After claiming the B-Main with a last-lap pass, Donny Schatz roared from the 21st starting position to the win Saturday night at the Knoxville Nationals – earning a $150,000 payday for his seventh career triumph in sprint car racing’s biggest event.
Schatz, who was also celebrating his 36th birthday, rewrote the Nationals’ record book as he became the deepest-starting winner in the history of the storied race.
“This is the hardest-earned one we have, especially how we have felt all week long,” Schatz said according to a press release from the Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.
“We didn’t doubt ourselves, but when things don’t go the way you expect, you get a little nervous. But to start 21st and win the race is just incredible.”
In the 50-lap main event, Brian Brown started on the outside of the front row but quickly got out to a sizable lead. However, while he was ticking off laps at the front, Schatz was on the march – climbing up to fifth place by the time a competition caution came out at the halfway mark.
At Lap 32, Schatz moved to second and then set his sights on Brown. A nearly two-second lead for Brown quickly evaporated and on Lap 41, Schatz took the lead for good.
“This race team is unbelievable,” said Schatz. “I told the guys if we weren’t in the Top 5 at the break, we would be in trouble. It was a lot of fun to pass all those cars and get up through there.”
Brown finished second, followed by Justin Henderson in third, Paul McMahan in fourth, and Chad Kemenah in fifth.
SAKHIR, Bahrain – Fernando Alonso will take his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he tests an LMP1 car for Toyota on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit.
McLaren Formula 1 driver and two-time world champion Alonso is hoping to appear at Le Mans next year as part of his bid to become just the second man in history to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.
Alonso has already completed one leg by winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and made his debut at the Indianapolis 500 in May with McLaren-Honda-Andretti, retiring late on due to an engine failure.
Momentum is building for Alonso to make his Le Mans debut with Toyota in 2018, starting with a first sports car run-out in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s end-of-season rookie test in Bahrain on Sunday.
Alonso arrived in Bahrain on Saturday to watch the six-hour WEC race as an invited guest of the Bahraini royal family, with his participation in the test being confirmed after the race.
“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car. When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer,” Toyota Gazoo Racing team president Hisatake Murata said.
“We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 Hybrid.”
Alonso will share running in the Toyota car with 19-year-old Thomas Laurent, who received a test as a prize for his star display during his rookie WEC campaign this year, while regular Toyota racer Mike Conway will also complete laps.