SCHATZ SWEEPS OUTLAWS AT ELDORA; WINDOM ROMPS
USAC SPRINTS STORY (COURTESY USAC PR)
Rossburg, Ohio………For Chris Windom, this is supposed to be his big May. The reigning USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ has a jampacked schedule of short track races across the Midwest to compete in and is on the verge of his first start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
If Saturday night’s #LetsRaceTwo at Eldora Speedway was any indication of how this May will play out for the Canton, Ill. native, this month will truly be one to remember.
Windom took the lead from Kevin Thomas, Jr. on the fourth lap of the 30-lap feature at the western Ohio half-mile dirt oval and went on to hammer home USAC victory number one for 2018 and his first Sprint Car win at the track since 2013.
Rain was on the forecast and urgency was at the forefront as the show was pushed along to defeat Mother Nature. Yet it was Thomas who initially looked like the one to take the bull by the horns at the start, splitting between Chase Stockon and Windom just past the flag stand, then sliding up in front of pole sitter Joe Stornetta to grab the lead by turn one.
Windom immediately charged forth and tried to redeem a two-for-one discount coupon, sliding by Stornetta and Thomas in quick succession entering turn three to briefly snare the top spot before Thomas ducked back underneath to regain control exiting the fourth turn.
The first big incident of the night occurred in turn two on the third lap when 11th-running Justin Grant and another car made contact, sending the Ione, Calif. native on a wild ride that he would walk away from unscathed.
On the ensuing restart, more trouble ensued when third-running Stornetta climbed the outside wall between turns three and four and cartwheeled several times before coming to rest near the bottom of turn four. The series Rookie making just his second start at Eldora escaped injury.
On the restart, Windom got up on the wheel once again and went on the attack, running down Thomas with a successful turn one slider. Thomas fought back on both ends of the racetrack with a two-pack of sliders, to no avail.
“I don’t know if there was urgency, but clean air here, even in a non-wing car, is crucial,” Windom pointed out. “With the dust, and watching guys mess up on the cushion, it’s just a lot easier being in the lead. I knew that the slider line (Thomas) was running would work on restarts, but I thought if I could get up and start getting my momentum going up top, it’d be better, and it was. When I saw the opportunity, I just took it. I wanted to get out to the lead and get away from everybody as quick as possible. Obviously, it helps with the great racecar (crew chief) Derek Claxton gave me.”
Though it appeared Windom and the Baldwin Brothers Racing team had the “it” factor going on from the get-go, it wasn’t initially clear to Windom how well his car was going to react as the race wore on at a feisty joint like “The Big E.”
“The first couple of laps, I didn’t know how great my car was with the way we were sliding ourselves,” Windom admitted. “Once we started rolling the top, I knew the car was really good. As long as I didn’t mess up on my end, it was going to be tough for anyone to get to us. This place is just so mentally and physically demanding. Running the cushion like that is tough to do for 30 laps.”
By halfway, Windom’s lead was a full-straightaway – a country mile, if you will – as a pack that included Stockon, Tyler Courtney, Robert Ballou and Friday night winner Brady Bacon sorted out the runner-up spot lap-after-lap with Courtney finally able to emerge with the second position on the 19th lap. But, by then, Windom’s lead was a nearly insurmountable 4.843 seconds. It was a lead so large that Windom was unaware of how large it actually was.
“I didn’t know I had that big of a lead,” Windom exclaimed. “I knew we were pretty good, but when you start getting into lapped traffic, every little lapped car can slow you down just enough. It’s such a momentum racetrack for a guy to catch you. You have to be slow and methodical through lapped traffic, but you can’t let up too much. I tried to pick them off as quickly as I could and tried to get some guys between me and second.”
By race’s end, Windom had lapped up to eighth place. Courtney was able to make up some ground as Windom got hung up while threading the needle through traffic. But the hang-up was a brief one and not nearly enough to stall Windom as he finished hammering the proverbial nail, winning by a margin of 2.3 seconds over Courtney, Stockon, Bacon and Ballou.
“We’ve had a lot of good runs. I think we’ve had four or five podium finishes so far. But you get sick of those after a while and you just want to win a race. It’s awesome to start it here!”
WORLD OF OUTLAWS STORY (COURTESY WoO PR)
ROSSBURG, OH – May 12, 2018 – The man is on a roll. Donny Schatz completed the weekend sweep of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series portion of Let’s Race Two at Eldora Speedway holding off Logan Schuchart for the second consecutive night. It was Schatz’ eighth win of the 2018 season and fourth in his last five starts as he continues to extend his lead atop the Series Point Standings in search of his 10th Outlaw Championship.
Schatz won the Sears Craftsman Dash and shared the front row with Parker Price-Miller. It was PPM getting the jump on the start as the Indiana native set the pace for the first four laps on the cushion before Schatz took command of the field on the fifth circuit on the bottom.
Schuchart just barely edged Price-Miller to the line on Lap 7, which was significant because the caution flew for Sheldon Haudenschild, lining Schuchart to the outside of Schatz. Haudenschild, who entered the evening third in the World of Outlaws Point Standings, was unable to return to action.
The restart saw Schatz and Schuchart put a straightaway back to the rest of the field, as the duo, who finished first and second a night ago, were once again the class of the field. Schuchart was able to keep his Shark Racing No.1S glued to the bottom of the Eldora Speedway racing surface and close in on Schatz.
But, catching Donny Schatz and passing Donny Schatz are two entirely different things. Every time it appeared Schuchart may have a run to get underneath Schatz, the Fargo, ND native would go to the bottom, forcing Schuchart to the top. Schuchart’s No.1S was not as strong on the cushion, allowing Schatz to maintain the lead each time.
With consecutive Green Flag action, lapped traffic played a factor. Schatz reminded everyone why he is the nine-time and defending Series Champion with his prowess through a maze of lapped cars. Schuchart, an Outlaw winner at Eldora last year, stayed right with Schatz every step and just as he was about to pull even with the Champion, the caution flew for an ailing Spencer Bayston with five laps remaining.
With five or fewer laps remaining in the Feature, the start was single-file. Schuchart and third-place running Aaron Reutzel both stayed with Schatz on the restart, but Donny was too strong and went on to take the checkered flag 1.536 seconds ahead of Schuchart.
“We love lapped traffic. That’s where races are won and lost,” Schatz said in Victory Lane when prompted about the close-quartered racing action. “My guys are incredible. We keep working, keep digging and keep finding ways to be up here at the end of the night,” Schatz added before expressing his thanks to the fans for coming out and thanking the track and officials for running an accelerated program to beat Mother Nature.
When asked about the close racing with Schuchart, Schatz referenced an old tale from his father, “If you are worried about what is behind you, you are going to have a hell of a time handling what’s in front of you. I’ve always raced like that and tonight was no different.”
Schuchart was pleased with his second consecutive runner-up finish. “It was a lot of fun racing up there. I know my heart was pumping, it was hard to stay calm,” the upbeat Hanover, PA native said. “What a great weekend for us. Two podiums and if you are going to finish second to someone, that’s a hell of a team to finish behind. They are incredible, but we are going to try and keep working hard to beat them,” Schuchart added.
Reutzel’s 2018 speed continued as he followed up last night’s disappointment of wrecking while leading with a podium finish. “I probably should have been a little more aggressive on the top, but we definitely wanted to finish after last night,” the Texan and current All-Star point leader said.
Kraig Kinser had an impressive 15th to fourth run for his best finish of the season with Tim Shaffer completing the top five. Early race leader Parker Price-Miller settled for sixth with Kerry Madsen, 17th-starting Brad Sweet, 22nd-starting Ian Madsen and 24th-starting Daryn Pittman completing the top ten. Pittman claimed KSE Hard Charger honors for the second consecutive night.