Monday, July 20th, 2009
Schatz captures Kings Royal
By Mike Ernst
Donny Schatz celebrates in victory lane on Saturday night after capturing a win. . .
ROSSBURG - Donny Schatz survived a mid-race battle with Dale Blaney and then held off late challenges by both Blaney and Sam Hafertepe Jr. to capture the 26th annual Kings Royal Saturday night at Eldora Speedway.
The win was the second of Schatz's career in the most prestigious event on the outlaw schedule and was worth $50,000.
"I may be the hardest guy in the pit area to work for," said Schatz, who drives a car owned by Tony Stewart, from victory lane. "But I always want the best and tonight my guys did a great job. It was all about where we qualified and track position and my guys provided a great car."
Schatz, who charged to a second-place finish in Friday night's Knight Before the Kings Royal event, started the main event from the pole position beside Blaney.
Blaney got the jump on the initial start of the race but 2006 Kings Royal champion Joey Saldana spun on the backstretch and collected 17-year-old Cale Conley, forcing the caution flag and a restart.
"You cannot believe how poorly these cars handle in dirty air (behind another car)," Schatz said. "That is what happened on the first start, Dale got in front of me and it felt like my front tires were not even on the ground."
Schatz, from Fargo, North Dakota, got the jump when the race restarted and darted out to the lead. Blaney, the 2000 Kings Royal winner, began to close in on the leader as they reached lapped traffic on lap 10.
Three straight laps, Blaney dove below Schatz entering turn one and slid up in front of Schatz, but each time Schatz would wait for Blaney to slide high and move back to the top spot with a move on the low side of turn two.
On lap 13, with Schatz expecting Blaney to again dive low, Blaney drove around the outside of Schatz in turn four and assumed the top spot. Schatz kept Blaney within sight and then reassumed the lead on lap 16 with a low move in turn one and two. Not to be denied, Blaney made a move back to the top spot on lap 17, but Schatz was up to the challenge and made the final pass for the lead on lap 18.
"Dale really surprised me when he went around us," Schatz said. "I moved the wing back and really started to drive the thing. Dale is really good here and really everywhere he runs especially when it gets slick like it was tonight. That was a great battle, but I think our experience in these 40 lap races was the difference."
As Blaney and Schatz battled for the top spot, Hafertepe, a relative unknown on the outlaw circuit looking for his first career win, began to close in on the leaders and just past the half-way point on lap 21, moved around Blaney into second-place.
The caution flag flew again on lap 23 when Steve Kinser, running sixth at the time, spun into the inside retaining wall after making contact with his son Kraig. Steve Kinser, a six-time Kings Royal winner, was unable to continue.
"Under caution I looked at the scoreboard and seen Sam was running second and I knew he must be coming pretty good because I knew Blaney was real good and he had passed him," Schatz said. "Sam has not won any of these so I knew he would be pushing pretty hard."
Hafertepe continued to chase Schatz as the race restarted and seemed to have the fastest car on the track when Schatz was trapped behind the lapped cars of Sammy Swindell and Ed Lynch Jr. as the race entered its final 10 laps.
As Hafertepe was closing in, his charge stalled when he could not get around the lapped machine of Lee Jacobs, who ran between Schatz and Hafertepe. This allowed Blaney to close in and eventually retake the second position on lap 35.
"I was kind of saving my tires at that time, but I could really feel them going away," Schatz said. "Ed and Sammy had a couple of real good cars and I did not want to burn my tires off trying to pass them, but I think I did anyway."
Lynch and Jim Nier made contact sending Nier into the inside wall and bringing out the final caution on lap 36.
"They made contact right in front of me and I seen that car spin down to the inside and I was hoping he would not come back up the track," Schatz said. "Thankfully we were able to slide by that."
Another glance at the scoreboard told Schatz that Blaney was back in second-place and would line up directly behind him for the final four lap dash to the finish.
"When we took off I could tell right away that my tires were shot and that the car was not sticking at all," Schatz said. "I was waiting for Dale to go around me but they said I pulled away the final four laps but the car did not feel very good at the end."
Schatz was not pressured over the final four laps, while Blaney settled for second-place, ahead of the Cinderella Hafertepe , Tim Shaffer and Terry McCarl, who charged from 24th starting position to a top-five finish. Tim Kaeding, Danny Lasoski, 2008 Kings Royal winner Daryn Pittman, who started 22nd, Kraig Kinser and Brandon Wimmer completed the top 10.
NASCAR star Kasey Kahne led the early portion of the NRA Sprint Invader feature before Blaney, competing in both events, used lapped traffic to his advantage and moved to the lead on lap 13 of the 20-lap race. The win capped a weekend sweep for Blaney in NRA competition as he also won the Jimmy Johnston Memorial on Friday night.
Butch Schroeder moved around Kahne on lap 16 and went on to finish in second-place, while Kahne came home third ahead of Mike Brecht and Tony Stewart.
Eldora Speedway will take next weekend off before returning to action on Saturday, August 1st with the FasTrak Crate Late Model Series and non-wing sprint cars on the racing card.