MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — As he rolled down the frontstretch toward victory lane, his cockpit opening facing the packed grandstands, Donny Schatz issued a slight grin as a chorus of boos echoed around Williams Grove Speedway.
The smile widened on a chilly Saturday as he was showered in confetti for claiming his record fifth National Open in the 50th edition of the famed World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series event, which paid $50,000 to win.
“This is huge,” he said. “Pretty awesome to be the only one with five National Open wins. It’s fun to be able to get to victory lane at this place.”
It was Schatz’s first World of Outlaws win at Williams Grove Speedway since 2008 and his 12th career Outlaws victory at the half-mile track. It also marked his second win this season in one of the three “big money” races.
While the victories and money are significant, Schatz now holds a 158-point advantage in the World of Outlaws championship race with only five features remaining this season.
“It says a lot about the team,” said Schatz, who also won his sixth $150,000-to-win Goodyear Knoxville Nationals in August. “Earlier in the summer we couldn’t see rock bottom from where we were. We picked ourselves up. We’ve done everything we’ve needed to do. We’ve won the races. We’ve finished second or third when we can’t win the races, and that’s what you’ve got to do to put yourself in a championship position and we’re in a good position right now.”
The title is all but wrapped up after tough luck once again struck Craig Dollansky, who is the runner up in the point race.
Dollansky, who started fifth, inherited the pole when two cars in front of him had issues on the opening lap, which were two of five cautions before the first lap was completed. Dale Blaney, who started on the inside of the second row, stopped on the frontstretch with mechanical issues. Polesitter Cody Darrah was then called for starting too early, moving Dollansky up one more row.
Once Dollansky and the field reached lap two, the race went 24 laps before the sixth — and final — caution. Unfortunately for Dollansky, he was involved when Alan Krimes got sideways in front of Dollansky as he was about to be lapped. While Dollansky was able to restart, he was sent to the back and finished 16th.
Schatz, who briefly led on lap 14 and raced in second for the first half of the event, moved up to the lead. He chose the inside line on the double-file restart and got the jump on Brian Leppo, who slid Schatz for the lead in turn two. Schatz regained the lead off the bottom groove as the drivers exited turn four and never looked back.
Leppo stayed within striking distance for the remainder of the feature before Darrah challenged for the runner-up position in the final two laps.
“It just seemed like when I needed to hit the perfect mark when he would have bobbled I just missed it a little bit,” Leppo said. “To run second at the National Open, it’s just a great feeling. It’s awesome.”
Darrah drove into second place in turn four as the drivers faced the white flag before Leppo regained the position on the frontstretch. Darrah finished third to record his 22nd top five of the season.
“This is a tough place to get around when you’re up behind somebody,” he said. “(I) had good starts, we had three or four of them and then (I) jumped the start trying to get every edge we could. If you don’t have a good start it’s really hard to make it and keep the lead through (turns) one and two here.”
Daryn Pittman earned the KSE Hard Charger Award after driving from 17th to fourth and Paul McMahan maneuvered from 13th to fifth.