SYLVANIA, Ga. — Ten-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz etched his name in the sprint car history books again by claiming the first round of the inaugural Sugarlands Shine Southern Tour presented by Elliott’s Custom Trailers and Carts at Screven Motor Speedway Friday night.
Schatz, who now owns 19 career All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 victories, scored his triumph from the outside of row two, eventually passing Tyler Courtney to take control on lap 18.
The Fargo, N.D., native earned $8,000 for his efforts, also solidifying a first- All Star win at this track.
“It’s great to be back racing, first and foremost,” said the driver of the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing/Carquest Auto Parts/Curb Records/Ford Performance sprint car. “Hats off to this entire Carquest team. These guys have been digging and working as hard as they can to get the car better. All of these preseason races are great for us because it gives us an opportunity to try some things. I just tried to go where the car in front of me wasn’t and it all worked out.”
Before Schatz took command on lap 18, it was a shootout for the top spot. ASCS national champion Sam Hafertepe Jr., took command from outside the front row to lead the first two circuits before being overtaken by Sheldon Haudenschild on lap three.
Haudenschild’s campaign at the front of the field was short-lived, as the pilot of the Stenhouse Jr Marshall Racing No. 17 was forced to spin to avoid involvement in an incident involving lap cars. Hafertepe inherited control on lap seven.
Courtney was next to throw his hat into the ring, making his move around Hafertepe to earn the race lead on lap 15. Courtney was a threat on a few attempts prior to his official takeover, but Hafertepe was able to fend off the charge.
Meanwhile, Schatz lurked just behind the pair of front-runners. Utilizing the very bottom groove of Screven Motor Speedway, Schatz followed Courtney past Hafertepe on lap 16, only to miss a slide job attempt on Courtney on lap 17.
Schatz redeemed himself the next circuit and squeezed by Courtney at the exit of turn four to take control.
“We knew the top was going to be good. I just tried to find a line that was going to work the best for us,” Schatz continued. “This surface changed so much over the course of the race and it actually got a lot slicker than I thought it would. It really came in nice for me through the middle and bottom. You could really go anywhere.”
Aaron Reutzel finished second on Friday night after a late move around Courtney on lap 24. Courtney, Carson Short and Hafertepe filled the top five.
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 15-Donny Schatz ; 2. 83-Aaron Reutzel ; 3. 7BC-Tyler Courtney ; 4. 21-Carson Short ; 5. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr. ; 6. 26-Cory Eliason ; 7. 18-Gio Scelzi ; 8. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg ; 9. 13-Justin Peck ; 10. 11-Ian Madsen ; 11. 5-Brent Marks ; 12. 101-Kerry Madsen ; 13. 14-Tony Stewart ; 14. 33M-Mason Daniel ; 15. 3C-Cale Conley ; 16. 39M-Anthony Macri ; 17. 18J-RJ Jacobs ; 18. 73-Scotty Thiel ; 19. 48-Danny Dietrich ; 20. 28-Skylar Gee ; 21. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild ; 22. 91-Kyle Reinhardt ; 23. 11K-Kraig Kinser ; 24. 14R-Sean Rayhall  Lap Leaders: Sam Hafertepe, Jr. (1, 2), Sheldon Haudenschild (3-6), Sam Hafertepe, Jr. (7-14), Tyler Courtney (15-17), Donny Schatz (18-30)