RPW Column: Brad Sweet May Have Won, But Donny Schatz Was The Show Friday At Volusia

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BARBERVILLE, FL – The car sitting in victory lane after the 2021 World Of Outlaws Sprint Car Series season opener Friday night at Volusia Speedway Park was Kasey Kahne Racing’s Brad Sweet.

Yes, he’ll get all the accolades that go along with that but the driver that put on the show in the lid lifter was ten-time titlist Donny Schatz.

After timing 18th in qualifying because he went out early and the track picking up speed, Schatz finished fifth in his heat race to transfer, but that put him deep in the A-Main field.

No problem for the Tony Stewart Racing driver. Schatz went to work from the drop of the green in the 30-lap feature, sometimes passing two cars in one corner. He got as high as second, passing Logan Schuchart for the runner-up spot, before giving it back in lap traffic.

All in all, the Fargo, ND driver was the man to watch on this night.

“We were decent tonight,” Schatz said. “The guys on this car did a great job. I don’t know if we were all that bad in qualifying. It’s just that I don’t think you were going to turn a lap that good going out where we did. It started to grip up on the top about halfway through.”

Even starting so far behind the eight ball, Schatz and his team went to work and probably had the best car on the track. You can only wonder if he would have been sitting in victory lane with a better starting spot.

“We just made the best of it,” he said. “Obviously, the guys weren’t happy with that and I wasn’t either. All you can do is rally back. These guys made the car better and I feel like we had a chance.”

Did Schatz think he had anything for winner Brad Sweet?

“I knew when Brad was leading there, and I could see him when we got to second, I zigged when I probably should have zagged with the lap cars or created a red (jokingly said) or something. Maybe I would have had a better chance but that’s the way it goes some days.”

So far in 2021, Donny Schatz has been on a tear. Two wins and one finish worse than sixth…a tenth in the Wild Wing Shootout back in January. As they continue their development of the new Ford 410 engine, right now, it just seems that things are clicking for the TSR 15 team. Could we see double digit wins in ’21?

“I’m not sure but this team’s been capable of winning a lot of races in the past and their capable of doing that right now,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing trying to develop a motor from the ground up. There’s a lot of little things that come up and it’s just a never-ending battle.”

With that development comes a lot of research. Sometimes, things work and sometimes they don’t and that’s the part that’s made it appear as if Schatz and company had dropped a step in performance.

“Everything else is a byproduct of a copy out here,” he said. “This is not, so it’s very frustrating at times, but we have great people. Tony (Stewart) has put the best people with it.”

No matter what, Schatz knows that he wouldn’t be running as well as he is without the guys on the crew doing an exceptional job maintaining the car.

“The guys that prep this car every race are the ones that have to wear the heartburn with stuff most days,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough because they don’t get enough of the credit. I’m just the lucky guy who gets to stand by all the confetti (in victory lane) sometimes. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Schatz and the rest of the World of Outlaws get ready to tackle race number two of the season on Saturday night, again at Volusia Speedway Park, as part of the 50th annual DIRTcar Nationals.

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