INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 15, 2012) – When the 2011 World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Series season concluded last November, there was a bug going around the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) camp. It was something that not only TSR’s Donny Schatz felt, but his boss, Tony Stewart, also caught it. The 2012 WoO season is set to open this weekend with the 41st Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and Schatz is hoping he hasn’t been cured.
Schatz closed 2011 by sweeping the WoO World Finals in Charlotte. Two weeks later, he scored his second straight Western World Championships triumph in Arizona, and he followed that by winning in New Zealand in his first-ever race at Western Springs Speedway near Auckland. The victories didn’t stop there as he picked up two more wins during the holiday season while competing in Australia.
The late-season surge boosted the psyche of the TSR team as it enters the 2012 season. Schatz will campaign with the WoO for the 16th season, and he’ll once again be behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J. The Fargo, N.D., racer has finished second in the WoO championship standings the past two seasons after winning four consecutive titles.
The good news for Schatz is that his chase for a fifth WoO championship begins on Volusia’s half-mile dirt oval. He has won four of his 113 career WoO A-Feature wins at the track. In 2007, 2009 and 2010, he won at least one WoO main event during the DIRTcar Nationals and is looking to rebound from last year’s performance, which included a pair of finishes outside the top-10. In addition to his WoO wins at Volusia, Schatz has earned five All-Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) triumphs there. His first-ever All-Star win came at the track in 2006, and he scored one of his most memorable triumphs in the 2009 season opener when he raced from last to first in the non-stop 30-lap race.
Schatz’s TSR STP/Armor All crew is the same group he had in 2011. Crew chief Rick Warner begins his sixth season working with Schatz and will be assisted by car chief Steve Swenson and mechanic Bob Curtis. While Schatz kept his driving skills sharp by winning races in New Zealand and Australia, Warner, Swenson and Curtis put in long hours preparing for the upcoming season.
The DIRTcar Nationals begin with a pair of ASCoC-sanctioned races on Wednesday and Thursday prior to three complete WoO events beginning on Friday evening. Only the Friday through Sunday events will count toward to the 2012 WoO championship.
For all five races at Volusia Speedway Park, the pit gates open at 1 p.m. EST, and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for the race weekend can be purchased by calling Volusia Speedway Park at (386) 985-4402. For more information on the event, visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J:
With the way you ended last year’s World of Outlaws campaign, would you have liked the 2012 season to start right away?
“We finished the season off pretty strong and really started to get that feeling back. Any time you are winning, you want to keep racing. Last year, we had some struggles and fortunately found our way toward the end of the year. The crew needed some time to get our program where we need it to be. I was happy to be able to stay active and race both in New Zealand and Australia. I spent some time at the raceshop recently and I can tell you Ricky, Steve and Bob worked hard this winter. I’m excited to get things going.”
You mentioned your team. How important is it that you have all the same people working together for the second year in a row?
“It’s really big when you are in a competitive environment like we are. At the end of last year, we were all getting along great and having an absolute blast. Even though we struggled at times during the year, we just had to keep working together. You can’t have success without failure. If you don’t learn what not to do, you don’t know what to do. The team that Tony has assembled, we’re all competitive people. We pushed each other to the limit and maybe even over the limit. The same mentally that got us in trouble is what brought us back to the winning stages and having a dominant racecar. I know how hard they work and it motivates me to be the best I can in the car and win races for those guys.”
The journey to a championship starts at Volusia again. You’ve had some really good starts and ones that you’d like to forget. What are your thoughts on the weekend ahead?
“It’s exciting. There’s definitely a buzz when you get to Florida to start the year. The proximity to Daytona helps that. It’s also the first race of the year and everyone wants to get started on the right note. We know it’ll be a very intense week. As far as the track goes, it’s big and fast, so you have to keep as much speed up as possible. Track conditions can be so different from day to day, and that’s where having a great team is such an advantage. My guys do a great job of giving me a comfortable car to drive. It’s pretty tough to win one race down there, so we’re going to do everything we can to get that first win of year.”