MECHANICSBURG, PA -- Donny Schatz was all smiles on Friday night, after charging to a fourth-place finish on the opening night of the 45th Annual National Open at Williams Grove Speedway. After all, he had started 21st in the preliminary feature after timing in just 26th quickest in time trials, en route to locking himself into the pole position of the fourth heat in the finale. Those smiles carried over to Saturday night, as he dominated the 40-lap main event, leading from start to finish, picking up the $50,000 win.
Schatz led every single lap he competed in on Saturday night, winning the fourth heat, after starting on the pole position, pacing the entire Crane Cams Dash and capping the night off with a flawless performance in the A-Feature.
For the reigning World of Outlaws champion it was his third National Open win in the last four seasons and fourth overall victory in the event. It was his 17th A-Feature victory with the World of Outlaws this season and in the process of winning, he became the first driver in history to win the Knoxville Nationals, the Kings Royal, the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup, the Williams Grove Summer Nationals and the Williams Grove National Open all in the same season. Those five victories alone have been worth $300,000 to his team.
Schatz, who wound up winning five of the seven events contested by the World of Outlaws at Williams Grove Speedway this season, had to endure a couple of red flags and two complete restarts before a single lap was in the books. Two separate five car incidents plagued the open of the 40-lap event. On the third start, Schatz charged down the front straightaway to open a lead over Todd Shaffer, who stayed with him through the first seven laps.
Schatz entered traffic on the eighth lap and began to distance himself from Shaffer. Over the next 25 laps, he would extend his lead to well over a full straightaway, when the caution flag flew on the 33rd lap.
"You never know that you are going to win anything, but I have said it a million times that every time I come here I feel like I know where I can go," said the native of Fargo, North Dakota. "It's just a patience thing and knowing how hard to push your car and how hard not to push your car. I made 40 good laps and that is what counted."
On the final restart, Schatz again powered his way down the front straightaway and quickly opened a comfortably lead on Shaffer, eventually crossing the finish line over four seconds ahead of the runner-up.
"I just had to keep the tires underneath me," explained the winner. "When you go green to checkers the tires get pretty hot, no matter how hard the compound and you start to get a little loose. I started to get a little loose, but then you just have to start slowing yourself down and that is what I did. The caution really helped us cool the tires back down and from there the main thing was to not spin the tires. As long as I know I can carry speed and not spin the tires, I am in good shape. That's what we did."
While Shaffer and third-place finishing Lance Dewease got held up in traffic several times, that was not a problem for Schatz. He used the high and low side of the half-mile to negotiate the lapped machines and also used the middle of track for a large portion of the race.
"The car was awesome everywhere," noted Schatz. "We came 180 degrees from last night. Last night we felt good, but we can always be a little bit better and that is what we pushed for tonight. The track just stayed fast on the top. I thought it would go away a little bit. We were able to float through in the middle and that is where this thing really excels. When it floats through the middle, I can really get the tires locked down coming off."
Schatz was very proud of his crew for the tireless effort they put in over the weekend. After finishing fourth on Friday night in the preliminary feature, he was locked into the pole position for the fourth heat, which he won to earn a spot in the Crane Cams Dash which he also won to earn the pole position for the 40-lap A-Feature. After leading every lap in the A-Feature, he brought his season total of laps led to 390 to move into the top spot in that statistical category.
"I have to take my hat off to Ricky Warner and these guys for getting this thing like they did," said the current World of Outlaws championship point leader. "They are not scared to try things and that is what keeps winning us races."
Shaffer, the current Williams Grove Speedway point leader stayed with Schatz early in the race, but lost ground in traffic and was pleased to finish second in the McCoy Brothers Construction JEI. He had a spirited battled as the laps wound down with Lance Dewease and his runner-up finish clinched him the Williams Grove track champions.
"It was a good run," said Shaffer. "(Donny) Schatz was a little better and I think that Lance (Dewease) was even better at the end. I saw he was running the bottom and I moved down and there was a touch of rubber and we held on for second."
After having some trouble in the third heat race, Dewease has to run the B-Main which he won to earn the 13th starting spot in the A-Feature. He wound up moving up to ninth on the third start of the race and quickly began his march to the front. He passed Sean Michael and Ed Lynch Jr. on the first two laps of the race. By the ninth lap, he found himself in fifth, en route to a third-place performance in the Wirtgen J&J.
"We were pretty good the entire feature," said Dewease. "We actually ran out of fuel at the end. The team did a great job. We had a little problem in the heat and worked on the car kept plugging away. I can't say enough for the crew."
Danny Lasoski finished fourth on Saturday night aboard the Roth Motorsports JEI, after lining up16th for the 40-lap event. After the first two red flag, he restarted in the 11th spot and began his charge to the front.
Greg Hodnett finished fifth after starting on the outside of the front row in the Macri Concrete J&J.
Doug Esh, the 2006 winner of the National Open finished sixth aboard the Kinard Trucking J&J. Joey Saldana was seventh in the Open Joist JEI. Paul McMahan was eighth aboard the Bass Pro Shops Eagle. Daryn Pittman finished ninth in the Titan Garages Maxim, after starting 22nd to earn the KSE Race Products Hard Charger Award. T.J. Stutts was 10th in the Trone Outdoor Maxim.
Shaffer began the night by finishing second in the second heat, which he earned him a spot in the Crane Cams Dash, where he also finished second. While it took a while to get a full lap in the books in the A-Feature, he was quickly able to get in a rhythm as he chased Schatz.
"These guys when they are in town, you are pretty much wide open every lap," said the runner-up. "In a local show, you have to watch some of the guys running up front, but not with these guys. It's wide open all the time."
Shaffer tried everything he could on the final restart, but Schatz pulled away so quick that he was left to battle Dewease in order to hold on to the second position, where he ran for all 40 laps.
"I was hoping that I had a shot, but we didn't have anything for him at that point," Shaffer said. "We held on for second and got what we could get."
Dewease knew that it would take his car a few laps to come in once the green flag flew, so he was patient in the early laps. He and his crew made minor adjustments during the opening two red flags.
"We had hard tires so we needed a few laps to see what the tires would do," said the three-time winner of the National Open. "We didn't want to change anything (under the red flag). The car was pretty good once we got started. I like to see these things run non-stop that is how I like to race."
Dewease got around Esh on the 13th lap after shadowing him for a couple of laps, before working on working on Hodnett and Shaffer. On the final restart, he lined up right behind Shaffer and took the position as he went low in the third turn on the 33rd lap, but Shaffer battled back and took the position exiting the fourth turn and was officially scored in the second spot when the crossed the line. Dewease looked low a couple of more times in the last five laps on Shaffer, but could not make the pass stick.
"I thought I had a shot at Todd (Shaffer) and I did get by him, but he got back by me," Dewease said. "We were pretty good, but we were running out of fuel over the last three laps and that cost me from getting a run on him."
Both nights of the National Open were taped for broadcast on SPEED, with the preliminary feature from Friday night set to air on Sunday, October 7 and the finale from tonight set to air on Sunday, October 14.
The World of Outlaws return to action on October 5-6 in the Princeton PolyDome National at Princeton Speedway in Minnesota.