Kyle Larson

Photo courtesy TrueSpeed Communication

Donny Schatz revels in 10th Knoxville Nationals win

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Over the weekend, while the focus was on Kyle Larson attempting to win both the Knoxville Nationals and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, Donny Schatz was the one who was dominating on dirt.

Schatz captured his 10th Knoxville Nationals win Saturday night, continuing his incredible run of finishing either first or second in 16 of the last 18 years at the marquee winged sprint event in central Iowa.

The full release on Schatz’s latest win is below.

The historic pace at the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals continued Saturday night for Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz. The eight-time and reigning World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion led the final 27 laps of the 50-lap finale of the 57th annual 5-hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals to earn his 10th Nationals victory.

Schatz started second in the TSR No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J and led the field to the green on lap 23 after polesitter David Gravel brought out a caution. Schatz withstood challenges from both Kerry Madsen and Kyle Larson to pick up his 26th career triumph at the famed half-mile dirt oval in Central Iowa and continued his remarkable run on Sprint car racing’s biggest stage, where he’s finished first or second 16 of the past 18 years.

“Winning the Knoxville Nationals never gets old and never gets any easier,” Schatz said. “I may get a lot of the credit, but this Arctic Cat/Ford Performance race team is incredible and they deserve every bit as much. Nobody realizes the pressure that is on this team. They have to make the right decisions every time. With as many races as we have won, the pressure just keeps building and building because, if you don’t win, you are under a lot of scrutiny and we don’t want to be in that position. We want to win races. We want to be competitive and be at the forefront of this sport. Tony Stewart has assembled and incredible team here. We are celebrating 10 years together and tonight we are going to celebrate another incredible week here at the Knoxville Nationals.”

Schatz started on the front row for the sixth time in his career at the Nationals following an impressive qualifying-night performance Wednesday. He qualified fourth in the field of 48 competitors and charged from eighth to win the fourth heat race to transfer into the 25-lap preliminary feature. He started sixth in the A-Main and quickly began his charge forward. He was up to third on lap five and took second from Austin McCarl on lap 13. Polesitter Larson was setting a strong pace up front, but Schatz was able to close the gap as the two worked through lapped traffic. Larson didn’t make any mistakes during the final portion of the race and scored the win ahead of Schatz. The results of the evening earned Schatz 492 points, the most by any driver.

Following Thursday’s qualifying program, Schatz ranked second overall and was locked into Saturday’s A-Main finale.

Photo courtesy TrueSpeed Communication

When Saturday’s A-Main went green, Gravel and Schatz raced side by side into turn one. Gravel dove low and pulled out to a small lead coming out of turn two and, when Gravel went high in turns three and four, Schatz made a run for the lead with a low move in turns three and four. Gravel had enough momentum to maintain the top spot and the two settled in for the early portion of the race. Once Gravel reached traffic, Schatz was able to close in and make a run at the top spot. He tried a slide job in turns three and four and later briefly held the lead down the backstretch on lap 16, but Gravel was able to surge back in front and hold the top spot until his engine expired on lap 22.

Schatz led the field back to the green and raced away from Madsen until a caution two laps later was used for the mandatory pit stop. The TSR crew of Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti replaced the rear tires, filled the Arctic Cat No. 15 with fuel and made minor chassis adjustments before sending Schatz back out for the second half of the race. On the restart, Schatz rode the cushion in turn one and Madsen made his bid for the lead by throwing a big slider at Schatz, but Schatz never flinched and drove around the outside of Madsen to maintain the lead. The gamble cost Madsen second as Larson was able to sneak under the Australian driver coming out of turn two.

For the next dozen laps, Schatz set a torrid pace around the top and held a solid margin over Larson until another caution on 38 slowed the pace. Schatz was clean again on the restart and re-established his lead with only 10 laps remaining. Things got dicey during the final three laps as Schatz tried to maneuver lapped traffic. He split a pair of cars and then was forced to make a couple of attempts to lap Brooke Tatnell. Larson was able to cut into the lead, but his last-corner attempt at a slide job fell short and Schatz drove away for the victory.

“These young guys keep getting better, and that Kyle Larson is pretty awesome,” Schatz said. “Early in the race, David set a really torrid pace and he was right up on the top. There were some pretty big holes up there and I didn’t even realize how big they were until we got slowed down on one of those yellows when I saw them and said to myself I may want to be careful up here. Once we got going, I felt really good, but you have to get yourself to the end of the race. You have to make sure when you get into traffic that you are in a good spot, that you are in the right place, and I did that for most of the race. We came down to that last 12-lap run there and I thought we might catch traffic at the end and we caught them. I got to a car that was just going for it and got myself in a couple of bad spots, but we got there. I know Kyle was coming and he had to do whatever I wasn’t and, for two laps, I was all over the place. That’s what racing is. It’s what we strive for and, if I was running second, that’s what I would have been hoping for. It worked out. We got the win and it feels good.”

Larson’s busy weekend includes Knoxville Nationals, Cup race

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BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) Kyle Larson is set to race in Saturday’s Knoxville Nationals, squeezing in the prestigious sprint car event before returning to Michigan to compete in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

Larson says Chip Ganassi, his team owner on the Cup circuit, gave him permission to race Saturday in Knoxville, Iowa. Larson says he’s not supposed to race a sprint car the night before he’s on the track on the Cup Series, but Ganassi is making an exception this weekend.

The 25-year-old Larson is one of racing’s rising stars. He has two Cup victories this year – including in June at Michigan – and is third in the standings. He also won at Michigan last August.

More AP auto racing: http://www.racing.ap.org .

Ganassi heads into Memorial Day weekend with three points leads

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INDIANAPOLIS – Three entirely different types of cars, series and racing formats have produced similar results for one team going into Memorial Day weekend, easily the biggest racing weekend of the world on the racing calendar.

Chip Ganassi Racing heads into the 101st Indianapolis 500 (Verizon IndyCar Series) and Coca-Cola 600 (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) with the points lead in these two championships with Scott Dixon and Kyle Larson. That marks the first time in the team’s 20-plus year history it has held each championship lead simultaneously.

And for good measure, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team leads in the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Pro class going into that series’ marquee race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place June 17-18.

It’s only in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where the team sits second in the GT Le Mans class, that a Ganassi car and driver (or drivers) don’t have the points lead.

In IndyCar, Dixon moved into the points lead – albeit unofficially, as IndyCar doesn’t release updated points until after the Indianapolis 500 – following his pole position secured Sunday for next week’s race. He gained 31 more points than Simon Pagenaud and went from 10 down (191-181) to 21 ahead (223-202) going into the race. Oddly though, despite five top-fives in as many races since Ganassi switched to the Honda aero kit and engine package, Dixon is yet to win!

In NASCAR, Larson’s storming start on the strength of one overall win plus two additional stage wins sees him 44 points clear of Martin Truex Jr. (475-431), with Brad Keselowski the only other driver within 100 points. Larson has not finished worse than 17th in 11 races this year in his Chevrolet. Jamie McMurray sits fifth in the points, as well.

And in the WEC, after two races, the trio of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Pipo Derani won the 6 Hours of Silverstone to kick off the year in their No. 67 Ford GT. They hold a two-point lead over the pair of AF Corse Ferrari drivers, heading to the double points Le Mans race.

In IMSA, the pair of Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand sit six points (124-118) behind Corvette’s Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen after four races. Mueller and Hand co-drove with Sebastien Bourdais to win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona; Mueller and Hand will have a new teammate at Le Mans while Bourdais recovers from his injuries sustained in an accident in qualifying at Indianapolis.

Although Ganassi is split between three bases – its IndyCar and IMSA arms are stationed in Indianapolis off Woodland Drive, its NASCAR hub is in Charlotte and its WEC hub in partnership with Multimatic is in the U.K. – the one team spirit is fully present as all three teams, and three manufacturers, are off to the strong start.

AVONDALE, AZ – APRIL 29: Scott Dixon of New Zealand, driver of the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda greets fans as he is introduced to the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 29, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“It’s important to win… and it’s important to lead a championship,” Ganassi managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports about the strong start.

“That’s an enormous motivating factor for everyone that works on our product, no matter if it’s IndyCar, NASCAR, WEC or IMSA. It validates the volume of work that people do for your race team. That includes the people who are visible and work really really hard, under the three locations, in order to achieve success.

“It represents what teams of people can accomplish when they work together.”

Ganassi, who celebrated his 59th birthday on Wednesday, is yet to win a NASCAR championship at the Cup level but Larson is presenting his best chance. It’s been in IndyCar where the team has had its greatest success, with 11 championships between 1996 and 2015. Ganassi has won multiple sports car championships in IMSA’s past iteration as the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, and won Le Mans last year but are yet to win a WEC title.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: The Ford Chip Ganassi GT of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Pipo Derani drives during practice for the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone on April 14, 2017 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

As Hull deadpanned, leading now is nice, but it’s at the end of the year when it actually matters.

“What has contributed to all that, is challenge,” Hull said. “When passionate people are challenged, what they come to realize quickly is achieve any amount of success on a daily basis on Sunday. We enjoy challenge; we love challenge, change and we love working together. That’s a perfect combination.

“We’re really excited when you’re leading the championship, but let’s be honest… you want it on the last lap of the last race.

“It’s positive and an optimistic start. We just need to keep to working at it, for the end of the year.”

IMS, Indiana Donor Network announces partnership

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indiana Donor Network, via its Driven2SaveLives campaign, have announced a partnership on Tuesday to promote organ, tissue and eye donation.

The campaign made its debut in 2016 as part of Stefan Wilson’s entry into his maiden Indianapolis 500 last year, in a late deal struck with KV Racing Technology for that team’s third car. Wilson competed in honor of late brother Justin, who died in August 2015.

Wilson was meant to have a sophomore run in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil with Andretti Autosport, but stood down to make room for Fernando Alonso’s arrival in what was an undoubtedly tough but gracious decision.

Per Trackside Online, Wilson will be one of several driver ambassadors for the partnership. Others of note include Pippa Mann, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., all of whom were close to Bryan Clauson, who competed in three Indianapolis 500s, the last two with Jonathan Byrd’s Racing (in partnership first with KVRT and then Dale Coyne Racing) but was fatally injured in August last year.

The release from IMS is below:

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) announced today it has partnered with Indiana Donor Network to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation through the Driven2SaveLives ® campaign. The goal is to educate race fans on donation and to encourage them to register their donation decisions through the campaign.

“This partnership between IMS and the Indiana Donor Network is very important to all of us,” said Mark Miles, Hulman & Company president and CEO. “We see this as a great opportunity to reach fans who visit the Racing Capital of the World throughout the year, informing them about the need for registered donors across Indiana and the United States. It’s extremely easy for anyone to take part in this process and save lives.”

Photo: IndyCar

Indiana Donor Network, which oversees and coordinates organ, tissue and eye donation across the state, launched Driven2SaveLives in April 2016 with IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson to promote donation and transplantation awareness around the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. At the time, the campaign honored Stefan’s late brother, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who died in August 2015 from injuries he sustained in a race crash and saved five lives as an organ donor.

“When we launched Driven2SaveLives last year, we wanted to show the hope and healing that donation provides families, and in turn, we hoped to inspire race fans to become registered donors like the Wilson brothers,” said Kellie Hanner, president and chief executive officer at Indiana Donor Network. “Then we lost another racing hero in Bryan Clauson, and his family approached us to help spread donation awareness and to encourage donation registration more broadly within motorsports.”

Bryan Clauson prior to the start of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. He’d then go on to race again that evening in a sprint car race at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway — and won!

Bryan Clauson, a versatile and beloved driver best known for his talent and achievements in dirt track open-wheel racing, died in August 2016 following a race accident. As a registered donor, he went on to save five lives as an organ donor and continues to heal the lives of countless others as a tissue donor. In January 2017, Indiana Donor Network partnered with Clauson-Marshall Racing and expanded Driven2SaveLives into dirt track racing in honor of Clauson.

“Driven2SaveLives has worked tirelessly to promote donation and transplantation within motorsports since it was formed after the tragic passing of Justin Wilson,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. “The need for donors was magnified even further after we lost Bryan Clauson last summer. Both Justin and Bryan were incredible people who always connected with fans and selflessly gave of themselves as donors, and we hope fans will honor their memory and join drivers from so many series by supporting this vital campaign and registering as a donor.”

IMS and Indiana Donor Network together will promote donation and transplantation awareness starting this weekend, at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, through next year’s Indianapolis 500. Race fans can expect to see the Driven2SaveLives campaign – signage, videos, advertising, social media and more – at all IMS events in between. A special Bryan Clauson tribute is also in the works for the 100th lap of this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the biggest name in motorsports, and we are incredibly grateful to have their support as we honor donation heroes like Justin Wilson and Bryan Clauson and encourage more people to take part in those legacies by registering their own donation decisions,” Hanner said.

The easiest way for race fans to register their decisions to become registered donors is to visit Driven2SaveLives.org. The campaign’s website feeds into Donate Life America’s national registry, which means fans, no matter where they live in the United States, can register their donation decisions there.

FACTS:

  • More than 118,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.
  • Over 1,300 of these people are in Indiana alone.
  • In the U.S., another person is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
  • Each day, 22 people on average in the U.S. die because a donated organ wasn’t made available in time.
  • One organ donor can save the lives of as many as eight people.
  • One tissue donor can heal the lives of approximately 75 people.
  • Approximately 90 percent of Americans support organ donation, yet only 50 percent are registered.
  • You can register to become an organ, tissue and eye donor at http://www.driven2savelives.org.

Ganassi open to Kyle Larson in Indy 500 – another year

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LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) As the Indianapolis 500 draws near, the tweets starts flooding Chip Ganassi’s inbox all asking the same question: When will he enter Kyle Larson in the Indy 500?

Larson wants to run the race, and Ganassi is open to entering the budding NASCAR star. But it has to make sense for the team, driver and organization.

“I think it’s just a matter of us having the right people and the right timing, and obviously it takes sponsorship,” Ganassi said. “Every time this gets talked about, it’s in April or May. Nobody ever wants to talk about it in June or July or August when it’s time to plan for the next year.

“All these social media people want to blow you up, `Let’s do it!’ Well, it takes a little bit of planning.”

Larson is the current points leader in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series, and his first win of the season came two weeks ago at Phoenix. He also has three runner-up finishes through the first six races of the year.

Ganassi said there’s no way to enter Larson for next month’s showcase race in Indy, but he’d be hesitant anyway right now.

“Nobody wants to upset what’s going on already,” Ganassi said. “So obviously we are not talking about this May, but a lot can happen between this May and next May. I also think Kyle understands he can’t just get in and push the pedals. He’s starting to understand there’s a little more to it, and I think he’s starting to enjoy himself a little more in NASCAR.”

Ganassi is an enviable position in that there’s no shortage of drivers available should he want to field a fifth car at Indianapolis. His equipment is strong and Honda makes a huge push each year to win the race.

He said that doesn’t mean that Larson isn’t “at or near the top of the list,” but that the car owner can’t snap his fingers and produce a car for Indy.

“I think Kyle understands, we have to weigh what’s good for Kyle and what’s good for the business,” Ganassi said. “If it’s a bad thing for the business, he knows that it doesn’t work. Right now there’s some other things the team needs to work on.

“If he really wants to do it, then we’ll sit down and have a talk about doing it.”

More AP auto racing: racing.ap.org