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.