Seventh Heaven For Donny Schatz

Donny Schatz (15) takes the lead from Brian Brown in Saturday night’s Knoxville Nationals. (Mark Funderburk photo)

Schatz swept around Brown on lap 41 and led the final 10 laps to finish off a dominant performance in a week during which he had looked beatable on his qualifying night on Wednesday and again during Friday’s SPEED SPORT Knoxville World Challenge.

The victory also came on Schatz’s 36th birthday.

Interestingly, Schatz said having learned to drive Darrell Lanigan’s late model helped him in pursuit of his seventh Knoxville Nationals triumph.

“I kept trying different lines,” Schatz said. “I would go to the top and I would go to the bottom and I would turn down through the middle. Driving a dirt late model helped me a lot tonight because it taught me how to drive without the wing. I drove it like a dirt late model from the middle off tonight.”

As for starting 21st, it was simple motivation.

“It was motivation,” Schatz said. “This race team is unbelievable. I told the guys if we weren’t in the top five at the break we would be in trouble. It was a lot of fun to pass all those cars and get up through there.”

Brown earned $75,000 for finishing second with Justin Henderson turning in his best Nationals finish in third. Paul McMahan and Chad Kemenah, who started 19th, rounded out the top five.

“You could start the guy in Oskaloosa and he’s going to have a chance,” said Brown. “We don’t realize what a great champion he is and we don’t always respect that. When I looked up at the board and I saw that No. 15 coming, I thought, ‘Oh, s—.’ I used my stuff up early in that run and I’m disappointed.”

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Mike Kerchner
Mike Kerchner is a veteran racing journalist and has been a member of the SPEED SPORT family since joining Chris Economaki at National Speed Sport News in 1991. He is now the Editor-in-Chief of SPEED SPORT Magazine.