Schatz Goes Wire to Wire; Wins at Calistoga
Four time World of Outlaws national champion Donny Schatz continued a late season winning streak that has vaulted him to the top of the title chase once again, winning the sprint car feature at Caiistoga Speedway Sunday night.
Schatz was on offense from the start, grabbing the lead from New Zealand driver Kerry Madsen at the drop of the green flag and used his speed to take advantage of a narrow racing line on the half mile oval to lead all 25 laps to the checkered flag.
“I can’t believe I’ve finally won at Calistoga,” said the driver from Minot, South Dakota. “This is huge. It seems like every other time we’ve come here we either weren’t very fast or, when we were good, something bad happened.”
On Sunday, Schatz did narrowly avoid that “something bad” when he was forced to dodge Cody Lamar, who crashed heavily on the front straightaway just a car length in front of the leader at the mid-point of the race. Schatz was following Lamar, the last car on the lead lap, when he suddenly veered to the right at top speed when a suspension part failed. The driver from Sacramento crashed heavily into the wall and flipped several times down the front stretch as the leaders scrambled to avoid the wreckage.
Lamar was shaken but unhurt in the crash, which destroyed the car and also broke a gate leading out of the track, which caused an extensive delay until work crews could secure it so the race could continue safely.
Madsen, who finished second, closed in on Schatz occasionally when cars got slowed down by lapped cars, but was never able to make a pass for the lead. “It was treacherous out there tonight,” said Madsen, referring to a track that was exceptionally fast but with a narrow racing line. “One lap would be good and he would bobble and that would give you hope,” said Madsen, “and the next lap I wold be the one to bobble.
Sammy Swindell, Memphis, Tenn. , finished third and was the night’s fastest qualifier at an average speed of 106 mph on the half mile oval.
Local drivers Rico Abreu and Jeff Griffin, of St. Helena both suffered engine problems in the early laps and fell out of the event. By starting the race, however, Griffin clinched the Scarborough Trophy and the Calistoga Speedway championship.
-by Bill Sessa