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.”
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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