Winning a way of life for Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic contender

DONNY Schatz has made a career out of sprintcar racing and winning is just a way of life.

The 36-year-old from Fargo, North Dakota, is arguably the world’s best driver. 

But seven Knoxville Nationals victories in the past eight years and 23 wins in the World of Outlaws series in 2013 at home ensure there is no argument.

He contests about 100 race meetings a year in America, New Zealand and Australia.

A snapshot of his lifestyle looks like this. Two weekends ago he raced (and won) in Queensland; he flew home for four days, raced his own late model sedan on Sunday and then boarded a plane back to Australia. 

He arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday morning and tonight opens his bid for a third Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic at Allansford’s Premier Speedway.

He hasn’t raced at the track for about seven years yet he will start favourite just because of his speed, racecraft and reputation.

Wherever he goes he is the hunted. Everyone wants to beat him.

But there’s a big difference between thinking and doing it.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure,” Schatz told The Standard of pre-race expectations.

“It’s a way of life. When you race at this level it (competing) is all about self-satisfaction. 

“If I’m not in a position to win wherever I go, I am going to find a way to give myself a chance.

“It’s really self-satisfaction. 

‘‘No one has to do this, I choose to do it.”

Schatz’s aim tonight and Sunday is to win.

“I don’t go anywhere I don’t think I can win,” he said modestly.

“Obviously if I’m not doing the best I can I will find a way to do better. 

‘‘I enjoy the competition, I enjoy racing.

“Things change every day and you have to stay up with the pack. 

‘‘It (the sport) is never something you can be comfortable in. You have to stay ahead of the changes.”

Schatz has had a car shipped from the US to New Zealand and then to Australia from his American Tony Stewart Motorsports team.

“We have our program running good, the car is running good and everything is rolling well,’’he said.

‘‘I hope we can (win).”

Schatz had no intention of contesting the Classic.

He is not even sure how his presence came about other than Western Australian car owner Luch Monte pressuring him to link up with the team — the same combo he won back-to-back Classics with in 2001 and 2002.

“It hasn’t been on the cards because I have had sponsor commitments on this weekend back home every year,’’ he said. 

“This was an odd situation where there was nothing on my calendar and Luch put a lot of pressure on me to do it.”

Schatz is looking forward to the first three-night Classic. 

He is a fan of the changes without having raced under the new format, in which the field is split for qualifying over two nights before merging for the Sunday night climax.

He revealed changes to the format after he won his first two Classics had contributed to him not coming back annually.

“That’s probably why I didn’t care as much for it,” he said.

But the new format was “fair for everyone” and he commended organisers.

Schatz has spent the 36 or so hours since he arrived in the country getting ready. It’s no holiday.

“When I get home I will have been gone for six weeks.  It’s the most I’ve been away from home,’’ he said.

“In the last 12 months there hasn’t been anything away from racing, between racing a sprintcar and having my own late-model (sedan) and my daughter Savanna races (modifieds). 

‘‘It’s seven days a week racing. 

“It’s what I love to do, I relax more at the track.”

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