Schatz Wins Outlaws Opener

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BARBERVILLE, Fla. - Donny Schatz picked up exactly where he left off last season, as he returned to Victory Lane in the World of Outlaws season opener on Friday night as part of the 36th Annual DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Mopar Speedshop at Volusia Speedway Park.

The reigning World of Outlaws Champion, who won 17 A-Feature events in 2006, began the night by turning the second fastest lap in time trials, with a 56-car field on hand. After winning the season’s first dash, he earned the pole position for the 25-lap A-Feature with Joey Saldana alongside him.

Saldana got the jump at the start and opened up a sizeable advantage in the first five laps. As the pair entered lapped traffic, Schatz began to steadily chip away at the lead, after battling Danny Lasoski for the second spot. On the 12th lap, Schatz went low to take the lead in turn one. Saldana quickly battled back with a slide job, momentarily taking the lead back, before Schatz powered to the low side of the second turn to make the pass for the lead and ultimately the win.

Schatz, a native of Fargo, North Dakota, masterfully worked his way through traffic as the laps wound down, in an event that went all 25 laps, green-to-checker in just under seven minutes, before a packed grandstand. It was his first win with new crew chief Dave Lawrence a native of Pennsylvania, and 52nd career World of Outlaws A-Feature triumph.

“It was a great night,” said Schatz, driver of the Parker Store J&J. “We qualified really well. It’s a very good race car. We have a new package, and new faces. All the new faces are adapting superbly. I’m as pumped up as I have ever been. I can’t wait to get in the car again tomorrow. I want to get racing, and I want to get racing every day and try to get everything we can.”

Schatz fell back to third on the initial start after spinning his tires a bit, and worked his way around Danny Lasoski on the eighth lap, and then set his sights on Saldana.

“You have to be patient and wait for the traffic,” Schatz explained after his $8,000 win. “He (Saldana) had a faster car in open race track. My car was a little more maneuverable in lapped traffic, and that’s where the races are won. That’s what we needed to see. Sometimes leading at the start, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be leading at the end.”

Saldana has been fast all week during the DIRTcar Nationals, having won on Tuesday with the All Star Circuit of Champions. The native of Brownsburg, Ind., driving for NASCAR star Kasey Kahne did everything he could, as he chased down Schatz in the late going. He was consistently the fastest car on the track, turning the fastest lap of the contest on the second circuit.

“It was a good night,” said Saldana, driver of the Open Joist JEI. “Donny (Schatz) is a very good competitor. He showed last year how tough he is. We’re just looking to get going and for the first last four nights, it has not been too bad. If we can continue to run like that, it should be a good year. A caution definitely would have helped me. I was running him back down in lapped traffic. We were definitely as fast as him and that makes you feel pretty good.”

Lasoski, the 2001 World of Outlaws Champion was in the Top-Three all night, and battled his way through heavy lapped traffic that was the result of running all 25 laps under the green flag on the blazing fast half-mile. The native of Dover, Missouri, who won two World of Outlaws A-Feature events last season, gladly welcomed the stout competition, as nearly 60 cars that signed into the pits.

“I thought we would either win it or run second,” said Lasoski driver of the Roth Motorsports Eagle. “We kind of got held up running through lapped traffic, and came to almost a complete stop. You’re racing the best of the best out here and you can’t give anyone an inch, because when you do that’s when it will bite you.”

Craig Dollansky opened the season with a very strong run, as he brought the Karavan Trailers Maxim home fourth. Dollansky has been strong since he first unloaded in the Sunshine State a couple weeks back, winning last weekend, and finishing second twice with the All Stars.

“It was a good run,” said Dollansky, a native of Elk River, Minnesota. “We’ve had a pretty strong Florida so far, and that’s important to starting out on the right foot. Tonight we were in the game, and I am encouraged by that. My crew did a great job tonight.”

After winning an All Stars race on Thursday night, Tim Kaeding charged from the ninth starting spot to finish fifth.

“We had a good race car,” said Kaeding, driver of the Steve Kinser Racing Maxim. “I got a little timid in lapped traffic and didn’t want to wear the thing out. I’m thankful to the crew for giving me a good race car. We rolled it in Top-Five and that is what we are gunning for the whole year. It’s a great start to the season for us.”

The rest of the top 10 was Daryn Pittman in the Titan Garages Maxim in sixth, Jason Solwold in the City Wide Insulation Maxim in seventh, Justin Henderson in the Dan Dan the Sonic Man Rocket in eighth, Brooke Tatnell in the Volcano Joe’s Coffee Schnee was ninth, and Jac Haudenschild in the Wright One Construction Maxim came home 10th.

The World of Outlaws return to action on Saturday night in a 25-lap event that will pay $8,000-to win at Volusia Speedway Park as the 36th Annual DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Mopar Speedshop continue.

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