Schatz Has Lots Of Knoxville Knowledge
Editor’s Note: This is the 25th installment in National Speed Sport News’ 30 Days of Knoxville countdown to the 52nd annual Goodyear Knoxville Nationals. During the coming days we will revisit past races, drivers and statistics, while previewing this year’s event.
Five-time Knoxville Nationals champion Donny Schatz explained how to win the Nationals in a column he wrote for the August issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine. Here is an excerpt from that column.
The big races are the ones that you want to be best prepared for. We try to learn as much as we can early in the season, but by early May you have to have a game plan in terms of what you are going to try and win the Nationals with.
We almost always race the Nationals with a new car and fresh engine. It’s worked out for us. I know some people think you have to at least shake things down first. Some people do that. We usually don’t. You trust the people that build your stuff. You expect to get the best piece you can from them and you go out and race it.
That leads me to the biggest thing about Knoxville — anxiety.
You can worry about every little detail. I can tell you that I have at one time or another, but the experience of being there year after year helps you through that. You can worry about your qualifying night and who is and who isn’t racing. But in the big picture, if you are going to win the Nationals, you have to beat everyone at some point anyway.
I’ve experienced the Nationals in numerous scenarios. We’ve come in Monday and raced in the Front Row Challenge at Oskaloosa. We’ve had special paint scheme unveilings. We’ve had years where I would just fly in Tuesday afternoon and be there until Wednesday night, race and then fly home.
It’s never the same. You have to pace yourself, not worry about the things you can’t control and be the best you can every time you hit the track.
As far as the racing goes, it’s pretty simple. You have to put yourself in a position to succeed. If you get an early qualifying number, take advantage of it. If you have a late qualifying number, watch the track closely. Maybe you can find the right line and put a good lap on the board. Every position is important in the heat race. You have to be smart about when to make your move.
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