BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Donny Schatz is starting the season firing on all cylinders, which is bad news for the rest of the competition.
Schatz fought off a pesky Brian Brown early in the race and held off charges from Sheldon Haudenschild and Brad Sweet late to capture his fourth win in five nights during the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.
Schatz, who has won just about everything to win in sprint car racing, captured his first DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator Championship.
Brown won the Craftsman Club Dash earning the pole of the 30-lap Feature alongside Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year contender Parker Price-Miller. Brown was strong leading the opening circuit before Schatz flew underneath the FVP No.21 to lead lap two.
Rico Abreu brought out the lone yellow flag of the feature on lap six. On the ensuing restart, Brown muscled his way back by Schatz to lead laps seven and eight before Schatz overtook him once again to lead lap nine and the rest of the way, despite challenges from Haudenschild and Sweet.
“We slowed down in traffic a lot,” Schatz said. “We thought we had a solid car in the dash, but this is the time to learn. Sometimes you win some you shouldn’t, I think we were lucky we started up front.”
Friday night’s winner Haudenschild worked forward from his 13th starting spot into the top three on lap 12 and moved by Brown into second on lap 16. Haudenschild, who is in his first year with the Stenhouse Jr. – Marshall Racing No. 17 team , brought the capacity crowd to their feet as he closed in on the Tony Stewart Racing No.15 but couldn’t pull the trigger.
“Catching Donny Schatz and passing Donny Schatz are two completely different things,” Haudenschild said. While Sheldon had his eyes set on the No.15, Brad Sweet powered his NAPA Racing No.49 around the cushion, eventually overtaking Sheldon in turn two with five laps remaining.
Sweet closed on Schatz, but was never able to mount a series charge and settled for second – his fourth podium in five nights.
“My guys worked hard all week and we are still chasing the 15. He makes us better though and we’ll take second,” Sweet said.
Jason Johnson finished his strong week with a fourth-place finish and 15th-starting Chad Kemenah completed the top five
To see full results, turn to the next page.