Champ calls the winning shots

By Barnaby Sharp

As the dust settled, one man emerged triumphant

American Donny Schatz battled hard to come out the victor in the 30-lap sprintcar feature race. Pictures / James Selwyn
American Donny Schatz battled hard to come out the victor in the 30-lap sprintcar feature race. Pictures / James Selwyn

The dirt was flying and so were the stars at the World Sprintcar Classic final showdown at Western Springs on Saturday night.

The crowds were down from the previous meet but the action, like the movie, was fast and furious.

Donny Schatz, the five-time World of Outlaws sprintcar champion from Fargo, North Dakota, may have lost last weekend to fellow American Jonathan Allard, but like a true champ, you couldn't keep him down.

He underlined his class with a brilliant series of drives, winning all three of his heat races, including the 30-lap sprintcar feature.

But he had to work hard and was pushed all the way by both Allard and Kiwi Jamie McDonald, who finished second and third respectively.

"I was on a mission," said Schatz. "It my Dad's birthday yesterday, so I missed it, and today's my crew guy's birthday so I told him I was going to do my best."

Allard was lucky to even race after suffering mechanical problems, but a collaborative effort from his team and others saw the three-time King of California champion start the feature race in third.

"My guys worked their tails off in the pit area," Allard said.

"I didn't think we'd make it out. Without all the people and the fans it would be a lot tougher to take."

If the crowd was eagerly anticipating the main event, then the levels went through the roof when a massive crash in the midget heat race took race officials more than 20 minutes to rectify.

A bit of bump and grind saw Gavin Elbers flip his car several times and slam into the barrier fence at high speed on turn three. These cars are a marvel of modern engineering because he safely walked away, though no doubt nursing some serious bruising.

New Zealander and fellow midget racer Michael Pickens is a driver with a world-class pedigree. Fresh from a successful stint in the US, Pickens thrilled the crowd with a brave decision to start the feature race from the back of the field, despite being the fastest qualifier.

It was a financial decision, as winning would have added a couple of thousand to his overall winner's purse. Pickens came agonisingly close, eventually finishing second.

"We knew we were taking a bit of a gamble coming off the back," said Pickens. "It didn't quite pay off but I guess we put on a bit of a show and the car's in one piece, which is the main thing."

The next meet for the Springs' faithful is round one of the Midget World Series on Boxing Day.

- NZ Herald

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