James McFadden set some lofty goals for himself this season. Entering year two with Roth Motorsports, he knew he and the revered organization were capable of big things on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car tour.
On Thursday night at Minnesota’s Jackson Motorplex, McFadden reached one of those goals.
At the beginning of 2023, McFadden owned five career wins with The Greatest Show on Dirt. Why not shoot for the stars with such a strongly assembled team in his corner? The 34-year-old set out to double his win total. And 48 races into the campaign, that’s exactly what he did.
McFadden hunted down Donny Schatz early and fended off a late charge from the 10-time Series champion for his fifth World of Outlaws triumph of the season on opening night of the 45th Annual AGCO Jackson Nationals presented by Fendt. The Victory Lane visit marked the latest testament to he and Roth’s continued progress.
“It’s just steppingstones to get better and better with this Series,” McFadden said. “Guys like Brad (Sweet), (David) Gravel, and Donny (Schatz) have been doing this deal a long time, and where you see those guys excel is the consistency. I think we’re notching the race wins. We’re constantly around the top 10. We just need to get a little more consistent, and I think we’ll be there battling with them. It’s an honor to be here racing. To get five wins this year is pretty cool. That was sort of my goal at the start of the year – to get to 10 Outlaw wins. And we’re here with still a bunch of races to go.”
By doubling his career win total with the World of Outlaws, McFadden moved to 10 for his career. Reaching the mark made him the 49th driver in Series history to reach double digit victories. Roth Motorsports is up to 104 checkered flags in the Fresno, CA based team’s storied history.
Donny Schatz and Tanner Holmes brought the field to green for the 25-lap Feature with McFadden rolling off in third. Schatz pulled ahead early to lead the opening lap. On the second circuit, McFadden rolled by Holmes for second.
After taking over the runner-up spot, McFadden’s pursuit of Schatz began immediately. Schatz opted for the high side while McFadden rolled the bottom. Over the next few laps, the lead duo ran laps nearly equal to each other.
But then on Lap 7, McFadden found the speed he needed as they neared lap traffic. McFadden perfectly stuck the low line in Turns 3 and 4 to roll right by the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15.
From there McFadden took control of the race. The Alice Sprints, NTR native worked through traffic and pulled away as the race moved beyond halfway. But a pivotal caution with eight laps remaining gave Schatz another chance.
The green flag brought the cars back to life for a dash to the finish, and Schatz began to reel in McFadden by ripping the top. He closed in and even pulled alongside once, but McFadden heard the threat coming and adjusted as needed. McFadden moved to the top to defend.
“I knew that the bottom was getting really slow in the middle,” McFadden explained. “I knew I’d have to move at some stage. I thought I heard Donny and moved up. When you’re leading and get to the lead running the bottom, it’s hard to move what you’re doing, but it was getting really, really hard to run.”
The move to the cushion proved to be the winning one as McFadden went unchallenged through the final few laps. The checkered flag flew with McFadden a second and a half ahead of Schatz. The win provided a much needed confidence boost after an unfortunate week at the #NOSvilleNationals.
“I came in after the Dash, and I was like, ‘Brent (Ventura, crew chief), I have no idea how to make it go faster,” McFadden said. “He swung some wrenches around and got this thing where we needed. I’m pumped to stand here in Victory Lane after the week we had in Knoxville. That was tough on everybody, so it’s great to rebound and come back.”
While Schatz didn’t get the win, he did leave Jackson on top in another category. The Fargo, ND native gathered the most points that are important in setting up the lineups for Saturday’s $25,000-to-win main event. Schatz also became the sixth driver this year to reach double digit podiums with the World of Outlaws. It’s Schatz’s 26th straight season of earning at least 10 World of Outlaws top threes. The 10-time champ felt he made a slight error in suggesting a mechanical direction for the car before the Feature that may have been costly.
“You never let the driver dictate what you do with the race car,” Schatz said with a laugh. “I tried a little something there in that Dash because we haven’t had quite the feel. We tried and felt good, but as the racetrack went away it kind of put us in a worse spot. I was kind of married to that cushion. That’s kind of the opposite of how we normally are, but that was on me.”
Behind Schatz was one of the race’s most noteworthy stories in Tanner Holmes. It was recently announced the Jacksonville, OR native would be taking driving duties of the Shark Racing #1A (now #1T) for the duration of the World of Outlaws season. On his first night out with The Greatest Show on Dirt in his new ride, Holmes set Simpson Performance Products QuickTime, started on the front row of the Feature, and finished third for his first career Series podium.
“Starting on the front row you kind of don’t know what to expect,” Holmes said. “Obviously, you don’t want to drop back. Starting next to Donny, he just got going good there early. It took me a minute to kind of find my footing. J-Mac got by both of us, and I kind of was able to pace them through most of it. I got through traffic well but made a couple mistakes. Right when the yellow came out there at the end I felt like I was pretty even, so I didn’t want to see that. I kind of fell back and then was able to get back by the #41 (Carson Macedo). The Shark Racing guys had me dialed in. All night long we just had so much speed and got better and better.”
Carson Macedo and Buddy Kofoid completed the top five.
Rico Abreu earned the KSE Racing Hard Charger with a run from 18th to ninth.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Chase Randall (first Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Robbie Price (second of career), Tim Kaeding (78th of career), and Cory Eliason (21st of career).
The Smith Titanium Brake Systems “Break of the Race” went to David Gravel after a shredded right rear tire caused rear end damage and ended his night early.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars stay at Jackson Motorplex for night two of the 45th Annual AGCO Jackson Nationals on Friday, August 18 to help set the stage for Saturday’s $25,000-to-win finale. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps): 1. 83-James McFadden; 2. 15-Donny Schatz; 3. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 4. 41-Carson Macedo; 5. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 6. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 7. 49-Brad Sweet; 8. 39M-Justin Sanders; 9. 24-Rico Abreu; 10. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 11. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 12. 7S-Robbie Price; 13. 11-Cory Eliason; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 15. 2KS-Chase Randall; 16. 5-Spencer Bayston; 17. 3-Tim Kaeding; 18. 10-Scott Bogucki; 19. 25-Lachlan McHugh; 20. 9-Kasey Kahne; 21. 14-Corey Day; 22. 45-Rusty Hickman; 23. 16-Brooke Tatnell; 24. 2-David Gravel