ROSSBURG, Ohio — Donny Schatz took the lead on lap 15 and never looked back en route to winning the Kings Royal for the third consecutive season at Eldora Speedway.
Schatz earned $50,000 for his 15th World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series victory of the season.
Brad Sweet surged late and came within a half of a car length at the checkered flag, finishing 0.189 seconds behind Schatz. Cory Eliason, in his first career Kings Royal start, completed the podium.
With the unique Kings Royal format, the six heat winners occupied the first three rows for the 40-lap feature.
Trey Starks won heat six, earning the pole in his first Kings Royal start alongside heat five winner, Paul McMahan. A caution on the initial start involving Hunter Schuerenburg, Sheldon Haudenschild and Brock Zearfoss brought out the only stoppage of the event.
The complete restart saw Starks shoot to the lead. Schatz and McMahan battled for second with Schatz taking the position on lap three and setting his sights on Starks. Schatz took a look under Starks on lap 14 and completed the pass for the lead one lap later.
Eliason, who started sixth after winning heat one, established himself as a threat moving by Starks into second on lap 16. Eliason actually slid Schatz for position, but was never able to maintain momentum and stay in front of the Tony Stewart Racing No. 15.
Sweet maneuvered into third on lap 17 and showed a lot of speed pounding the cushion. As Sweet closed in on Eliason for second, Donny Schatz extended his margin out front. Sweet would get by Eliason for second on lap 27 and begin cutting into Schatz’s sizable advantage.
As Schatz searched for grip the last 10 laps, Sweet really closed in. Sweet got hung up behind Daryn Pittman in lapped traffic and finally cleared him with five to go, setting up one last charge at Schatz.
On the absolute cushion of the racing surface, Sweet closed in on Schatz, setting up a hectic finish. Sweet cut the gap to five car-lengths down the backstretch on the final lap and ended up just half a car-length short from his second career Kings Royal triumph.
Schatz acknowledged that he was searching for speed the last 10 laps, “I knew someone had to be coming. I was hanging the last 10 laps, I could not get stuck anywhere. I’m lucky it wasn’t 41 laps tonight, because obviously, the No.49 was coming there at the end,” Schatz said.
“Lapped traffic was tough tonight, it was tricky and slick. I feel like I completely failed in Qualifying going 21st quick, but the way format works tonight it put us in the right position,” Schatz added.
Brad Sweet was obviously disappointed but was pleased with the speed he showed.
“I came up one lap short, some of those lapped cars didn’t cut me a break. Coming to the checkered, I was cussing because I wanted it to be the white flag,” Sweet said. “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and the way [Schatz] shows up at these big money events, is why he’ll down in history as one of, if not the best of all time. This NAPA racing team has nothing to be ashamed of tonight, I just wish it was one more lap tonight.”
Eliason was extremely pleased with his third-place run, “That was a great learning experience. I got to follow and watch Donny and Brad tonight and they are the two best out here right now. There is a huge learning curve coming to these tracks and to go out and be competitive is awesome.”
Lee Jacobs represented the Buckeye State coming from 16th to finish fourth with Kraig Kinser coming from 13th to complete the top five.
Christopher Bell set quick time over the 51-car field and was running in the top five when he pulled pit side with 14 laps remaining.
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