Donny Schatz (Frank Smith photo)

Knoxville Notes: Schatz Hitting Stride

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — For several years, 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz has struggled to find consistency on the race track as the Tony Stewart Racing team has transitioned to a Ford Performance engine.

As the summer weather got warmer, Schatz began showing signs of his former self. He finished second in the mid-July Kings Royal, won an Outlaw race at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway and has finished second in two races this week at Knoxville Raceway.

With that said, Schatz shows the confidence of a driver who has won the Knoxville Nationals on 10 times. As for the difference, Schatz said his team has been able to work more on making its cars better.

“We’ve been able to work on the race car again,” Schatz said. “We have been so focused on getting the motors where they need to be that for a long time we didn’t even work on our race cars. It’s not that you don’t work on it, but the focus is clearly on getting the motors where they need to be and that is not a quick and easy fix.

“Everybody has worked overtime so we could get back to our race cars,” Schatz said. “Our race cars feel good and we’re in a good spot, but there is still room for improvement, obviously. We’re getting closer to where we need to be.”

-As the 61st annual Knoxville Nationals kicked off on Wednesday night, Saturday’s final night program was approaching a sellout with fewer than 500 tickets remaining.

-Parker Price-Miller was the fastest qualifier on Wednesday night, turning a lap of 15.362 seconds on the historic half-mile track, besting the 51-car field.

When asked if he could race from eight starting spot and qualify through his heat race, Price-Miller said, “Yeah, I think we can. We’re really racing well right now. It’s the Knoxville Nationals and you can’t be nice.”

Unfortunately, he finished eighth in the star-studded opening heat, but rallied to win the Last Chance Showdown.

-Aaron Reutzel holds a narrow lead in the Beaver Drill & Tool Jesse Hockett “Mr. Sprint Car” championship standings.

Gio Scelzi is just two points back, followed by Parker Price-Miller, Brian Brown and Blake Hahn.

-Prior to opening ceremonies, defending Knoxville Nationals winner Kyle Larson raised his championship flag onto a flag pole in the infield.

-New Musco LED lighting was installed at Knoxville Raceway earlier this summer, providing a much cleaner and brighter view of the track.

-Carson Short and the Snow Racing team built a new car after crashing at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 over the weekend and won Wednesday night’s first heat race.

-Despite bellowing smoke out the back of his No. 6b sprint car for the final two laps with Justin Peck challenging him in the low groove, Brandon Wimmer won Wednesday’s third heat. A broken valve cover gasket was the culprit.

-David Gravel, the 2019 Nationals winner, was the only driver who qualified in the top 10 to transfer through his heat race. Gravel and Donny Schatz were the only top-20 qualifiers to transfer.

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