The World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series drivers were scheduled to make a pair of appearances this past weekend at famed dirt tracks in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) tandem of Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser got some pretty stiff competition from Mother Nature. Friday’s WoO event at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, was washed out by heavy rain, and that storm cell nearly kept the series from competing Saturday at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.
Despite a 2-hour, 59-minute delay Saturday night, the Commonwealth Clash was contested and it was another test of endurance as the Outlaws wind down their grueling 75-race season. When Friday’s WoO kickoff to Eldora’s annual 4-Crown Nationals was canceled, it left only eight races to decide the 2012 series championship. Schatz entered the weekend with a 94-point lead over Craig Dollansky and, following his second-place finish behind the wheel of the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J, he left Pennsylvania with a 114-point advantage.
“These STP guys are amazing,” Schatz said following his 11th consecutive top-10 finish and seventh straight podium finish. “No matter what gets thrown at them, they just keep giving me a great car. We were looking forward to racing both Eldora and Lernerville this weekend, but Mother Nature decided to make things difficult. We had to wait out the rain and we knew the track was going to be fast. We were able to qualify well, get through our heat, the dash and just kind of hang there for a while in the feature. The car came in about halfway through the race and a couple of the guys in front of us had some problems. Finishing second was a good result for us, and now we’ll just keep our focus toward the next race.”
Kinser charged the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim from deep in the field to finish 13th. “The King of the Outlaws” was the sixth driver to hit the 4/10-mile track and he turned the 27th-best lap in the field of 31 cars. The 20-time WoO champion worked his way from a last-row starting position in heat three into a transfer spot. In the 35-lap A-Feature, Kinser kept the Bass Pro Shops machine moving forward on the extremely fast surface and ultimately climbed to 13th.
Schatz was the 20th of 31 cars to qualify around the semi-banked, dirt oval located in western Pennsylvania. The four-time WoO champion would end up fourth in the field and finish third in the opening heat and fifth in the dash. Schatz narrowly avoided contact with other cars on a couple of occasions, both when the race started and following an early restart, which dropped him to sixth. After he found his rhythm, he began reeling in the leaders. With 10 laps remaining, he was running fourth and, during the final five laps, both Paul McMahan, who was running second, and Dollansky, who led the first 32 laps, had mechanical failures. Dale Blaney led the final three laps and Schatz followed him across the line.
“That was a bit of struggle early on,” Schatz said after his second consecutive runner-up finish at Lernerville. “The starts weren’t the best, but that’s what happens, sometimes. We just hung in there. I knew the car was going to allow me to move around and fine the best line. We were good enough to be second tonight and we’ll keep working and see if we can be one spot better next week at Williams Grove.”
The TSR teams will return to action this weekend at legendary Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The track will host the 50th annual Morgan Hughes National Open with a winner’s share of $50,000 on the line in Saturday’s finale. Kinser and Schatz are the only drivers to have won the prestigious race four times and both would like to break that tie. Kinser drove the Bass Pro Shops machine to victory twice in the same night earlier in the year at Williams Grove, winning both the Spring Nationals and Morgan Cup. Schatz, whose most recent win at Williams Grove came in July 2008, would like add another big-race win to his 2012 resume, which already includes his sixth Knoxville Nationals triumph.