance in Kansas City, Kan., Schatz offered a glimpse into the reasons for his success. When asked about his looming championship, he shifted the conversation to the disappointment of not winning his last two races — each of which were top-five finishes.
“Obviously you want to win, and that’s how you get the champion status,” he said. “When you don’t, you have to figure out why. So we have a little work to do there.”
In actuality, Schatz has put together a truly dominant season, winning 24 races and recording 58 top-five finishes. No other driver in the series has more than nine victories. Schatz, who is part of the Tony Stewart Racing team, is the first driver in series history to win at least 20 races in four straight years.
With four races remaining on the schedule, the group will take part in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Rumble on the River at Lakeside Speedway on Friday. The Lakeside Speedway clay track sends its winged sprint cars on an oval that encompasses four-tenths of a mile.
The defending champion? Who else? Donny Schatz.
“We know it’s a clean slate this weekend,” Schatz said. “Just because we won at Lakeside last year, (that) doesn’t guarantee us a shot at the win Friday. We’re going to have to earn everything we get.”
Daryn Pittman is the only other previous champion at Lakeside who will be in the mix Friday. Pittman, who won here in 2003, is second in the points standings behind Schatz. He has finished in the top 10 in every race since July 22.
“Lakeside is one of the better half-miles that we go, and it is very unique,” Pittman said. “It’s a fun track that I enjoy going to.”
Clyde Knipp, who graduated from California (Mo.) High School last May, and Brian Brown of Grain Valley are also slated to appear Friday.