Schatz Holds Off Brown For Sixth Title
Donny Schatz celebrates his sixth Knoxville Nationals victory. (Ken Simon photo)
Saturday, August 11, 2012
By Mike Kerchner
KNOXVILLE, Iowa — The changing of guard may officially be complete in the sprint car racing world.
On a night when Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell failed to qualify for the A main, Donny Schatz won his sixth Knoxville Nationals title in the last seven years.
Schatz dominated the 52nd annual event at the historic Knoxville Raceway to win sprint car racing’s most prestigious race and its $150,000 first prize for the second straight season.
But Schatz’s victory, while not popular, filled the home track fans as two-time Knoxville track champion Brian Brown came up mere feet short in a last lap charge that brought him alongside Schatz’s Tony Stewart Racing No. 15 as the pair raced under Doug Clark’s checkered flag while the crowd roared its approval.
“I knew somebody was going to be coming,” Schatz said. “I had to change my line there because it was getting tricky and I was losing ground. I was moving around a lot and you have to be careful when you are leading the race and you get to moving around. You have everything to lose.”
And Brown had everything to gain.
“I am the happiest guy at Knoxville Raceway tonight,” said Brown. “Donny Schatz is a great champion. He is the smartest guy out here. I was catching him but I didn’t know what I was going to do with him once I caught him.”
Schatz started fifth and took the lead from polesitter Stevie Smith on lap 14. He led the rest of the way despite the fuel stop on lap 26 of the 50-lap race.
But at the end his car was going away quickly despite changing tires at the halfway break, as did the entire field.
“Getting through traffic. I got to Paul McMahan and Cody Darrah and they were running side beside and I was 20 car lengths behind, wondering what I was going to do here. Cody got around Paul and then I tried to pass Cody. I slid it pretty bad there and I tried to use every bit of gas pedal that I could and I just couldn’t get the car going again.
“I went through three and four through the middle on the last lap and it spun. I spun all the way to the checkered. It was either going to have the rods hanging out of it or I was going to win and just did get it done.”
Craig Dollansky finished third for the fourth time in this race.
“We made some adjustments at the break and we went the wrong way a little bit and should have left it the way it was,” Dollansky said. “We had a great week. We put ourselves in position to win and we just weren’t good enough. Donny and his team, they have this place wired. My hat’s off to them. Six of these things, that’s pretty incredible.”
Kraig Kinser finished fourth and Jason Meyers was fifth.
But the other story of the night was the end of 12-time Knoxville Nationals winner Steve Kinser’s 35-year streak of starting A mains at the Knoxville Nationals. The streak dated back to 1977. Swindell finished fifth in the B main, missing the feature by a single spot. It marked the first time since 1975 that both drivers missed the feature in the same season.
As well, four-time Nationals winner Danny Lasoski also failed to qualify for the feature.
“There is a lot of disappointment for not seeing those guys,” said Schatz. “Anybody that degrades them for not making this race should be kicked in the butt. Those guys paved the way and they bring the fans here. Danny was someone who helped me a lot as a kid to keep me from killing myself. To see those guys not in the show is really disheartening. That just shows you how tough the competition is right now.”
Brown, who is Lasoski’s nephew, does not believe the torch has been passed.
“I am not sure the torch has been passed,” Brown said. “Those guys can still get the job done night in and night out. The torch hasn’t been passed. Next to Donny Schatz, Steve Kinser is still the best out there. And Sammy has been on top of his game this year. If the torch has been passed, it has been six times now.”
Six times indeed.