Big night for Ford, TSR and Donny Schatz

big night for ford, tsr and donny schatz

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — For the past three World of Outlaws seasons, Donny Schatz and Tony Stewart Racing have struggled with consistency and results as they developed the new Ford Performance speed car engine.

Their results have proven. Schatz won just five races in 2020, three last year and only two wins this season entering the 61st Knoxville Nationals.

But Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway was the crowning achievement for the Ford engine program and Schatz, who won Nationals for the 11th time, needed no reminding of the importance of it.

big night for ford, tsr and donny schatz

Schatz in victory lane. (Frank Smith)

He was also quite candid about the struggles of the last three seasons.

“This is huge for everyone who has been a part of this program,” Schatz said after earning the $175,000 win. “It has been many years of preparation. It’s been a lot of heartburn, a lot of swearing, and a lot of stuff. But it’s also very gratifying to sit here right now and say that the engine has won the Knoxville Nationals.”

Schatz delved into the history of the engine.

“He has won some races,” he continued. “We’ve had some great races and some wins, but to win one of the biggest races of the year, I’m really excited. All of us who contributed to the downfalls of this, to start something on paper with such an idea, to narrow it down here, and then the devil of all was COVID.

“That changed the dynamic of where Ford made its parts,” Schatz said. “It’s quite rewarding right now. We’re not going to brag about how good it is day in and day out because we go to so many different tracks. The engine has always performed very well on bigger tracks, but it’s getting to where I feel like it’s good for me. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be good for someone else.

“As long as we get back on the consistency bandwagon, which we have been. We qualified well, we can run better and, like tonight, we went back and were able to go forward. It’s a fine line some nights.”

Schatz started third on Saturday night and dropped back to seventh. He was sixth at half-time before charging through the final 25 laps.

“I was raised a certain way,” said Schatz, who lost his father Danny to cancer earlier this year. “My father criticized me quite strongly many times. This is how you learn.

“I made a lot of mistakes early in the race. I’ve been in the wrong place many times, but that’s how you find out what your race car needs or how the race track is changing and how to change what you’re doing. It could have been worse. We pick those guys one by one. Brad is not easy to get, Marks is not easy to get. Macedo is not easy to get. They are all good cars. We just needed to keep digging.”

And he did, passing David Gravel for the lead on lap 46 and leading the final five laps.

“The one thing I’ve learned in 30-plus years of racing is that it’s not over until the checkered flag drops,” he said. “I went through the checkered flag twice because in my old age the white flag and the checkered flag look the same. I wanted to make sure. I’ve done it several times in heat races.

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