Two. That’s the number of times since 2006 that Donny Schatz has failed to win the Knoxville Nationals. He’s won 10 of the last 12 50-lap main events at the half-mile oval and has been the favourite in just about all of them.
Donny Schatz looks for Nationals No. 11, Starts 4th
This Saturday looks to be no different for the No. 15. After qualifying third overall on Wednesday and finishing fifth in the feature, Schatz was able to lock up the second row for Saturday night.
“We’re happy to be a part of it,” Schatz said. “We hope we can do the right things to be successful at it. Anything can happen. You have to make the best of it every time you’re on the race track.”
The starting spot puts Schatz right next to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Kyle Larson.
“It’s great to have them,” Schatz said. “They’re great assets to the sport. They put people in the stands.”
Although, Schatz made sure to allude to just how prestigious the Nationals are, even without the household NASCAR names.
“At the end of the day this is all about the Knoxville Nationals,” Schatz said. “It’s not about one person. It’s not about me. It’s a big, long week. It takes everybody to make up this event.”
For some, the week starts all the way back on Sunday with the Capitani Classic, a one-night event at Knoxville tributed to Ralph Capitani. Though, Schatz and his team opt not to run the classic. They have all of their chips in the Nationals bag.
“[Our team] had to go back to the shop and get things prepared for here,” Schatz said. “All you can do is see how your car hot laps. That’s where the baseline comes in.”
Schatz talks about how he actually hasn’t been dominant at Knoxville over the past decade, and says that he and his team have just established a good baseline at the track.
We’ve got a solid baseline and we know in the past some of the adjustments we’ve made to make ourselves better,” Schatz said. “Once we get on the racetrack, you let Tony Stewart’s guys do their job and they’re very good at it, so we’ll see what they do.”
This Saturday’s Nationals will be the first without the late Jason Johnson, the dirt racer that passed away during a crash in June. Many Outlaw drivers are still dawning his, “Ragin Cajun,” nickname on the front of their cars.
“It’s disheartening that we had to lose a competitor,” Schatz said. “It’s not something any of us want to be around or see, but it’s what’s in front of us. It could have been any one of us.”
Johnson was the last driver that was able to dethrone Schatz and find his own way to get to victory lane, taking the title in 2016.
“Jason was fortunate enough to win this race,” Schatz said. “I was fortunate enough to race with him that night. We all miss him.”
Saturday Night’s Knoxville Nationals events will kick off with hot laps starting at 7:15 p.m.
2018 Knoxville Nationals A-Main Starting Lineup
1. Brad Sweet
2. Chad Kemenah
3. Kyle Larson
4. Donny Schatz
5. Aaron Reutzel
6. Kerry Madsen
7. Tim Shaffer
8. Carson Macedo
9. Gio Scelzi
10. Tim Kaeding
11. Ian Madsen
12. Jacob Allen
13. Rico Abreu
14. Greg Hodnett
15. Shane Stewart
16. Terry McCarl
17. Logan Schuchart
18. Brian Brown
19. Paul McMahan
20. Matt Juhl
21. B-Main Transfer No. 1
22. B-Main Transfer No. 2
23. B-Main Transfer No. 3
24. B-Main Transfer No. 4
25. Dominic Scelzi
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