|Donny Schatz on his way to his 3rd win in a row at Port Royal Speedway|
Bill McIntyre Photo
PORT ROYAL, Pa- Donny Schatz made the trek into Juniata County Friday night to the Port Royal Speedway with one thing on his mind….win the race.
Trailing current World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars points leader Brad Sweet by -32 points and with only four races remaining on the 2019 schedule, every position counts and every win means even more.
It didn’t hurt that Schatz came in as the two-time defending winner at 'The Speed Palace' either.
Schatz capitalized on a great starting position and a fast racetrack to make it three in a row by picking up the checkered flag and the $8000 prize over a hard charging Anthony Macri and Brian Brown. Schatz led all 30 laps.
"There's nothing I can do out here that can affect what Brad does, so we're just focused on doing the best we can and if we win races, that's as much as I can do on my end of things," said Schatz. "We're focusing on us and our car and if it's meant to be, the points thing will happen."
However, he had to work for it. Starting on the front row alongside of Brown, Schatz got the early jump, with Brown right on his tail at the completion of lap one. Meanwhile, All Star Circuit of Champions points champion and winner of the Tuscarora 50, Aaron Reutzel, was on the move, going from sixth to third on the opening circuit as well.
Everyone settled in over the next seven laps, with Schatz closing in on lap traffic on lap 8. As he was picking off cars, Reutzel was all over Brown. On lap 12 Reutzel used a slide job entering turn one to take the runner up spot, only for the pass to be negated after Danny Dietrich suffered a mechanical issue and got into the outside guardrail, ending upside down in the middle of turn one and two and bringing out the red flag..
Dietrich would walk away, but the damage was too much to continue.
With the field utilizing double file restarts, Schatz chose the bottom on the speedway and was able to get the jump on Brown at the return to green flag action.
While Brown settled into second, Reutzel fell back to fifth as he had been running the top of the speedway prior and got stuck on the bottom. Reutzel's misfortune was Macri's gain as he used the top of the speedway to move into third, while seventh starting Logan Schuchart entered the picture and took the fourth spot.
Eight laps later Schatz once again hit lap traffic. While he was trying to stretch his lead, he was also trying to conserve fuel. This allowed Brown and Macri to cut the distance in half.
"With the track being as fast as it was, the guys told me we might have to conserve a little fuel and I was trying to do it when I could," said Schatz. "I really don’t know how much we had left in there. We found the right pace and we tried to make it work."
Four laps later, Macri made his move in turn's one and two on the bottom of the speedway to pass Brown for second. Over the remaining six laps, he slowly chipped away at Schatz's lead.
With two to go, he was breathing down the 10-time series champion's neck. Macri tried the top of the speedway in turn's one and two and then tried the bottom in three and four. However, Schatz was too good.
Coming out of turn four to the flag stand, Schatz took the checkered flag by a margin of .599 seconds over Macri, Brown, Schuchart and Reutzel.
The win was the 11th of the season for Schatz and with Sweet only managing a 12th place finish, he pulled into victory lane a mere 8 points behind him in his quest for his 11th championship.
"We don't have too many more chances to win races coming down the stretch here, so it’s nice to be sitting here in victory lane," said Schatz. "The car was really good and it means a lot to win in front of these great Pennsylvania fans and I hope to see everyone again tomorrow."
For Macri, the finish was an exclamation mark on what has been a very fast second half of 2019 for the Dillsburg, Pa native. The runner up finish was the best career finish in Outlaw competition for him and he believed with five more laps he could've been sitting in victory lane."
'"I really don’t know what to say other than this thing was a rocket ship there towards the end," said Macri. "I felt like after that last caution I could run the car anywhere I wanted out there. I don't know that I've ever even finished top-10 against the Outlaws, so a second is pretty darn cool.
Daryn Pittman, Ian Madsen, Gio Scelzi, David Gravel and Brent Marks rounded out the top-10. Marks was also the night's hard charger, gaining 13 spots in the A-Main.
With expected rain in the area, Speedway officials and the Outlaws announced they were moving the start time to 2pm EST for the night two finale. If completed, it would be the first ever two night show for the Outlaws at the Port Royal Speedway and it will pay $15,000 to win.
Sprint Car Results- 1.Donny Schatz 2. Anthon Macri 3. Brian Brown 4.Logan Schuchart 5.Aaron Reutzel 6. Daryn Pittman 7. Ian Madsen 8. Gio Scelzi 9. David Gravel 10. Brent Marks 11. Logan Wagner 12.Brad Sweet 13.Carson Macedo 14. Brock Zearfoss 15. Sheldon Haudenschild 16. Jacob Allen 17.Shane Stewart 18.Ryan Smith 19.Kraig Kinser 20.TJ Stutts 21.Zeb Wise 22.Robbie Kendall 23.Paige Polyak 24.Danny Dietrich 25. Jeff Miller 26.Paul McMahan