BARBERVILLE, Fla. — For the second time in as many days, Fargo, North Dakota’s Donny Schatz is an Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 main event winner, officially sweeping All Star Circuit of Champions competition at Volusia Speedway Park during the 47th Annual DIRTcar Nationals.
Schatz’s route to victory on Thursday evening was just as impressive as the night before, ultimately diminishing a near-straightaway lead held by Chad Kemenah at the midpoint of the 30-lap program. The rally earned the now 18-time All Star winner another $5,000 payday, crossing under the final checkers by a margin of victory equaling 2.439 seconds over Kemenah and Kasey Kahne Racing’s Brad Sweet.
“We had an awesome race car,” said Donny Schatz, pilot of the Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing, Textron Off Road-backed, No. 15. “It’s good to have Rick [Warner] here with us tonight. It feels good to have the entire team together. We are definitely hitting on all eight cylinders right now.”
Schatz started from the pole position and led the first eight circuits before feeling any pressure from those racing behind him. Kemenah, who started fourth on the main event grid, worked his way to the back bumper of the defending World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion, eventually driving underneath Schatz as the pair battled through turns one and two on lap nine.
Even with lapped traffic starting to intensify, Kemenah powered to a commanding lead, jumping ahead by a near-straightaway advantage as the leaders raced passed the crossed flags. As the laps clicked down, Schatz started to come back to life, diminishing Kemenah’s advantage in traffic to less than a second by lap 22. By lap 25, Schatz was back in command, utilizing the topside of the speedway to cruise around Kemenah as the pair raced through turns one and two.
From that point forward, it was all Donny Schatz, rapidly gaining an advantage through traffic that stretched to nearly three seconds when the final checkers flew. Kemenah held on to finish second, followed by Brad Sweet, David Gravel, and Kyle Larson.
“I really didn’t know what to expect with the track. I was trying to play it cautious,” Schatz explained, who was weary about the reworked racing surface. “I didn’t want to go to the top until I knew it was going to hold me. I got to traffic and really couldn’t move around and that’s when [Chad Kemenah] got by us. By that time, I knew I had to bide my time and be patient with what the track was going to do. We ended up getting him back in traffic and that’s what it takes; being able to race through traffic like that. It definitely helped to be close to the front tonight.”
“Sometimes leading isn’t the place to be, I guess,” Chad Kemenah said, pilot of the Hunter Racing, Bonnell’s Rod Shop, No. 10H. “When you have to get beat by [Donny Schatz] it makes things a little bit better. The way I got around him was the same way I got beat. I just thought I had nothing to lose. I could see that he was hung up behind the lapped cars and I kinda held my breath and ended up getting around him. But when you get to traffic, you have to pick and choose the right lanes. Somebody that is that good behind you is probably going to pick the lane that you’re not in.”
“I had a good feeling before I left home,” Schatz continued. “My trainer said I was in ‘ass kickin’ mode’ so I want to thank him for that.”
The Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 will not return to competition until Friday, April 6, when the Series invades Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe, Ohio. “America’s Series” last visited the southern Ohio highbanks on August 26 with the “Buckeye Bullet” Dave Blaney picking up the $10,000 top prize. It was Blaney’s first-ever All Star victory at Atomic Speedway, ultimately raising his Series win total to 48 since first visiting victory lane in 1983.
Those seeking additional news and notes regarding the upcoming visit to Atomic Speedway should visit the facility live on the Web at www.atomicspeedway.net.
-All Star Circuit of Champions Press Release
-Photo credit: Paul Arch