By Alex Nieten
KANSAS CITY, KS (Oct. 15, 2023) – Time and time again in his career Donny Schatz has proven he can’t be counted out. The savvy veteran has found late race magic many times throughout the years. And on Saturday at Lakeside Speedway, “Don Don” delivered the latest testament to that ability.
A win looked nearly out of reach for Schatz late in the 25-lap finale of the Micro-Lite Harvest Rumble. Schatz sat third with eight laps remaining, and even when he moved to the runner-up spot on the next circuit, leader David Gravel appeared potentially out of reach.
But then little by little the lead began to vanish. And as the white flag was shown, Schatz capitalized when Gravel got stuck behind a lapped car to roll by for the lead. When the checkered flag flew, it was Schatz leading the pack to seal the victory with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars.
After a pair of sub-20th place finishes last weekend at Port Royal, the night served as a revitalizing boost to Schatz and his crew.
“Nights like tonight help us,” Schatz said. “We tore up a car last week at Port Royal pretty bad. These guys put a new car together, and it’s that time of year where you’ve got to start trying some things, and obviously it was pretty good. The goal is consistency. We’ve got a lot of great partners here, and we want to win races and do the best we can for them.”
The win marked Schatz’s third with The Greatest Show on Dirt at Lakeside. He’s now up to 311 for his career with the World of Outlaws. Schatz snapped a 26-race winless streak dating back to July’s Kings Royal.
The path to Victory Lane was up and down for Schatz aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15. A second place effort in the Toyota Racing Dash lined him up on the front row of the main event. But after two laps, Schatz had fallen down the order to sixth.
Pole-sitter Brian Brown powered ahead to the early advantage. Brown rolled the Casey General Store #21 around the low line of the Kansas City, KS oval.
Fifth starting David Gravel quickly began to climb as he jumped into the runner-up spot on Lap 4. Right after taking over second, the Watertown, CT native began chopping into Brown’s advantage. While “Blackjack” remained committed to the bottom, Gravel opted for the cushion all the way around the 4/10-mile. The gap between the two on the fifth circuit was 1.2 seconds. Only two laps later, Gravel had slashed a full second off the margin. Then on the next trip around, Gravel ripped around Brown on the top.
Once he snatched the top spot, Gravel began to construct a solid advantage as Schatz began to crawl back toward the front. On Lap 9 Schatz moved back into the top five. In two more laps he was up into fourth.
With 10 laps remaining, Schatz engaged in a battle with Brad Sweet and Giovanni Scelzi for the runner-up spot. Schatz slipped ahead of Scelzi for third then traded second with Sweet multiple times over the next few circuits. On Lap 18, Schatz secured the spot and set his sights on Gravel.
As the race dwindled, Schatz closed in. Gravel was forced to navigate traffic in the late stages causing his lead to slip away. Then coming to the white flag, Gravel found himself stuck behind a slower car on the top side.
With Gravel being held up, Schatz saw his opportunity and pounced. The Fargo, ND native aimed the #15 machine low and rolled right by Gravel as he couldn’t find his way by the lapped car. By the time they reached the white flag, Schatz already led by roughly three quarters of a second and stretched the advantage even farther on the last circuit before taking the checkered flag.
“I started out good. The guys unloaded, and we were right up there hot lapping and qualifying, so that always helps,” Schatz said. “It was really greasy on the top, and I knew it was going to come in at some point, but I don’t want to be the guy to find out. I’ve tore up enough stuff. I had to work the bottom in, and thank god we got it in before the rain. It worked out for us tonight.
After leading laps 8-23, Gravel settled for a runner-up result, his Series leading 32nd podium of the World of Outlaws season. Gravel and his Big Game crew continue to put out their best efforts with their fifth second place finish in the last nine races as they try to chase down Brad Sweet in the championship battle.
And speaking of Brad Sweet, “The Big Cat” rounded out the Micro-Lite Harvest Rumble podium on Saturday night. Sweet wheeled the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 to a third place run which allowed Gravel to only cut two points off the margin between the duo in the standings. The gap between them now sits at 66 markers.
Giovanni Scelzi and Carson Macedo completed the top five.
A 14th to seventh drive earned James McFadden the KSE Racing Hard Charger.
Brad Sweet nabbed his fourth Simpson Performance Products QuickTime of the year and the 73rd of his career.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Brad Sweet. NOS Energy Drink Heats Two and Three were topped by Brian Brown and Giovanni Scelzi.
Dusty Zomer won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars head to Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX for two final nights at the iconic track. The birthplace of the Outlaws welcomes the Series on Oct. 20-21 for the Sprint Car Stampede – the final event to be hosted by Devil’s Bowl. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps): 1. 15-Donny Schatz; 2. 2-David Gravel; 3. 49-Brad Sweet; 4. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 5. 41-Carson Macedo; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 7. 83-James McFadden; 8. 21-Brian Brown; 9. 9-Kasey Kahne; 10. 84-Scott Bogucki; 11. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 12. 5-Spencer Bayston; 13. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 14. 12X-Garet Williamson; 15. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 16. 3J-Dusty Zomer; 17. 7S-Robbie Price; 18. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 19. 81-Jack Dover; 20. 99-Skylar Gee; 21. 20G-Noah Gass; 22. 19-Ayrton Gennetten; 23. (DNF) 22X-Kameron Key; 24. (DNF) 7W-Tasker Phillips