PEVELY, Mo. — It doesn’t happen often, but when 10-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz has to use a provisional to start the main event, fans know it has been an odd night.
One of those odd nights was exactly what Schatz weathered during the finale to the Drydene Double Down Invitational on Saturday night, after qualifying set him back for the entire program.
Schatz was late to go out in his qualifying flight at the third-mile Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, and unable to clock a time fast enough to get him into the top 20 in his group.
With the World of Outlaws’ format for 49-plus cars in effect, that relegated Schatz to a non-qualifiers race — which he won to transfer to a Drydene heat race — but it was still just too much ground to overcome.
Schatz failed to transfer out of his heat and the Last Chance Showdown, meaning he was forced to use his first Outlaw provisional of the season and started 25th.
The good news for Schatz? He was the night’s KSE Hard Charger, rolling through the field from 25th to finish eighth at the end of the 30-lap feature, showing there’s still plenty of speed in the No. 15 car.
He ended the weekend with back-to-back top-10 finishes, moving up to third in points and leaving Pevely 34 points behindleader Logan Schuchart.
The last time Schatz had to burn a provisional prior to Saturday was during the Gettysburg Clash at Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Speedway on May 15, 2019, a night during which he also earned KSE Hard Charger honors by going from 25th to 11th.
— Speaking of points, it was a pleasant surprise to see Shane Stewart fifth in the updated World of Outlaws standings.
Stewart, who was jettisoned from CJB Motorsports at the end of last season in favor of Brent Marks, has driven for two different teams this season.
He piloted a second car for Sides Motorsports during the DIRTcar Nationals at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park in February, then landed a ride with Bernie Stuebgen in the Indy Race Parts No. 71 for the post COVID-19 events at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway and Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.
Stewart ranks fifth in the standings, 94 points behind Schuchart, with one top-five finish and three top-10 efforts in the six features completed. He was fourth and sixth at I-55.
In Stewart’s case, it’s unclear whether he’ll stick with the Outlaws for as long as he’s in a solid points placing or whether he’ll drop off the tour at some point as more racing opens up across the country.
— In a similar boat to Stewart is Cory Eliason, whose Rudeen Racing team certainly didn’t expect to be seventh in driver points and having run every World of Outlaws race at the end of May.
Yet, thanks to the strange circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the two-month sports shutdown that came with it, Eliason is seventh in points after six features and outpacing more than half of the drivers who committed to running the full schedule before the season started.
Eliason committed to the All Star Circuit of Champions at the start of the year and is expected to go with America’s Series when its points season begins this weekend at South Dakota’s Park Jefferson Int’l Speedway.
— Jeff Swindell, the brother of three-time World of Outlaws sprint car champion Sammy Swindell, has been around for a while — a fact everyone was reminded of over the weekend in Pevely.
Piloting the No. 44, Jeff made his first World of Outlaws appearance at the third-mile dirt oval in 21 years. His most recent start there in an Outlaw-sanctioned event prior to Friday was in 1999.
Undoubtedly the track, and the surrounding area, has changed quite a bit in that time.
— Brian Bell also deserves a shout-out for his appearance with the World of Outlaws in Pevely, as the two-night affair was his debut weekend with The Greatest Show on Dirt.
Bell, a Mid-South 360 sprint car veteran, struggled mightily against the best field that 410 sprint car racing has to offer. His best result was Saturday, when he came from 20th to 12th in the C-main.
— The World of Outlaws sprint car season continues Friday and Saturday, May 29-30, with a two-day weekend at Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon, Mo.
The track is just a few miles away from the Jason Johnson Racing team shop in nearby Rocky Mount, Mo., and JJR driver David Gravel is the most recent World of Outlaws winner at the facility.