BARBERVILLE, Fla. — In auto racing’s version of spring training, Donny Schatz warmed up for the kickoff of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series season later this week with an impressive win in Wednesday night’s Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions 30-lap feature at Volusia Speedway Park.
As happened so often in 2017, Brad Sweet was second to Schatz with David Gravel, Jason Johnson and defending ASCoC titlist Chad Kemenah rounding out the top five in the non-stop event.
“I was struggling at the end but it feels good to get that first win out of the way,” said Schatz. “We were way behind the curve all night but we figured it out for the feature. Now we’re in position to win when the Outlaw season starts Friday.”
Fast-timer Sweet blew off polesitter and fellow dash winner Kemenah on the initial break with Danny Dietrich and Kyle Larson settling in behind them. Larson got around Dietrich on lap three and tried Kemenah a few times but by lap eight Jason Johnson had arrived on the scene and was keeping Larson busy.
Schatz, who lined up 12th, had been moving forward steadily and on lap nine he hit the afterburner and disposed of both Johnson and Larson with a low side blast off turn four. With Kemenah and Sweet busy swapping the lead back and forth, Schatz closed rapidly and right after they hit traffic for the first time on lap 13, he disposed of Kemenah when the latter got high off turn four.
Schatz then kept trying Sweet, getting even in the bottom groove a few times but never quite putting him away. But finally, on lap 22, he made it stick with an inside dive in turns one and two. By then, 10th-starting Gravel had arrived in the top three but while he could catch Sweet, he never managed to put him away.
“We were too tight,” summed up the disappointed Sweet. “You always expect Donny to make a run on you, no matter where he starts, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw him down there.”
Gravel, on the other hand, was pleased, saying, “We’re happy with that! We struggled early on but I moved the wing and got better, then the track came to us as well. I almost got the wall there trying Brad, so third is good.”
Kerry Madsen led the second five, trailed by Dietrich, Brent Marks, Larson and Dave Blaney.
Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet, David Gravel, Jason Johnson, Chad Kemenah, Kerry Madsen, Danny Dietrich, Brent Marks, Kyle Larson, Dave Blaney, Brian Brown, Tim Shaffer, Shane Stewart, Kraig Kinser, Sheldon Haudenschild, Ian Madsen, Lucas Wolfe, Daryn Pittman, Joey Saldana, Kasey Kahne, Rico Abreu, Tony Stewart, Cory Eliason, Paul McMahan.