Editor’s Note: This is the 17th installment in National Speed Sport News’ 30 Days of Knoxville countdown to the 52nd annual Goodyear Knoxville Nationals. During the coming days we will revisit past races, drivers and statistics, while previewing this year’s event.
KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Donny Schatz was the overwhelming favorite heading into the 47th annual Super Clean Knoxville Nationals and he didn’t disappoint. Schatz had the fastest car all week and led all 30 laps of Saturday night’s feature to win sprint-car racing’s biggest event for the second consecutive year.
Schatz and his family-owned Parker Stores No. 15 team picked up $150,000 for the victory at the historic half-mile Marion County Fairgrounds oval. Schatz ran the top of the track and had a commanding lead throughout the event, but did survive several mid-race challenges from six-time Knoxville Raceway champion Terry McCarl. On a lap-13 restart after Travis Cram crashed, McCarl tried a slide job on Schatz entering the first turn and the two nearly made contact exiting turn two. Instead, Schatz stayed on the gas and kept his Shaver-powered J&J in the lead.
“He obviously had a good run and when he came across there you don’t see them until the last second,” Schatz explained. “There was nothing I could do. If I would have hit the brakes, we would have both crashed. That’s what you have to do to win this race. He took it to the limit coming up there in front of me and I took it past the limit to stay in front of him.”
Schatz kept the lead and blasted through lapped traffic during the remaining laps. “He got his left front up on the berm, and I had a great run at him,” McCarl said. “I thought I had him and he did a great job and all of a sudden I saw this yellow thing coming at me. He is a champion and that is why he is a champion, making moves like that.”
Despite heavy lapped traffic during the closing laps, Schatz pulled away to a 4.5-second victory over Joey Saldana, who passed McCarl with eight laps remaining. Saldana earned $75,000 for second. “I took every chance I could in lapped traffic to get as big of a lead as we had,” Schatz said. “I expected someone to be pushing it around there and I just pushed it as hard as I could.”
McCarl, who earned $37,500, briefly lost third as well, but regained the position with a last-lap pass of Craig Dollansky. Dollansky and Paul McMahan rounded out the top five.
Schatz credited his Ricky Warner-led crew for making the right decisions with the car’s setup.
“Those guys made all the right decisions to that car,” Schatz explained. “We hot lapped it one way and made a 180-degree change because the track slicked up pretty good. That’s the way those guys watch me race. They know I don’t like to be loose. They know that I am not scared to do something to my race car and make it tight. They know I can hang on to it for 15 or 20 laps until the fuel burns off and you may have a little loose race car at the end.”
Schatz is perfect in this year’s big races, having won the King’s Royal at Eldora Speedway, the Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway and now the Knoxville Nationals. Schatz has also won at Williams Grove Speedway and The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Schatz said he would like to finish the year, winning the remaining big races on the schedule — The Gold Cup Race of Champions, Williams Grove National Open and the World Finals at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Don’t bet against him.
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