Schatz wins Knoxville Nationals for seventh time
Starting from 21st on the grid after winning the last chance qualifier didn’t hamper Sprintcar superstar, Donny Schatz in retaining his FVP Knoxville Nationals Championship, scything his way through the strongest Sprintcar field in the world, which included a record four Australians.
After a difficult week for the Tony Stewart Racing team following the incident that broke the team boss’s leg on Monday night, Schatz set a new record for the deepest starting racer to win the Nationals, the STP-backed driver scoring the $150,000 winner’s cheque on his birthday.
By lap five, Schatz had made it into the top 10 and then worked forward – finally taking the lead with nine laps to go.
Pre-event favourite, Brian Brown led for much of the race, extending his advantage out over three seconds at one occasion before caution periods closed the field once more.
After the competition red at the 24 lap mark, Brown skipped away again, with Schatz working his way forward from fifth. Getting involved with lapped traffic, Brown continued to lead before he was closed down by Schatz, the North Dakota driver sweeping past Brown as the race entered its final stages on a heavily rubbered track.
Schatz got across the line first in an emphatic victory – winning by 4.093 seconds in the end!
Showing the true mark of a Champion, Schatz hadn’t featured throughout the Nationals until the final stages and in victory lane he spoke about whether he doubted if he could take the win.
“I didn’t call it doubt, I called it motivation,” said Schatz. “This race team is unbelievable. I told these guys if we weren’t in the top five on that stoppage, we were going to be in trouble. I did not expect the track to get abrasive and take rubber like that.
“Man to get through there (from 21st); I don’t know what the hell else anyone wants me to do,” he added. “I guess I’m just going to keep doing what I do. That was a lot of fun to be able to start that far back and get up there. I know if it’s that much fun for me, it’s got to be that much fun for everyone here.”
Brown finished runner-up for the second year in a row, no doubt feeling as though he had nothing left to give, whilst Justin Henderson had his best Knoxville Nationals run, coming home in third placing despite having a slow puncture due to a hole in one of his tyres.
Paul McMahan and Chad Kemenah rounded out the top five, whilst Kyle Larson, Joey Saldana, Danny Lasoski, Steve Kinser and Cap Henry rounded out the top 10.
Australia had it’s best representation in the final in Nationals history with four drivers lining up in the 25 car field.
The best run of the Aussies was Kerry Madsen in 16th, he was followed by Brooke Tatnell in 19th, Ian Madsen in 21st and Lynton Jeffrey 22nd. Jeffrey emulated his starting position after following Schatz through from the B-Main with Dusty Zomer and Ian Madsen.
Sam Hafertepe Jr, Tim Shaffer, Danny Dietrich and Josh Schneiderman qualified from the C-Main, Dale Blaney won the D-Main whilst Sammy Swindell led an incredible alphabet surge with victory in the E-Main. He qualified for the C by finishing the D in third (of 24) and then got himself up to seventh in the C-Main, narrowly missing a B-Main transfer spot.
Other Australians in action included Paul Morris who took Glen Saville with him to the D-Main when they finished fifth and sixth respectively in the E-Main. The D was where it ended for the pair, finishing 20th and 23rd respectively.
Australian Champion, James McFadden was eliminated in the B-Main, being credited with 23rd.
All in all though, the spoils remained with Schatz who just showed his incredible talent and fighting spirit to beat out 108 other competitors for the seventh occasion. He is truly the current King of Knoxville.