For the hometown fans

Having the opportunity to race in front of his hometown fans is a win in Minot native Donny Schatz’s book.

A third consecutive victory at Nodak Speedway would just be the cherry on top when Schatz and the World of Outlaws come to Minot on Sunday at 6 p.m. Schatz became the first two-time winner at Nodak Speedway last year when he passed Steve Kinser on the 31st lap and held on for the victory.

This is Schatz’s second trip to Nodak Speedway this season and first with the World of Outlaws. He finished second to Tyson Turnbull when the Late Models came to town on June 1.

“Being in front of the hometown fans is a win-win situation any way you look at it,” Schatz said. “A lot of those people don’t get the opportunity to see the World of Outlaws race throughout the year. If the racers have fun, it’s definitely a fun time for the fans as well. Hopefully they enjoy it as much as we do.”

Schatz, a five-time World of Outlaws points champion, has been on a tear as of late, winning five of the last seven races entering Friday’s contest at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. He currently sits atop the point standings, 140 points clear of Daryn Pittman and 183 in front of Paul McMahan. Schatz leads all World of Outlaws drivers in wins (14) and top-five finishes (42) and is tied with McMahan for most top-10 finishes (55).

“I have a great race team,” Schatz said. “The STP race team has been on their game. All three guys have worked well together to fine-tune the things they need to fine-tune. It’s very important to have a great race team behind you.”

Among Schatz’s 14 victories was his eighth career win at Knoxville Nationals, which includes a $150,000 prize, the largest payout of the year. He’s finished in the top two in 12 of the last 14 appearances in Knoxville, Iowa.

Despite all the success he’s had around the country, Schatz believes no track is better than the one where he grew up.

“The facility is second to none,” he said. “I don’t know another facility in the country we go to that has a nicer facility for the fans with the grandstand and the setting it has at the Fairgrounds. It’s certainly top-notch. The race track has always been pretty good. They’ve always tried to improve things and it’s tough to do. It’s a fun track and I’ve seen it change over the years. I look forward to having another great surface to race on and hopefully get a hometown win.”

Schatz will visit Minot plenty more times throughout his career, but this will likely be the last time Nodak Speedway will see Kinser. The all-time World of Outlaws wins leader announced in December this would be his final year racing full-time. Kinser, a member of Tony Stewart Racing with Schatz, has won 20 World of Outlaws championships and 577 races in his 37 years of competition.

“Steve’s been around since I started and it’s been a pleasure and an honor to be around him,” Schatz said. “It’s an honor to call him a teammate. It’s kind of sad to think that next year when we go to race, Steve Kinser’s not going to be around full time. Time heals all wounds and we’ll do our best to continue to race the same way we do with or without him and we wish he wasn’t going away.”

Schatz said he’ll continue to race as long as he remains healthy and is still having fun. He’s still having plenty of fun in his 19th year with the World of Outlaws and is looking forward to spending time at his hometown track.

“It’s always great to come and race in front of the hometown crowd,” Schatz said. “Minot is where I grew up and it’s my hometown. There’s nothing better than being where you grew up, your old stomping grounds. I’m looking forward to having a good time and putting on a great show.”

Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.