Schatz caught Stewart’s attention when he won his first of 10 Knoxville Nationals victories in 2006. The composure Schatz showed in winning the prestigious Sprint Car event was what Stewart said made him first begin to consider hiring Schatz.
“After that, I had an opportunity to talk to Donny a little bit and I wanted to get to know him better,” Stewart said. “I asked him if he might be interested in making a change to possibly come drive for TSR. He cracked the door open just a little bit and I worked to shove the door open the rest of the way as quick as I could. We worked to convince him that TSR would be a good home for him. We had both a winning USAC program and a World of Outlaws program and I was confident that we could give him a good opportunity to continue to accomplish his goals as part of our organization.”
Schatz won 19 races and his third Series title in his first year with TSR. In total, he’s won more than 200 races and eight championships with the team – along with bringing TSR its 300th career World of Outlaws win at Eldora Speedway in July.
He was on a streak of five champions in a row, from 2014 to 2018, before reigning champion Brad Sweet denied him of the 2019 title by four points. Schatz admits last year was an off year for himself and that he had to overcome mental blocks – due to dealing with his father’s cancer diagnoses. But with his father healthy and the mental blocks gone, Schatz said he believes he and his TSR team can get back to winning 20 or more races a year.
“Last year, there were a lot of hurdles along the road,” he said. “My guys overcame it diligently. I was the weak link. And I’m not the weak link right now. I’ve got past a lot of things I needed to get past. Life throws you curve balls sometimes. Sometimes it throws you lemons and I figured out how to make lemon vodka with it. You just have to adapt to changes. There was a time period where I couldn’t.
“Looking back on it now, for us to even have a chance at the championship and to lose it by four points with a lot of the performances that I had last year is actually incredible. It’s actually one of the years that stands out the most. We were building from the ground up. I wasn’t there. And to miss out on a season by four points and Brad having a career year with his best season, it says a lot in itself that it was not a bad year at all. It was really, you know, one of the best years without the performance we’ve had.”
No matter how 2020 turns out for him or how many wins he earns, it’s not going to slow down his drive or passion for Sprint Car racing.
“This sport owes me nothing,” Schatz said. “I feel like I’ve contributed to it for a long time. I’ve won the things I’ve wanted to win, and I want to continue to win as much as I can.”