MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Donny Schatz slapped the Champion Racing Oil National Open title belt around his waist as cameras clicked away in victory lane Saturday at Williams Grove Speedway.
During a year where things haven’t been up to par, Schatz regained some normalcy Saturday night, winning the 58th annual National Open at Williams Grove for a record-extending sixth time. The 10-time World of Outlaws champion wore this one, a .579-second victory over Kyle Larson, with a little extra pride.
This latest crown jewel not only adds to his unprecedented mark, but it paid $75,000-to-win, the biggest of the season.
“It feels great,” Schatz said. “It feels good to get all that money. … It’s been a trying year. I don’t know if there is a person in this place that can’t say this is probably one of the worst years I can remember in my lifetime. Feels good to win that race.”
Schatz started his night ninth-fastest in the second flight of time trials. The real gains began in his heat race, where a bit of luck ignited his path to victory. Schatz quickly found himself in a dash spot after second-running Ian Madsen went off the pace.
Shortly after, leader Shane Stewart slowed to bring out the caution and, suddenly, Schatz inherited control. Schatz received some more good fortune by drawing second and finishing second in the dash.
From there, his vintage self slowly came to life. Logan Schuchart led the opening 12 laps before pole-sitter David Gravel raced to the lead on lap 13. But while Gravel drove by Schuchart for the top spot off turn two, Schatz stayed even with Gravel, following him to second before pouncing shortly after.
“We couldn’t make a pass on the start but once we got going, we were decent,” Schatz said.
Schatz committed to the bottom and squeezed by Gravel for the lead just four laps shy of the planned fuel stop on lap 25.
Once things got going again, Schatz stayed strong and maintained a 1.7-second advantage on Kyle Larson, who had moved from fourth to second two laps after the fuel stop. Schatz caught traffic with eight laps to go and, slowly, his lead dwindled.
In six laps, his near two-second gap shrunk to just eight tenths. On the final lap, Larson gunned it in turn three with a hail-mary attempt, but Schatz stayed true to the bottom and rolled to the biggest prize of the season.
“[Restarting] on the bottom, really the whole race, hurt us a little bit,” Larson said. “We were able to inch our way forward and come a little short. It was just frustrating. Hard to pass. We did what we could. We came up a little short. Donny is just so good when it gets slick. He did a good job in traffic. He was definitely not being patient when it got to traffic and I thought that would benefit me. But just wasn’t close enough.”
As for Schuchart, he salvaged a third-place finish for his best career National Open finish. He led the first 12 laps and raced back to finish on the podium after slipping to fourth in the late going.
“We were right there,” Schuchart said. “We just had some bad restarts. It was a good run. … David just made a good run in [turns] one and two to get by me on the backstretch and get a run in three and four. Then, let Donny get by. It was a good run. I’m happy to learn something. We’ve been so bad here in the past.”
Gravel faded to fourth and Sheldon Haudenschild, who also won overall fast time, finished fifth.
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