World of Outlaws: Schatz finishes three-peat with winSaturday's season finale of the World of Outlaws season showed the power of Donny Schatz, champion, as the Tony Stewart Racing driver led all 30 laps of the A-feature in a dominating win. But to know the mindset of the champion was to see him one night earlier at the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway, when he didn't win. Schatz, while clinching his third consecutive WoO title in the second-to-last race of the season, couldn't stomach finishing second to Brooke Tatnell. He closed to within a few lengths of the lead with 10 laps remaining when a caution flag flew, yet once racing resumed couldn't get around Tatnell and hated himself for it. "That's how we attack it," Schatz said. "We were happy we got the title, but we gave away a race." Such an attitude has kept the 31-year-old atop his profession for three years. A World of Outlaws season is a marathon march of Fridays and Saturdays and seemingly almost every other night (especially in a year with some 25 rainouts), and an unwavering focus on wins -- and the cars to get them -- pays off in the final addition. This year Schatz collected 18 wins and 46 top-5s in 63 A-features. Jason Meyers, second in points at 132 back, had two more top-5s but only eight wins. It's a familiar recipe for Schatz, of Fargo, N.D. In his previous two title seasons he had 17 and 19 wins. "Winning races is what our goal is going in, it's what is expected out of us by our sponsors," said Schatz, who has 88 A-feature wins in 13 years. "Anytime you can win a championship, the feeling's great." The feeling was new this season, racing for Tony Stewart after years of running for his family-owned team. Danny Schatz, a former sprint car driver, was the owner/father, sweating every last detail of the operation while his son drove. Donny Schatz moved to TSR this season in part to give his family a more relaxed life at the track, though their adjustment was probably harder than his. "They probably didn't enjoy it as much," Schatz said. "There's a sense of self-satisfaction when you own the team and accomplish something, you feel completed. They're still a part of this, but they don't have any direct involvement in the team. It probably makes them feel a little left out, but I know they're proud -- happy." There was plenty to cheer for, from the first race of the season to the last, both wins for the No. 15 Armor All J&J. In between Schatz bagged a third consecutive Knoxville Nationals win, joining Steve Kinser as the only three-peats at the iconic Iowa race. At times Schatz made it look easy in a field that was far from soft, with five other drivers winning five or more races including Meyers, 20-time champion Kinser, perennially strong Joey Saldana and Jac Haudenschild, and Craig Dollansky, a seven-race winner despite missing the past month and a half of the season with a broken arm. (Dollansky last weekend announced a deal to drive for Kasey Kahne Racing in 2009.) In all, 15 drivers won at least one A-feature. "There were a lot more [good] cars, more cars that were able to win races, that's gonna make it tougher," Schatz said. "Anytime you try to compare one championship to the next it's just apples and apples, it's just so hard to compare, but I think anybody that ran with the group this year can honestly say it was one of the most competitive years to date." Schatz isn't going to walk away from that competition and his chances to keep winning in a TSR car anytime soon. "This is definitely a place for Donny Schatz for a long time. There's not going to be anybody that puts up Kinser numbers again, but with that being said, it's my job to do what I can," Schatz said. "When you just go out to win races every night, win one or two or three, at the end of season you're on 18 and three championships, it's just something you can't put a pencil right to the point on it. "It's something you're very appreciative of, very proud of, and you just keep going. You just get in that mode and you just keep going, and that's the mode that I'm in. I look forward to seeing what that next milestone is. If you keep winning races, it's something that happens on its own."
John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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