By Mike Spieker
WEST FARGO – A crowd of nearly 6,000 race fans packed the stands Saturday night at Red River Valley Speedway for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series’ only appearance of the 2018 season.
The crowd was cheering on Fargo driver and current World of Outlaws point leader, Donny Schatz, and he did not disappoint.
Schatz took the lead with just seven laps remaining to pick up his first World of Outlaws win at his home track since 2006.
“This is what you live for,” said an elated Schatz in victory lane. “When you race close to home, you hope for the opportunity to put on a good show, finish well and win some races. I’m so fortunate for my team, they are the reason I’m standing here. We’ve been together for a long time and we have a lot of fun doing this. It’s awesome to be here, it’s awesome to see this crowd tonight.”
Schatz began the night by setting the fastest lap in time trials with a lap of 13.230 seconds around the three-eighths-mile oval, averaging 102mph. From there, Schatz won his heat race and finished third in the Sears/Craftsman dash, which earned him the third starting position for the 30-lap, $10,000-to-win feature.
Watertown, Connecticut’s David Gravel jumped out to the early lead over Jacob Allen of Hanover, Pa. Gravel and Allen battled for the top spot for the first half of the race until Schatz reeled both of them amidst lapped traffic.
Local competitor, Thomas Kennedy of Winnipeg, Man., had started 12th on the grid but was running sixth when he spun on lap 18 to bring out the caution.
On the restart, Schatz moved by Allen for second before taking advantage of the next restart on lap 23. The Fargo driver dove to the inside of turn three and slid across the track to take the lead away from Gravel exiting turn four. Two laps later, Gravel’s strong run came to an end after he suffered a flat right rear tire.
Allen, who inherited second following Gravel’s misfortune, remained within striking distance of Schatz in the closing laps, but Schatz held a steady line around the high side of the speedway to collect his fifth career World of Outlaws win at Red River Valley Speedway.
The win made it a clean sweep for Schatz on the weekend in World of Outlaws competition. He also scored the win Friday night at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks.
The NLRA Late Models were also on the card for Saturday’s program. Three-time NLRA champion, Brad Seng, of Grand Forks, claimed the win. Seng had to best Schatz, who was pulling double duty, in a thrilling battle in the final stages. The two drivers traded the lead several times through lapped traffic, but Seng held on for the win.
World of Outlaws:
Feature – 1. 15 – Donny Schatz, Fargo, N.D.; 2. 1A – Jacob Allen, Hanover, Pa.; 3. 2 – Kerry Madsen, Sydney, NSW, Au.; 4. W20 – Greg Wilson, Benton Ridge, Ohio; 5. 1S – Logan Schuchart, Hanover, Pa.
NLRA Late Models:
Feature – 1. 12S – Brad Seng, Grand Forks, N.D.; 2. 42S – Don Shaw, Ham Lake, Minn.; 3. 15 – Donny Schatz, Fargo, N.D.; 4. 37 – Scott Ward, Watertown, S.D.; 5. Dustin Strand, Grand Forks, N.D.