“Dakota” was first defined as the Sioux language of the Santee tribe. In 1889 it named the newest of the then-40 United States. In its ensuing 130 years, North and South Dakota remained Top 20 for land mass and Top Five for least people. Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls, SD are largest in each. Fortunately for auto racing, each did provide yearly and even weekly stages to help lift Dakota legends into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. No one on earth doubts Donny Schatz is guaranteed to join Doug Wolfgang, Don Mack and Doug Howells as soon as Dan and Diane’s boy turns 50 years old.
Dakota is full of farmers. North Dakota tops all 50 for barley production. Tillers of soil once parked plows to herd families to fairgrounds in Huron or Rapid City when the International Motor Car Association performed between Buddy Holly and diving horses. Cattle ranchers bore witness to IMCA races won by Hall of Fame heroes such as A.J Foyt (Fargo ‘56), Bobby Grim (Minot 1956-58), Jim Hurtubise (Huron ‘59) and Gordon Woolley, who won 1965 Grand Forks IMCA race aboard famous Black Deuce of Hector Honore.
Winning four of five South Dakota State Fairs in Huron (‘66-70) and ‘68-69 Red River Valley Fairs in Fargo was Don Mack, born in Grand Forks, ND but raised across Red River in East Grand Forks, MN. Mack turned knife sharp upon teaming with Doug Howells of Hunter, ND. They were immediate champions of Minot and Grand Forks. Mack was loved like Tommy Hinnershitz was beloved in Pennsylvania because he farmed alongside his fans. Strong as an ox, Mack was adept at asphalt endurances such as St. Paul 200, Florida 500 and Little 500 wins between 1976-78. Relief drivers were standard but Don Mack never tapped out.
In the very first World of Outlaws weekend in Texas, Mack was third and sixth sponsored by massive Minot truck stop of modified racer Dan Schatz, who had welcomed Donny Ray Schatz seven months earlier. Doug Howells knew Don Mack could beat anyone anywhere so he and wife Joanne joined World of Outlaws full-time in 1980. Don did 30 races as far east as Grandview before retiring to raise potatoes on 3000 acres. His parents had died in late ‘79 and Mack family needed Don more than Doug did.
Howells hired Doug Wolfgang and the whole country got to see famous Number Four. In the final five months of 1980, Wolfgang won 11 World of Outlaws races then added 25 more in 1981. Doug and Doug won from Mexico (Chula Vista) to Denver to Belleville to Eldora to Syracuse to Volusia. Howells won 1981 CRC Winners Classic at Syracuse with Steve Kinser. When Wolfgang bailed, Doug and Jack Hewitt became 1982 World of Outlaws winners at Butler and Santa Maria.
Dakota is far from any auto racing epicenter yet Mr. and Mrs. Howells hauled coast-to-coast for Jac Haudenschild, Rick Ungar, Danny Smith, Don’s son Todd Mack, Wolfgang again, Tommie Estes, Smith again, T.J Giddings, Rocky Hodges, Danny and Todd again, Joe Gaerte, Kenny Jacobs, Rodney Duncan, Tim Gee and then Smith and Ungar again. When he ceased car owning, Doug took tools to Rule Trucking and Nash Lumber and put both Danny Smith Gamblers in Kings Royals of 1987-88. Howells joined USAC Silver Crown series to enable Oregon duo of Del McClure and Mike Bliss to reign as 1993 champs. After his wife passed, Howells became tutor to grandson Lee Grosz, who wore “4J” in tribute to grandma. Grosz was winning as recently as four nights ago.
Doug Howells has seen every “Road to Knoxville” and each way out. Knoxville Nationals ends summer for many and completes three quarters of each World of Outlaws season. Motorhomes dock in Marion County for ten days. They need the rest because final months take The Greatest Show On Dirt through Dakotas, Montana, Washington, Oregon and California then back across America to World Finals in Carolina.
Nationals is also an annual job fair. Some team personnel see Iowa as the end of their road. Fathers feel the need to stay home and help usher kids to school. Sometimes that parent drives the team truck, which is why Commercial Drivers Licenses are in long demand. Someone has to get those rigs over Rockies.
First interstate out of Nationals 2019 was I-35 to Minnesota to I-94 into North Dakota and more north to Grand Forks, where River Cities Speedway has anchored 13 straight World of Outlaws seasons spearheaded by Don Mack. Schatz owns 12 of 25 World of Outlaws wins at RCS. Back down I-29 into Fargo rain, Outlaws continued to Sioux Falls then across South Dakota to Rapid City. I-90 will become home as they depart Black Hills for Wyoming then north for Billings, last brake check before Rocky Mountain descent to Pacific Northwest. That last leg was brainchild of Fred Brownfield, another Hall of Fame name who brought Outlaws back to Skagit as center of three-state series.
Dakota first welcomed World of Outlaws to Hartford, SD on April 22, 1979 when Ron Shuman (Gary Stanton 75) outran Roger Larson and field that featured Don’s brother Linus Mack and Darryl Dawley, the Sioux Falls star who started Wolfgang’s career. Three months later, Larson and Dawley died together at Knoxville. Sammy Swindell won Hartford return on eve of 1981 Fargo debut directed by Don Mack, who partnered with ex-rival Hank Albers on 29-season run of Red River Outlaws. Fargo has held 64 World of Outlaws races won by Kinser (16), Swindell (14), Wolfgang (6) and Schatz with five. Fargo expanded to three nights in ‘98.
Outlaws stretched 1983 South Dakota range to Huset’s Speedway in Sioux Falls (Brandon) and Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City. Brandon became part of 20 straight seasons by World of Outlaws, packing more humanity on Huset’s hillside than any track its size. Swindell swept three Dakota Gold Cups following 1990-92 Knoxville Nationals. Huset’s hosted 43 World of Outlaws races won by Mark Kinser (9), Sammy (9), Steve (7), Schatz (4), Wolfgang (2), Craig Dollansky (2) and Mark Dobmeier (2) of Grand Forks, ND. World of Outlaws appeared another seven seasons until “Badlands” closed in 2017.
Deadwood, SD became “badlands” after 1874 when Black Hills yielded gold discovered by General Custer two years before Cheyenne silenced George at Little Bighorn just east of Billings. Beginning in 1927, Slaughterhouse Mountain was transformed into Mount Rushmore by 14 years of hammers and chisels. In 1938, Black Hills became home to Sturgis Bike Rally run by Jackpine Gypsies, surely the World of Outlaws of its era. As annual August gathering, Sturgis is “Road to Knoxville” for some who straddle Harley-Davidsons.
Black Hills saw Kinser collect three of its first six World of Outlaws wins. Rapid City 1986 fell to Jimmy Sills, Lenard McCarl and Cahill brothers that won ‘71 Nationals with Jan Opperman. Outlaws did not brighten Black Hills for eleven summers. Three of its last five World of Outlaws features went to Schatz.
Montana first made the World of Outlaws calendar in ‘94-95 when Jeff Swindell and Steve Kinser mastered Magic City in Billings. Brownfield’s tour was unique. Fred knew there was enough money from starved Skagit to make Billings and Cottage Grove merely have to meet expenses. Magic City disappeared so Fred booked Wyoming in 1997-98 when Greg Hodnett (Dave Helm 11) and Mark Kinser won at Sweetwater Speedway in Rock Springs. When he landed MetraPark on Montana State Fairground, Fred positioned Wyoming to close his 1999 series. Outlaws made four stops at MetraPark until Billings Motorsports Park joined 2004 tour. Three of the last four World of Outlaws races at BMP have been won by Daryn Pittman.
Only three towns or cities have hosted World of Outlaws at three different facilities: Topeka, Houston and Billings.
South Dakota’s gift to the World of Outlaws was Doug Wolfgang, at least until he sued the series for 1992 injuries. In current millennium, South Dakota WoO winners include Lon Carnahan and Todd LaHaise. Carnahan settled on Washington’s Jason Solwold and crew chief Leonard Lee to campaign Citywide Insulation R19. They were World of Outlaws winless in 2005 then shipped overseas to notch New Zealand. Solwold added Beaver Dam in 2007. Finalist for Tony Stewart job, Jason delayed Carnahan commitment to provoke Lee to hire Jac Haudenschild, who was 2008 World of Outlaws winner in Edmonton, West Lebanon, Wheatland, Tulare and real Gold Cup at Chico. They won nothing in 2009 before Jac bounced back to win at Eldora, Skagit, Paducah, Knoxville and Clay County. While injured, Haud was replaced by Doug Esh for second R19 Lebanon Valley victory in three years. Carnahan ceased car owning in 2011; San Diego native Leonard Lee went sailing.
LaHaise owns dozen Buffalo Wild Wings, franchised in 1982 to lend Number 82 to Todd’s sprint cars. LaHaise trusts managers to each restaurant and took that approach to Blazin’ Racing LLC by appointing Swindell student Greg McCormick to hire and fire drivers faster than BWW went through dishwashers. Justin Henderson took fourth at 2012 Kings Royal yet was replaced by Lucas Wolfe, who was replaced by Solwold, who missed the cut at Kings Royal and was canned for ex-R19 pilot Scott Winters. BWW 82 opened 2014 with Bryan Clauson and Sam Hafertepe Jr. Sam suggested chassis changes; Greg drove Sam to airport. Next came Kevin Swindell, Cap Henry and Roger Crockett, first at Fergus Falls in fifth World of Outlaws start for Buffalo Wild Wings. But he too missed Kings Royal and was released. BC put Blazin’ in final of Nationals 2014. LaHaise finished season with Sioux Falls flash Dusty Zomer, who kept job in 2015 despite no wins until World Finals. Zomer continued through Nationals 2016 before Sammy finished season. LaHaise began 2017 with Kevin Thomas Jr. and Steve Sussex III then brought Zomer and Cap back before selling out to Dobmeier and Dave Lunstra in 2018-19.
North Dakota’s gift to the World of Outlaws is Donny Schatz, winner of more features than everybody but Kinser and Swindell. Success was not immediate. Schatz made his World of Outlaws debut at ‘93-94 Red River Valley Fairs and was 1993 Nationals rookie. He opened and closed 1995 in Texas and reached B-main at Nationals. He opened 1996 in Florida and followed Outlaws out of Fargo for ninth at Kings Royal then grand opening of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He became the top rookie of 1997, reaching fourth at Ransomville, fourth again in 1998 opener at Manzanita, second at Devil’s Bowl, third at Canandaigua and fourth at Nationals.
The first World of Outlaws win of Donny’s amazing career came in Brownfield’s 1998 race at Cottage Grove, OR. Schatz added eight in three years then nine in 2001 when Ken Woodruff joined Schatz Crossroads. The World of Outlaws debuted at Donny’s hometown Nodak Speedway in 2006 and hosted 12 more in 13 seasons. Schatz won five straight. Mandan was name of 11th century tribe and 21st century track where Donny dusted outlaws in 2009. Huron held two World of Outlaws races in 2015 and ‘17; Schatz won both. In five of his last six World of Outlaws seasons, Donny has crested 20 WoO wins: 22 in 2018; 23 in 2013; 25 in 2016; 26 in 2014; and an astounding 31 in 2015, more than anyone since Mark Kinser’s 34 wins in 1996.
Kings Royal 2019 saw Donny Schatz raise Tony Stewart Racing to magical 300-win plateau. Schatz sits at 291. Brad Sweet and Kasey Kahne Racing have won more in 2019. Sweet and David Gravel even kept Donny from 175 and $150,000 during Month of Money. But if past is prologue, Krista and Deanne’s big brother should see 300 wins before TSR truck sees Dakota side of the Rocky Mountains.