Fargo driver Donny Schatz nabs feature victory at home track with Tony Stewart on hand
WEST FARGO - Even with an Elvis impersonator in the building, Donny Schatz still found a way to show everyone who's really "The King."
Fresh off winning a $150,000 race, Schatz made his wallet a bit fatter, picking up $12,000 after finishing first on Wednesday in the Sprint car feature at Red River Valley Speedway.
It is the second time Schatz has raced at his home track in three weeks. He finished second in the last race.
"I just get to drive a good car," Schatz said after the race.
When it comes to Sprint cars, Schatz is very much the king of his sport, much like the way Albert Pujols dominates baseball or the way Snooki can claim the title as reality TV's most annoying person.
He's finished first or second in Nationals in 10 of the past 12 seasons. He's currently in second place in the World of Outlaws, which is the crown jewel of the Sprint car racing tournament.
Not to mention, his pockets haven't been going hungry. Schatz won his fifth Knoxville Nationals race in six tries on Saturday. Whoever wins that race gets $150,000 and a big reason to smile.
Schatz didn't get that big of a check Wednesday, but he did have plenty of reasons to smile following his win.
The Sprint car feature had an ugly start, with four cautions coming in the first eight laps. During that time Schatz made his way from fifth to third and, after the fourth caution, was in second.
From there, it was on. Schatz battled with David Gravel for first place. Whenever Schatz tried to go up, Gravel went up. Whenever Schatz tried to go low, Gravel went low. But when Lap 16 came around, Schatz went low and Gravel got a hot dog.
When Schatz took first, he made sure he wasn't giving it up. He started lapping drivers like he was a retriever and a toilet bowl was just a few steps away. At one point, Schatz had a lead that was the length of a straightaway.
"With all the guys moving around, I said, 'Hey, hey, this is my track,'" Schatz joked. "It isn't really my track."
You'd have never known it with the way Schatz raced and with the way his family has, to a large degree, taken ownership of restoring interest in the speedway this year.
The race featured two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who finished ninth and extended his winless streak at the speedway to 0-for-5. Bringing in Stewart, who owns Schatz's Sprint car team, this year has helped draw fans and racers from across the nation.
More than 4,500 fans showed up as they watched nearly four hours of racing that was marked by an Elvis impersonator. The impersonator was flown in from Las Vegas and showed up dressed as "The King", before Presley's stomach became as large as Schatz's bank account.
The Elvis impersonator performed quite a few songs and swiveled his hips to the joy of the crowd while wearing a baby blue jump suit complete with a blue scarf and a belt that looked like it could belong to wrestler Ric Flair. By the way, he did come out to Ric Flair's intro music.
Yet when it was all said and done, it was Schatz, not the impersonator, who left the building.
"Thanks everyone for coming out tonight," Schatz said to the crowd. "I hope you enjoyed it."
Heat 1 - 1. Jason Sides 2. Donny Schatz 3. Cap Henry
Heat 2 - 1. Sam Hafertepe, Jr. 2. Jessica Zemken 3. Lynton Jefferies
Heat 3 - 1. Mark Dobmeier. 2. Sammy Swindell. 3. Greg Wilson
Heat 4 - 1. Chris Shirek 2. Austin Pierce 3.Tim Shaffer
Feature - 1. Schatz 2. David Gravel 3. Swindel
Heat 1 - 1. Chad Williamson, Watertown, S.D. 2. Cody Skytland, Fargo 3. Corey Seckerson, Jamestown, N.D.
Heat 2 - 1. Mitch Johnson, Hickson, N.D. 2. Matt Aukland, Fargo 3. Adam Fischer, Fargo.
Heat 3 - 1. Harold Schill, West Fargo. 2.Troy Schill, Grand Forks. 3. Cole Scholl, West Fargo.
Heat 4 - 1. Ricky Weiss, Headingley, Man. 2. Mike Bruns, Fargo. 3. Tom Thompson, Brainerd, Minn.
Feature - 1. Segerson 2. Weiss 3. Aukland
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.
Clark's Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com