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Published May 26 2010

Paving a new way: Schatz prepares for his first opener at Red River Valley Speedway

Danny Schatz has been around race tracks for a long time – around 40 years by his estimation.

But he’s never done anything like this.

Schatz is in his first year running a race track, taking over control of the Red River Valley Speedway – which is scheduled to open tonight.

“I think doing this now might be a sign of mental instability,” the 62-year-old Schatz joked. “When I raced, this was a place I enjoyed racing the most.”

“It was fun here. I am just trying to bring a little of that back, you know?”

Schatz hasn’t raced competitively since 1975, but he’s been involved in other ways.

Schatz is the father of World of Outlaws star Donny Schatz, and Danny helped his son achieve four World of Outlaws championships – all in the last four years. Donny now races for Tony Stewart Racing.

Donny has returned the favor, having been around at times helping his dad with the track renovations.

“We’ve gotten some good help from people that know their way around a race track,” said Ivan Sailer, operations director of Schatz’s Valley Racing Group. “Everybody is involved and dedicated to making this thing work.”

Schatz was born and raised in Minot, N.D., and moved to Fargo nearly a decade ago.

He owns a couple of large gas stations – Schatz Crossroads in Minot and Petro Travel Center in Fargo. The latter is what got his family to Fargo.

The success of those businesses put him in the unique situation that was needed for the Red River Valley Speedway.

The Red River Valley Fair Board needed somebody to lease the track, but that somebody also had to be willing and able to make some necessary renovations.

“There’s a lot we still have to do, and there’s a lot we would like to do,” Schatz said. “We’ve put in a lot of time, and that’s understandable with what we’ve wanted to do.

“I would like to have this done the right way.”

Schatz is involved for the long haul, even if the Red River Valley Fair still owns the track. He has a three-year lease with the option for a three-year extension, and he said he would like even more time tacked on.

“I would like some more time added on, and I think that’s not a huge request with the amount of money I feel like I still need to spend to finish things.”

The amount of work he’s already done on the track will be evident to anybody that takes in the season opener at 7:30 tonight.

And Schatz isn’t just directing traffic over at the West Fargo track. He’s been heavily involved with everything included in the overhaul.

He’s dug holes. He’s fixed lights. He’s cleaned bathrooms. Name it, and he’s probably done it.

“I don’t think there’s anything out here that he hasn’t touched,” Sailer said. “He wants to be part of everything, and he’s been instrumental in everything.

“He’s very hands-on. He comes up with ideas and then he runs the equipment. And I think he enjoys doing it.”

Schatz said he not only wants to be involved, but he thinks it should be expected. He’s the one making the changes, and the costs are coming out of his pocket, so he figures he’d better be getting his hands dirty, too.

“How can I expect to tell you how to tamp in a post if I’m not out here doing it, too?” Schatz said. “You can’t yell at somebody for doing something wrong if you’re out there doing it, too. I want to be out here doing this.

“That’s the way it is, you know?”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548