Donny Schatz scores milestone 300th Outlaw win at Dubuque Speedway, ends 38-race drought

Schatz 300th Outlaw win
Trent Gower / World of Outlaws
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When the 2021 World of Outlaws season began, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before Donny Schatz scored his 300th win in that series. They just didn’t know how much time it would take.

On Friday night, Schatz held off a three-wide challenge on the final lap for the victory at Dubuque (Iowa) Fairgrounds – putting an end to his longest dry spell in two decades.

“I’m finally over the hump,” Schatz said in a release. “We needed that win, we needed it anywhere. The first one is always the hardest. One year we wad to wait eight races until Las Vegas and that felt like eternity, but let me tell you 32 races is really eternity. It’s not from lack of effort, or lack of anything, it’s just the way things go.”

The countdown to 300 began late in 2020 when Schatz, who races for former NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, earned his fifth win of the season at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. in race 47 of 54. He stood on the podium three more times in the final seven races.

Schatz’s 300th win could have come at Bristol Motor Speedway in April when he finished second to David Gravel in a doubleheader on the famed half-mile oval that was covered in clay for NASCAR’s first dirt race in 50 years. In fact, Schatz finished on the podium eight times and in the top five 17 times this season before Friday night.

“It hasn’t sunk in,” Schatz said. “I thought this was gonna happen about 15 times already this year. That’s the way racing is, though. Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. It seems to be that way in life, and that way on the race track.”

Going winless for 32 races is Schatz’s worst opening stretch in two decades.

Schatz inherited the lead when first Gravel, then Aaron Reutzel cut tires and were forced into the work area. With 18 laps remaining, Schatz had to balance the aggression needed to hold off the field with the conservation of his tires.

“I was playing cool back there and I could see Aaron setting a torrid pace around the top and then I saw how David cut his tire, so I went into conserve mode,” Schatz said. “I got nervous during the red, because of tires sitting that long. I bounced into turn one on that restart, so I had to get my elbows up. I wasn’t letting this one get away, though.”

A late caution for a spin involving Carson Macedo, who was in the top five at the time, set up an overtime, three-lap shootout that allowed James McFadden and Sheldon Haudenschild to take him three wide at the checkers.

Schatz becomes only the third driver in Outlaws history to score 300 wins, sitting behind Steve Kinser with 690 and Sammy Swindell at 394. For the moment, however, Schatz holds the distinction of being the only Outlaw winner at Dubuque. This was was the track’s debut on the schedule.

“There was something about the atmosphere here that made me feel like tonight was gonna be the night,” Schatz recalled. “It’s just a really awesome setting on the fairgrounds here. Something about this part of the country is unique to a kid that grew up in North Dakota.”

Haudenschild relinquished third to Kerry Madsen on the final lap. Logan Schuchart rounded out the top five after starting the race 15th.

  • 1st career win in Cottage Grove, Ore. on August 24, 1998
  • 100th career win in Mandan, N.D. on August 22, 2009
  • 200th career win in Elma, Wash. on September 7, 2015
  • 300th career win in Dubuque, Iowa on June 18, 2021

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”