MCCOOL JUNCTION, Neb. — Coming off his sixth Goodyear Knoxville Nationals title in the last seven years last weekend, Donny Schatz whooped most of the field on Tuesday night at Junction Motor Speedway during the fourth-and-final round of the NAPA Auto Parts Kasey Kahne Challenge Presented by Mid-Nebraska Land Developing, A&L Sales & Service and Friesen Chevrolet.
It was only the second World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series event at the three-eighths-mile oval, where Craig Dollansky earned the inaugural Kasey Kahne Challenge title. He received a unique trophy by Jay Simes of Simes Graphic Designs as well as a $3,000 bonus.
“The money can go pretty quick in this business, but (it’s) definitely one of the more unique trophies I’ve ever won,” said Dollansky, the only driver to record a top five in three of the four events. “It’s a great accomplishment for our team. To come out on top and to have this beautiful trophy, it’s pretty cool.”
However, the performance of the night belonged to Schatz, who lapped up to seventh place during the 30-lap, caution-free feature. After leading a majority of the Knoxville Nationals and outlasting a late bid from Brian Brown, the duo opened Tuesday’s feature with another close battle.
Brown, who started on the pole, led the first half of the opening lap before Schatz slid him for the top spot in turn four. Brown regained the lead in turns one and two on the ensuing lap before Schatz slid him back in turns three and four on lap three.
Schatz pulled away as Sammy Swindell passed Brown for the runner-up position exiting turn two on the fifth lap. Once the duo entered traffic around lap eight, it was a two-car race.
“The race track was awesome,” Schatz said. “There was guys that could move around. I think it was how good you had your car and how much speed you could make. I couldn’t ask for any better race car.”
Schatz began lapping cars at will and Swindell was the only car within striking distance. He was slowed a couple of times in traffic, but never faded beyond a dozen car lengths of Schatz.
“Those two lapped cars that we were going through that kind of held me up for just a bit, every time that gave him about six car lengths,” Swindell said. “We were able to gain it back. I think in the open we were a little bit quicker, but he just kept getting through the lapped cars. Just those two times I got stuck for a bit and had to wait, and that was the difference.”
Steve Kinser had a left-rear tire explode as he entered turn three on the final lap in front of Schatz, who was forced to negotiate through the scene. Swindell closed to within a couple of car lengths, but Schatz held on for his second straight victory and his sixth of the season.
“Thirty laps non-stop, it was a fun race,” Schatz said. “I could get through traffic and just had a good time.”
Cody Darrah maneuvered around Brown for the final spot on the podium just after the halfway point.
“This is the time of year where it starts to get really grueling on guys and to have a podium finish like this really keeps us up and keeps us wanting it,” Darrah said.
Brown edged Dollansky for fourth place.