Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – WEEDSPORT, NY – After finishing runner-up to David Gravel Saturday night, Donny Schatz was able to hold off a hard-charging Gravel in the final ten laps to win a caution-free Empire State Challenge with the World of Outlaws.
The win is Donny’s second of the season and a clean sweep. Schatz was quickest in hot laps, qualifying, heat one, drawing the pole for the dash and winning it, and leading all thirty laps. It’s also his first since the DIRTCar Nationals, snapping a 42-race winless streak and scoring career win #305.
“It was a great night. Doesn’t happen that way very often,” Schatz told RPW. “Qualifying good is very important here, and the front row spot helps. Tried some different things here tonight; this place is really slick. Got to do some things to get some extra grip, and ended up a phenomenal job.”
Gravel took P2 from Brock Zearfoss with around ten laps to go. He was behind 2.3 seconds to Schatz. With five to go, it was down to 0.7 seconds. Gravel had chances to strike with four and two laps when the gap was a quarter of a second, but it didn’t work.
“David was better at the end. We struggle at the end of these races but managed to get a win out of it, so happy with that,” Schatz said.
“Needed a little bit longer race,” Gravel said when asked what more he needed. “Lapped cars needed to get out of the way a little bit. We got to his back bumper and stalled out there. There was a lapped car up high and just couldn’t make anything happen around the outside.”
Gravel’s best corner came off turn four, where a lot of bite propelled his way closer and closer to Schatz.
“I was a lot lower on the straightaway where the grip was, and that’s where I was getting that drive on the straightaway. Straightaway is so short that you can only gain so much there.”
1Gravel was the race’s hard charger, starting in P9 to finishing runner-up.
Logan Schuchart also had a great run tonight on the bottom step of the podium in P3. Starting in seventh, while he did fade back to ninth at the start of the race, he got up to P3 with five to go, got up to Gravel’s rear bumper with two laps left, and tried to send it but couldn’t find a lane to get to Gravel.
“I felt really good. I could make a lot of speed by running through the bottom of one, carrying it up through the cushion in two, and carrying it down the backstretch. It feels good to have a good run. Happy for our team. We’ve been struggling. Lately, it’s been up and down,” Schuchart commented.
It was a 15-race streak without a podium that was ended for Schuchart.
In the point standings, back-to-back podium finishes for David Gravel cut the points lead down to 36 on Brad Sweet. The series enters the most significant month on the calendar, with the Ironman 55 and the Knoxville Nationals on the radar.
“You’re always thinking about [points] a little bit. At the end of the day, you gotta race good, race smart and win races. We’re just gonna keep putting our heads down and working. There’s a lot of season to go still,” Gravel said.
29 cars checked in tonight, and the entire event for the World of Outlaws went caution free.
For more quotes with Donny Schatz, David Gravel, and Logan Schuchart, in addition to a pre-race interview with Jacob Allen, head to the RSN Trackside Facebook page.
Feature Results (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).