Donny Schatz celebrates his 2013 Knoxville Nationals title with fans. (Photo courtesy Knoxvilleraces.com)
In 2012, Brian Brown could have used two more laps in the Knoxville National’s championship race. In 2013, he would have preferred the distance was 10 laps shorter.
In both 2012 and 2013, Brown finished second to Donny Schatz, who Saturday won his seventh Knoxville National's championship in eight years. In 2013 Schatz found yet another way to win, coming from his 21st-place start to pass Brown for the lead in just 41 laps.
Schatz’s victory earned him $150,000 and made him the deepest starting winner in the 53-year history of Knoxville Nationals. The previous record was held by Jerry Richert in 1962 and equaled by Steve Kinser in 1995.
The last few nationals have been the Brown & Schatz show, with the two friendly rivals eventually dueling at the front of the field. In 2012, Brown was the pursuer and Schatz held him off by a car-length at the end. Many thought in 2012 if the race had gone two more laps Brown would have finally gotten the illusive Nationals victory.
In 2013 the tables were turned, with Brown starting fourth and quickly jumping to the lead. Schatz, on the other hand, had to race the B Feature just to qualify for the A Main and started 21st.
Brown said he wasn’t complacent with Schatz starting deep in the pack. “Donny could start in Oskaloosa and still have a chance to win here,” Brown said. “"We don’t realize what a great champion he is and we don’t always respect that. When I looked up at the board (at the end of the back straight) and I saw that (Schatz’s) No. 15 coming. I thought, ‘Oh, shit.’ I continued to look at the scoreboard every couple of laps and I saw 15 fourth, 15 third, 15 second, and I knew where I was running he couldn’t be passing cars like that so he had to be able to move around.”
Schatz said he was indeed running several lines. On many occasions, Schatz was able to use the low line through three and four and accelerate past cars on the front straight, completing the pass before turn one.
“Our car was just a little too tight to run down on the bottom,” said Brown, “and also I think I used my stuff up early trying to get rotated and I had nothing for him. I just tried to hold Justin (Henderson) off (for second place).”
Schatz said he was confident he had a chance at the win despite starting so deep in the field, but he knew would have to make major progress by the competition red flag at the half way point that allowed competitors to change tires, refuel and make other adjustments for the final 25-lap sprint.
“I told my guys if we are going to have a legit shot at this we need to get to the top five (by the competition red) so we need to throw the kitchen sink at it.” Schatz was fifth when the competition red came out on lap 24. Schatz said the red flag was needed, not only for fuel but because the track had become abrasive and was wearing everyone’s tires. While describing the track as "slick," Schatz complimented the Knoxville crew on preparing a remarkably consistent track throughout the four-day National's event.
While in 2012 Schatz said he felt fortunate to hold off a charging Brown whose lunge out of turn four on lap 50 fell less than 10 feet short (story here). In 2013, Schatz passed Brown on lap 41 and pulled away, winning by more than four seconds.
“This is definitely by far the hardest earned one (National's championship), especially the way we had felt all week long,” said Schatz. “We didn’t doubt ourselves, but some days when you know what you are doing and you go do it, it just doesn’t work out the way you expect and you kind of get a little bit nervous, I guess. But to start 21st and win the race is just incredible. Last night (Friday) I was hoping to win the World Challenge and take that 25th starting spot, to be honest, but tonight it really helped us to be able to run that B main.”
Schatz won the B Main to transfer into the A Main. He gave credit to his crew for persevering through Schatz’s qualifying challenges. He also credited some experience in a different kind of race car for helping him Saturday night.
"One thing that really helped me with tonight’s race was just being able to run a dirt late model,” Schatz said. “It's something that’s helped me drive this race car without depending on the wings so much. It’s really helped me learn to drive the car in a different way. I basically drove it like a late model around the corner.”
As usual, Schatz was introduced to both cheers and boos from the near-capacity crowd estimated at 20,000. Many believe the reception is a side effect of Schatz's dominance at Knoxville, where he has won seven of the last eight National’s titles.
Schatz’s streak was only broken in 2010 by Tim Shaffer who won after a ferocious duel between Schatz and Sammie Swindell resulted in a blown left rear for Swindell and an ailing engine for Schatz. Shaffer stayed cool and capitalized on the aftermath of the brawl between Schatz and 1983 champion Swindell to overtake Schatz on the last lap in 2010 for a stunning and popular win. (Story here.)
Schatz said Saturday nobody likes to get booed, but he takes solace in the many cheers in the audience. “The six guys who painted their chest (see photo above) that I got to get my picture taken with, that makes it worth it," he said. "I know there are people boo just because someone else did. I did the same thing to (12-time winner) Steve Kinser back in the day. You gotta appreciate the situation. It comes with the territory. I understand how it works.”
While there were boos at introductions, by the end of the race most of the crowd seemed to appreciate Schatz’s amazing 21st-to-1st drive through a field of the best sprint car drivers in the world and the few boos were drowned out by a roar of approval.
“Man to get through there; I don’t know what the hell else anyone wants me to do,” said Schatz. “I guess I’m just going to keep doing what I do. That was a lot of fun to be able to start that far back and get up there. I know if it’s that much fun for me, it’s got to be that much fun for everyone here.”
Race notes and finishing order provided by Knoxville Raceway PR:
Brown jumped to a 1.321 second advantage before the first caution on Lap 2 for the spun No. 4 of Cody Darrah.
After a caution on Lap 4, Brown built a 3.602 second lead by Lap 11.
Schatz was in the top 10 by Lap 5, and was fifth on Lap 20.
At the competition red on Lap 24 with Brown leading over Joey Saldana, Justin Henderson, Kevin Swindell, and Donny Schatz.
Schatz powered to P3 by Lap 29 with the track starting to take rubber, the STP No. 15 grabbed second on Lap 32.
Schatz methodically stalked Brown who hit lapped traffic. Almost two seconds behind at Lap 33, Schatz closed to under a half second by Lap 40, taking the lead the following lap, and going uncontested to the finish.
Justin Henderson earned his best career finish at Knoxville Nationals in P3.
Paul McMahan crossed fourth with Chad Kemenah completing the top five from the nineteenth starting spot.
Kyle Larson charged from seventeenth to sixth with Joey Saldana seventh. Danny Lasoski moved from thirteenth to eighth with Steve Kinser and Cap Henry, who raced in via Friday night’s feature event, completing the top ten from eighteenth.
The Knoxville Championship Cup Series will conclude 2013 with Season Championship Night on August 24. All three sprint car divisions will be in action. For more information, visit http://www.KnoxvilleRaceway.com!
53rd Annual FVP Knoxville Nationals Results
E main 10 laps, 2:38.9: 1. 1, Sammy Swindell, Germantown, TN (4); 2. 20, AJ Moeller, Rockwell City, IA (2); 3. 20K, Thomas Kennedy, Winnipeg, MB, Can. (3); 4. 17B, Bill Balog, Hartland, WI (5); 5. 01, Paul Morris, Gold Coast, QLD, Aust. (7); 6. 10V, Glen Saville, Razorback, NSW, Aust. (9); 7. 2K, Kevin Ingle, Huron, SD (6) / 8. 12P, TJ Peterson, Des Moines, IA (8); 9. 20PK, Ron Krysl, Atkinson, NE (10); 10. 28, Brian Paulus, Mechanicsburg, PA (11) DNS – 45, Danny Holtgraver, Pittsburgh, PA, 71, Robert Bell, Colfax, IA, 21x, Bryan Clauson, Noblesville, IN, 6R, Ryan Bunton, Morton, IL, 2s, Lee Sowell, Lake Cormorant, MS
D main, 12 laps, 3:22.7: 1. 2B, Dale Blaney, Hartford, OH (3); 2. 93H, Sheldon Haudenschild, Wooster, OH (2); 3. Sammy Swindell (18); 4. 7G, Kaley Gharst, Decatur, IL (1); 5. 23K, Rob Kubli, Milo, IA (4) / 6. 1x, Tony Bruce Jr., Liberal, KS (8); 7. 24R, Rico Abreu, St. Helena, CA (10); 8. 6BR, Bill Rose, Plainfield, IN (7); 9. 69, Mike Moore, Des Moines, IA (6); 10. 0, Jonathan Allard, Chico, CA (15); 11. 1K, Chris Shirek, Thompson, ND (9); 12. Bill Balog (21); 13. 40, Caleb Helms, Findlay, OH (5); 14. 74x, Josh Hodges, Tijeras, NM (13); 15. 99, Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow, OK (17); 16. 88, Jarrod Schneiderman, West Burlington, IA (11); 17. 80, Trey Gustin, West Union, OH (16); 18. 19, Bob Weuve, Newton, IA (14); 19. 1a, Jacob Allen, Hanover, PA (12); 20. Paul Morris (22); 21. Kevin Ingle (24); 22. Thomas Kennedy (20); 23. Glen Saville (23); 24. AJ Moeller (19) DNS – 17, Jack Dover, Springfield, NE, 44w, Austen Wheatley, Lake Stevens, WA, w20, Greg Wilson, Benton Ridge, OH
C main, 15 laps. 15H, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Sunnyvale, TX (1); 2. 83, Tim Shaffer, Aliquippa, PA (7); 3. 48, Danny Dietrich, Gettysburg, PA (4); 4. 49, Josh Schneiderman, West Burlington, IA (2) / 5. 11K, Kraig Kinser, Bloomington, IN (16); 6. o5, Brad Loyet, Sunset Hills, MO (12); 7. Sammy Swindell (22); 8. 71J, R.J. Johnson, Tampa, FL (11); 9. 9P, Rager Phillips, Pleasantville, IA (6); 10. 19M, Brent Marks, Myerstown, PA (19); 11. 2L, Ed Lynch Jr., Apollo, PA (5); 12. 27, Lance Dewease, Fayetteville, PA (13); 13. 17w, Cole Wood, Auburn, CA (10); 14. Sheldon Haudenschild (21); 15. 23, Jimmy Light, West Springfield, PA (18); 16. 45x, Johnny Herrera, Albuquerque, NM (15); 17. Kaley Gharst (23); 18. 35, Skylar Prochaska, Lakefield, MN (17); 19. 7K, Dustin Selvage, Indianola, IA (3); 20. 17A, Austin McCarl, Altoona, IA (8); 21. Rob Kubli (24); 22. Dale Blaney (20); 23. 4s, Danny Smith, Chillicothe, OH (14); 24. 7TAZ, Tasker Phillips, Pleasantville, IA (9) DNS – 1B, Robby Wolfgang, Sioux Falls, SD
B main, 22 laps: 1. 15, Donny Schatz, Fargo, ND (4); 2. 12, Lynton Jeffrey, Prairie City, IA (1); 3. 91, Dusty Zomer, Sioux Falls, SD (9); 4. 18, Ian Madsen, St. Mary’s, NSW, Aust. (8) / 5. 82, Scott Winters, Butterfield, MN (2); 6. 9w, Brandon Wimmer, Fairmount, IN (11); 7. 14AJ, Wayne Johnson, Knoxville, IA (13); 8. 7s, Jason Sides, Bartlett, TN (3); 9. 96, Bronson Maeschen, Pleasantville, IA (19); 10. 24, Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA (7); 11. 7, Craig Dollansky, Elk River, MN (6); 12. 56, Davey Heskin, St. Michael, MN (16); 13. 13, Mark Dobmeier, Grand Forks, ND (10); 14. 11N, Randy Hannagan, Pittsboro, IN (14); 15. 41, Jason Johnson, Eunice, LA (12); 16. Danny Dietrich (23); 17. 94, Jeff Swindell, Bartlett, TN (15); 18. 47, Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, NE (17); 19. Josh Schneiderman (24); 20. 1s, Logan Schuchart, Hanover, PA (20); 21. Sam Hafertepe Jr. (21); 22. 83JR, Tim Kaeding, San Jose, CA (5); 23. 55XM, James McFadden, Brisbane, QLD, Aust. (18); 24. Tim Shaffer (22)
A main, 50 laps: 1. Donny Schatz (21); 2. 21, Brian Brown, Grain Valley, MO (2); 3. 1D, Justin Henderson, Tea, SD (4); 4. 51, Paul McMahan, Nashville, TN (6); 5. 63, Chad Kemenah, Alvada, OH (19); 6. 1KL, Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, CA (17); 7. 71M, Joey Saldana, Brownsburg, IN (1); 8. 33, Danny Lasoski, Dover, MO (13); 9. 11, Steve Kinser, Bloomington, IN (12); 10. 54, Cap Henry, Bellevue, OH (18); 11. Dusty Zomer (23); 12. 39, Greg Hodnett, Thomasville, PA (16); 13. 49K, Brad Sweet, Grass Valley, CA (5); 14. 9, Daryn Pittman, Owasso, OK (11); 15. 4, Cody Darrah, Red Lion, PA (10); 16. 29, Kerry Madsen, St. Mary’s, NSW, Aust. (8); 17. 57, Shane Stewart, Bixby, OK (3); 18. 11c, Roger Crockett, Medford, OR (15); 19. 55, Brooke Tatnell, Sans Souci, NSW, Aust. (25); 20. 71s, Kevin Swindell, Germantown, TN (9); 21. Ian Madsen (24); 22. Lynton Jeffrey (22); 23. 6, David Gravel, Watertown, CT (7); 24. 59, Jac Haudenschild, Wooster, OH (20); 25. 19s, Stevie Smith, Broken Arrow, OK (14). Lap Leaders: Brown 1-40, Schatz 41-50. Hard-charger: Schatz.