At The Kings Royal, It’s Good To Be The King

Kings Royal
Donny Schatz (right) poses with Steve Kinser, who served as the Royal Sovereign during the 34th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in 2017. (Randy Crist Photo)

Five of the 18 drivers who have worn the crown after winning the Kings Royal sprint car event at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway are currently competing full time with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series.

SPEED SPORT recently caught up with those five racers and asked them to share their thoughts about being a Kings Royal winner.

Donny Schatz (2007, ’09, ’16 & ’17): “You can’t simply tell someone how important winning the Kings Royal is to you or how much you love winning it. Every once in a while you sit back and think about the emotions — ‘Man, we won the Kings Royal.’ It’s an event that makes you feel like you’ve won the world when you win that one race. Those are the moments you live for and some people never get to experience them.

“To me, I’m very blessed to have been in that position where I’ve been able to win the Kings Royal four times, but you always want to win the next one. It’s about this year’s Kings Royal; you forget about the past.”

Jason Sides (2004): “It’s pretty neat to have won the Kings Royal because there aren’t that many who have won it. To be one of those who have been fortunate enough to win it is a big deal. Not only is it a high-paying race, it’s a prestigious race. It’s one of the crown jewels of our sport. In addition, that was our first World of Outlaws win.”

Earl Baltes awards Jason Sides the crown after Sides won the Kings Royal in 2004. (Rick Sherer Photo)

Shane Stewart (2015): “It’s one of the biggest races you can win as a sprint car driver. Obviously, with the history of that place and the people who have won it, it means a lot for me to have that trophy. It’s something I’m very proud of. We started 13th or 14th that night and had a big rain delay. It was a special moment for all of us. It obviously pays a lot to win and everyone wants to be able to say they’ve won the Kings Royal.”

Daryn Pittman (2008): “The sheer magnitude of Eldora — the race track, the type of racing and the type of drivers who are successful there — makes the Kings Royal unique. It’s an intimidating place to run and be competitive, which adds to the allure and prestige of the event.

“Earl (Baltes) always putting up all of the money that he did helped build a ton of notoriety for Eldora. Anytime you put up that kind of money and then put drivers on that type of race track, you find out who is the bravest of the brave.

“Having won that race is one of the highlights of my career, and I’d love to do it again. I have that trophy at home and to look at the list of names that’s on there and know you are part of that select few who have won that race is something I can’t put into words.”

Brad Sweet (2013): “As a kid, you dream about winning races like the Kings Royal, so to actually do it and put your name on a trophy that is so highly respected in our sport is special. Even when I get old and can’t drive these things anymore, my name is in the history books as a winner of that big race.

“That’s your legacy. You come out here and put in all the work and you want people to look back and see you’ve won those big races. The history, the prestige, how hard it is to win, how much it pays to win, there are a lot of things that make winning the Kings Royal stand out.”