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Published June 15 2012

Schatz antsy sitting in second place in World of Outlaws points race

Fargo - Being a three-time champion of the World of Outlaws sprint car series, Donny Schatz would sooner be sitting it first place rather than second of the current point standings.

“It is not a disaster,” Schatz said. “But it is not the expectations set by those who work on the car, myself and the sponsors.”

Those expectations will get even higher tonight at the Red River Valley Speedway when Schatz and the rest of the Outlaws drivers race for the first time since 2009 at the West Fargo track.

Schatz sits only 10 points out of first place behind veteran Steve Kinser. His three wins this season are the third-most of any driver.

As was coined in the movie “Talladega Nights”, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

“It has been a work in progress and we’ve started off OK, but we have been in a lull,” Schatz said. “We haven’t found the domination we are looking for.”

Tonight could provide Schatz the opportunity for the domination he’s been seeking.

In his last appearance at Red River Valley Speedway, Schatz raced in a feature in which he outran, out-raced and out-gunned the field to take first place.

Schatz, who grew up in Minot, N.D., and now calls Fargo home, did it in front of thousands of screaming fans eager to watch a homegrown product.

“It is very interesting and intriguing to come back,” Schatz said. “The atmosphere I am coming into is why I got into racing.”

Schatz grew up a racing fan when his family took him to tracks. As a child, he would talk with sprint car drivers about what they did, impressed with the notion they made time for him.

“You got to watch them work on the cars and the cars were unique looking,” he said. “There were not many forms of racing where you go to a motel parking lot and see them working on their sprint cars.”

Schatz, 35, is more than just a race car driver who has won more than 110 sprint car races. With his three series titles and appeal amongst fans, he is indeed a brand and not just in the United States.

Perennially he races in Australia, which is a motorsports-crazed country. He’s made a name in that nation’s dirt racing scene, having won at least one race since 1999.

Those trips are ones he makes with NASCAR superstar and three-time champion Tony Stewart. Schatz’s team is sponsored by Stewart, a friend who is certainly a brand as well.

Schatz’s popularity got even more of a boost in North Dakota when his family resurrected the same track he’ll be racing at tonight.

Grateful as he is, he does admit it is not always a glamorous lifestyle. Being a race car driver always means being on the go in more ways than one.

“You are here in one place today, and the next day you are somewhere else,” he said. “It is almost like circus clowns or gypsies. You do it because you love the sport and you love racing with the World of Outlaws.”

When asked what would be his trick if he were a circus clown, Schatz said, “Waving checkered flags. I would have that and a lot more other tricks than a regular circus clown.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com