LAS VEGAS — Donny Schatz won a drag race to the checkered flag by .046 seconds to win his fourth World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series feature in five events this season during night one of the FVP Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas.
A yellow flag on the final lap created a green-white-checkered finish extending the race to 26 laps.
Schatz controlled the single-file restart, but Brown came charging on the final lap, briefly taking the lead as the duo raced to the checkered flag. But Schatz won the drag race by a nose.
Though the eight-time series champion has reaped the riches several times at the track, this victory offered a purse larger than years passed. A $5,000 winner’s bonus was awarded to the North Dakota-native, as a part of a four-show sponsorship from Badlands Motor Speedway.
“Thank you Badlands Motor Speedway,” Schatz said. “Any time you get the extra money, out of courtesy you thank them for their support — like all you fans in the seats. It sure makes it fun to be standing up here.”
Not only did the victory have a larger payout, but it also tested a driver who has won four of the first five shows in 2017. Schatz got the best case scenario in a photo-finish at the line, winning by .046 seconds. He started the 26-lap feature in fourth position, and used a series of restarts to gain ground on each of the podium spots ahead of him. When the green flag waved, he made his move into the podium and had his sights set on second.
Schatz contested for the runner-up spot in the opening laps, challenging Brown from the bottom. Brown shut down his advances exiting turn one for the first three laps until a red flag reset the field. Shane Stewart, who led the 25-car field to the green flag, tangled with a slower car entering turn two of the sixth lap. The aftermath of the wreck forced Stewart to forfeit the top spot, giving Brown the lead.
It only took one lap for Schatz to wedge his race car underneath Brown’s No. 21 FVP/Casey’s General Stores car in turn two. Schatz widened the gap to nearly one-second over Brown, while Jason Johnson moved into the final podium spot by lap 16. A red flag on that lap regrouped the field yet again.
Several battles transpired on the restart, as Brown challenged Schatz for the lead from the bottom, and Johnson and Ian Madsen rubbed tires barreling out of the frontstretch. While Johnson was successful, Brown was not as he was penalized for an early start; he was docked one position. The field regrouped for the race’s third restart with Schatz and Johnson – the only two to win a feature event in 2017 – side by side in the first row.
In the closing laps Schatz built a cushion, but that didn’t last. Brown reclaimed second position over Johnson within the final 10 laps of the feature. However, Brown’s last-ditch effort on the green-white-checkered finish came up just short.
“I always want to win ones like those,” Brown said. “We got a good run (at Schatz), but when you race with a guy like him you need to make a split-second decision at 130 mph. I felt like I got through turns one and two pretty well, but on the backstretch I probably should’ve done something a little different. He got a good run off of four and I was like, ‘Gosh darn it, I’m not going to win this race.’ To be up there and race with guys like Donny Schatz is an honor. He’s the Steve Kinser of today.”
Rico Abreu rounded out the podium in his No. 24r Abreu Vineyards/Priority Aviation car. Starting 21st in the feature, Abreu swiftly navigated through the pack and eventually bested Johnson in the closing laps.
“You just simply need to learn how to breathe and make good decisions,” Abreu said. “When the race gets kind of strung out, you have to pace yourself. You just need to be patient at times and be aggressive on those restarts. I knew we were going to get a few restarts where we could get a breather. Schatz and Brown are the best guys right now besides Jason (Johnson). It feels good just to get a good finish.”
Johnson, who ultimately recorded his fourth top-five performance of the season, set the night’s quick time in time trials. He was roughly one-hundredth of a second off Danny Lasoski’s track record of 13.719 seconds.
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