Schatz pulls away to win at Nationals

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Donny Schatz started 21st and marched through the field, taking the lead from Brian Brown with nine laps to go on his way to winning the Knoxville Nationals for 410 sprint cars Saturday night in Iowa.

It was his seventh Nationals win in the last eight seasons. He earned $150,000 in a car owned by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. The victory came on his 36th birthday.

Schatz, of Fargo, N.D., was up to fifth when the race was red flagged with 26 laps to go to allow the teams to refuel and change tires.

“I told these guys that if we weren’t in the top five at that stoppage, we were going to be in trouble,” Schatz said. “I didn’t expect the racetrack to get abrasive and take rubber like that. It was a lot of fun to start that far back and get up there. We tried to get the car a little better on the fuel stop. We tried to be smart.”

While Schatz could lock his car down on the bottom, Brown was fighting his car over the final part of the race.

“Sometimes, when you’re leading, you’ve got everything to lose and nothing to gain,” Brown said. “He’s going to win this race, I’m sure of it. We could hunt around on the racetrack and that was an advantage. I kept moving around. We put a different car together today. It’s the car we’ve been running the last few weeks and its worst finish is second and I didn’t let it down tonight. This is unbelievable.”

Pennsylvania native Stevie Smith was a first turn flip victim on the initial lap. He was uninjured.

Brown started second and drove by polesitter Joey Saldana in turn two to take the lead.

Red Lion’s Cody Darrah spun in turn two with two laps completed, bringing out the caution flag.

Steve Kinser made contact with Daryn Pittman in turn two causing the World of Outlaws point leader to slow with front end damage to bring out the caution with four laps completed. Schatz was up to 11th from the 21st starting spot.

Brown set sail after the restart and built his lead to 2.8 seconds over Saldana as Schatz continued to drive toward the front. He drove by teammate Steve Kinser for eighth.

Justin Henderson put a slider on Shane Stewart in turns one and two to take over third. Brown pulled away again as Henderson pressured Saldana for second.

Ian Madsen slowed to a stop in turn one with front wing damage, bringing out the caution flag on lap 18. Swindell and Schatz both passed Stewart on the restart.

The caution flag flew again with 26 laps to go and the teams had five minutes to work on their cars.

Brown led Saldana, Henderson, Kevin Swindell and Schatz for the restart.

Brown was into heavy lapped traffic as Schatz eventually moved to second. He split two lapped cars off of turn two and the next time around, he got a tremendous run off the second corner to blast by Brown with nine laps to go.

He pulled away over the final five laps, scoring another huge Nationals win as Brown held off Henderson for his second straight runner-up finish in the Nationals. Brown earned $75,000 and Henderson earned $37,500.

Paul McMahan finished fourth earning $20,000 and Chad Kemenah raced from the 19th starting spot to finish fifth. Friday night winner Kyle Larson was sixth. Polesitter Joey Saldana faded to seventh in the second half of the race. Former Nationals winners Danny Lasoski and Steve Kinser finished eighth and ninth. The feel-good story of the Nationals was underdog Cap Henry’s 10th-place finish.

Thomasville’s Greg Hodnett started 16th and finished 12th in John Trone’s sprinter. Gettysburg’s Danny Dietrich was named the Nationals Rookie of the Year.

Schatz grabbed the lead from Lynton Jeffrey on the final lap to win the B-main. Knoxville Raceway regulars Lynton Jeffrey, Dusty Zomer and Ian Madsen also made the show.

Sam Hafertepe Jr. won the C-feature. Gettysburg’s Dietrich finished third in the C and moved onto the B-main. Brent Marks of Myerstown was 10th and Lance Dewease of Fayetteville was 12th.

Dale Blaney won the 12-lap D-feature. Sammy Swindell came from the 16th starting spot to finish third.

Swindell won the 10-lap E-feature. After not making the top 16 in points, he ran on Friday night. However, his B-main lasted a long time and he ran out of fuel, thus making his car light at the scales so he was disqualified, costing him a spot in the Friday night feature and causing him to run the E-main.