Donny Schatz wins prestigious Knoxville Nationals

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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.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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