World of Outlaws star Donny Schatz talks Chili Bowl debut
Describing Donny Schatz as a rookie hardly seems appropriate.
After all, Schatz is the defending World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars champion. He’s won eight titles over the past decade —including the last three. The 39-year-old Minot, North Dakota, native ranks third on the all-time WoO win list behind legends Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell.
But this week, the 20-year WoO veteran will be one of 77 rookies when he climbs into the No. 15 Arctic Cat midget at the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
Teaming up with Clauson-Marshall Racing
“It’s kind of an outside-the-box opportunity for me,” Schatz said. “I really appreciate Tim (Clauson) and the Clauson-Marshall Racing team for giving me the chance to run their car. It was kind of something Bryan (Clauson) had been asking me to do for a while.”
Clauson and Schatz grew close during their tenure together at Tony Stewart/Curb-Aganian Racing from 2010 to 2014. Schatz mentored Clauson during his transition into Winged Sprint cars. Following the 2016 CBN, the Clausons decided to assemble an All-Star team for this year’s event.
Last March, Schatz initially discussed the opportunity with his WoO team owner Tony Stewart, a two-time Chili Bowl champion. Sadly, Bryan Clauson passed away five months later following injuries sustained while competing in the Belleville (Kan.) Nationals.
With the wheels already in motion, CMR announced in Sept. that Schatz would race for the team in the Mecca of Midgets.
“It all came together, and each part of this has been really special,” Schatz said. “Last week, Arctic Cat came on board and I’ve been having fun with their snowmobiles and ATVs for years, so it’s a perfect fit.”
Getting a feel for it
Schatz didn’t want to disappoint in his midget debut. He tested at US 24 Raceway in Logansport, Indiana and completed 70 to 80 laps to get a feel for the car.
“It certainly wasn’t what I expected,” Schatz said. “It was helluva lot of fun. I just wasn’t sure if I could get the car to go around the track. It took a little bit, but thanks to Tim (Clasuon) and the guys there, I got somewhat of the hang of it.”
That’s not surprising, considering Schatz has won 229 races, including nine Knoxville Nationals. Schatz is the only WoO driver to win more than 20 A-features in four consecutive seasons, including last season when he won 25 Mains in 84 starts.
A rookie again
Still, it’s been nearly five season since Schatz was a rookie in any racing division. He appeared in the Prelude to the Dream Dirt Late Model race at Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in 2012. Schatz finished fourth behind Kyle Busch, Stewart and Austin Dillon.
After a six-race stint in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, last week, Schatz returned to the U.S. in time for Monday morning’s opening Chili Bowl practice at the Tulsa Expo. He was third on the speed chart.
“I just hope we can go out there and make some good laps,” Schatz said. “I’m really excited for this opportunity. It’s an incredible field.”
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