The sprint car world exploded once the news was made public that Schatz would race a truck at Knoxville. Schatz said his phone hasn‘t stopped buzzing with texts and phone calls since the deal was announced Wednesday.
“It‘s crazy to think of the hype,” Schatz said. “My phone has been burning up for 24 hours. I‘m hearing from people I haven‘t heard from in 20 years. They‘re super excited. Even the fans that maybe aren‘t fans of mine or they don‘t want to think they‘re fans of mine are, I think, going to have eyes on this event at Knoxville.”
Schatz‘s success stretches far beyond just Knoxville Raceway. In addition to being a 10-time Knoxville Nationals champion and 10-time World of Outlaws champion, Schatz has won 299 World of Outlaws features during his lengthy career.
That number doesn‘t include sprint car wins with other sanctioning bodies or his races in a dirt late model, which he adds to his schedule periodically as time allows. He‘s a veteran dirt racer and someone who should be considered a serious threat come race day at the Sprint Car Capital of the World.
“It‘s just one of those places that is near and dear to me,” Schatz said. “Some of my worst things have happened in my career there and some of my best. It‘s one of those places that you forever respect.”
Despite his success at Knoxville and in dirt racing in general, Schatz knows he has a big challenge ahead. A NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry is much different than the 410 sprint cars he usually drives, creating a massive learning curve he‘ll have to overcome.
“I‘m not sure what the biggest hurdle is going to be,” Schatz admitted. “I‘m not taking anything for granted. I know these trucks are hard to drive. I know NASCAR has these best drivers in the country, if not even in the world. I really don‘t know what to expect.
“Until you do it you don‘t exactly know what to expect. I know that in working with the guys at David Gilliland Racing that I have, they‘re all very optimistic and all very excited. That gives me great pleasure in knowing that if they‘re as motivated as me and I‘ve not sat in the truck before or turned any laps in it, they have a lot of faith in me and I can obviously have a lot of faith in them. We‘re already past the hardest part of it.”
Schatz will get an opportunity to turn laps for the first time in a truck on July 8 prior to the race the following day, so he won‘t go into the main event completely blind. Until then, the 43-year-old native of North Dakota won‘t discuss his own expectations.
“I think it‘s impossible to set any expectations until we‘re able to get on the race track on July 8 and make some laps,” Schatz said. “If I‘m able to adapt quickly and be competitive time-wise and we‘re able to have some feedback and communication as to what I need to do to be able to make 100 laps with the changing surface and the tires wearing and all those things.
“I think it‘s really not accurate of me to even say, yeah I‘m looking for a top-five or a top-10,” Schatz continued. “It‘s just ultimately impossible to answer that until I physically see what it‘s like when you first get in it.
“ … I think ultimately it‘s going to be having this great opportunity, you‘ve got to make the best of it. Ultimately in racing every day we try to have the most amount of fun and I‘m going to have fun even if it‘s a bad day.”