ST. LOUIS, Mo. (December 24, 2019) – Donny Schatz Motorsports made its Gateway Dirt Nationals debut this past weekend with 2019 World of Outlaws Late Model champion Brandon Sheppard behind the wheel.
By all accounts, it was a successful weekend for the Schatz Crossroads / Fargo Petro No. 15 team.
Sheppard made the 20-car starting grid for the 40-lap, $30,000-to-win main event by way of a second-place run in B-main #3. Rolling off in the 15th starting position, Sheppard bided his time in the early going. With 10 laps to go, Sheppard found himself running in the third position and chasing down the leaders.
On the following circuit, Ryan Unzicker, who was battling for the lead with Tyler Carpenter, hooked a rut in turn three and rolled over to bring out the red. Unzicker was okay. As a result, Sheppard inherited the second spot in what would be a nine-lap shootout to the checkers.
“I knew I had something for (Carpenter). If I didn’t mess it up, I felt like I could have won,” said Sheppard after the race. “The track was just getting so rough. He was using up the track like he needed to win the race and I was just trying to move around to figure out what I had to do to pass him. About the time I figured out what I needed to do, the race was over.”
On the final lap, Sheppard got a run down the turn four banking and pulled alongside Carpenter on the front straightaway. At the checkers, Carpenter held on to win by a mere 0.2 seconds.
“Man, I had a lot of fun out there. To come from the back on this little race track, and to drive for Donny Schatz, has been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can do it again next year and maybe years to come,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard, who drives the Rocket Chassis house car on the World of Outlaws tour, adjusted quickly to Schatz’s Durham Ford-powered Rocket XR1.
“The car is real similar to everything I normally drive so it wasn’t like I was coming into anything blind. It did take us the first day to figure out what we needed to do to get the car better. I haven’t driven an XR1 at this track before. It took me a minute, but once I figured what we needed, we really got it dialed in. We were there at the end like we needed to be. I just think next year we need to try to qualify better and not work so hard to get up through there early in the race. That’s what’s going to make us better next year, but overall we are really happy with our performance. It was just a lot of fun.”