Editor’s Note: This is the 11th 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 — One Schatz. Two Schatz. Three Schatz.
Aided by a yellow flag after 23 green-flag laps, Donny Schatz made a late pass of Jason Meyers to win the 48th annual SuperClean Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway for the third consecutive year.
Schatz’s $150,000 triumph came aboard Tony Stewart’s Armor All No. 15 J&J prepared by Ricky Warner.
“To win this is the best thing you could do in sprint-car racing and to win this race multiple times is just gravy,” said Schatz, who led a podium sweep by the top three drivers in the World of Outlaws standings in sprint-car racing’s most prestigious event.
Meyers started outside the front row and took the lead from the start of the 30-lap event on the historic Marion County Fairgrounds half-mile oval. Meanwhile, Schatz started fourth and took second from Danny Lasoski on the fourth lap.
Schatz pulled even with Meyers on lap 10, but using lapped traffic to his advantage, Meyers pulled away. Meanwhile, Schatz rode in second with the battle for third among Lasoski, Steve Kinser and Craig Dollansky far behind.
When Tyler Walker lost his brakes and couldn’t make it to the pits after he blew an engine after 23 laps, Schatz had the break he needed.
“We hit lapped traffic and I started to push and I just couldn’t hit things the way I needed to,” said Schatz, who has finished second four times in this event. “He (Meyers) needed to make a couple of mistakes and he started to make a few and the next thing you know the yellow came out, but that’s the way it is. That’s racing. Yellows didn’t just start coming out. I have lost that race the same way. It is what it is.”
On the restart, Schatz shot to the bottom and the leaders ran side by side for two laps with Schatz inching ahead at the flag stand at lap 25. He completed the pass exiting turn two and was pulling away when the second and final yellow flag of the event waved after 27 laps.
Schatz went to the cushion on the restart and was gone, with Meyers finishing second.
“I was out there leading and I saw the 15 (Schatz) up there on the scoreboard and I kept thinking, ‘rain, please rain,’” Meyers said after the race.
But could he have done anything to keep Schatz behind him?
“When we took off on that one restart, I didn’t get a very good run off of there and that kind of lugged the motor a little bit and I don’t know if that allowed Donny to get a run on me or not, but he was just a little bit better than us at the end of the race,” he said. “I tried to hit my marks there at the end. I don’t think it would have been any better if I had gone to the bottom.”
Dollansky came home third, ahead of Danny Lasoski and Steve Kinser. Joey Saldana, Jac Haudenschild and Terry McCarl, who transferred from the B main, filled the top eight spots.
While Meyers led the points on his qualifying night, Schatz took a little different strategy en route to his third Nationals title.
“Anytime you come into the Nationals, it is a psychological thing,” he explained. “When I saw the heat lineup on Wednesday night, the first thing I thought was don’t put your race car on the hook. Sometimes it is about salvaging all the points that you can. It is fun to be in the shoes Jason was in putting this thing on the pole and leading laps, but sometimes you just have to fly under the radar and do what you have to do to stay out of trouble.”
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