Donny Schatz Becomes The First Back-To-Back Winner Of The Kings Royal
Despite the fact that no one has ever won consecutive Kings Royal events, Schatz was confident that he could be the first to repeat. His assurance was undoubtedly buoyed by his second-place finish to Christopher Bell in the Knight Before the Kings Royal, but it's never over until the leader rolls across the scales.
"It was awesome," said Schatz, standing in front of his throne in Victory Lane. "We stuck good last night, and I kept trying to run the same groove. There were laps I could and laps I couldn't. If I could stay in traffic and stay behind guys, I could stay stuck pretty good but on my own I didn't seem to have the grip. You just had to be patient."
Schatz won, but with a well-placed caution or 10 more laps in the feature, he might have fallen to Christopher Bell, who made the hardest charge of the night. Bell was unable to advance from his heat when his engine lost power. He had to fall back on his qualification speed, which put him 20th on the grid.
"I don't know what I could have done to not lose so much time on Donny," Bell said. "But to come from 20th and run second in a green-to-checker race, especially to Donny is something I'm really proud of. I'm just grateful that Tony let me drive that No. 14 car. It's a really fast car and it's a lot of fun to drive.
With Schatz finishing first to Bell's second, they reversed the order of the previous night and gave Tony Stewart Racing a sweep of the top two positions both nights.
"That kid is pretty good," Schatz said of Bell. "He's giving me gray hair."
Once again, Brad Sweet crossed under the checkers third. Racing is a sport of close calls, and with one more lap Sweet might have finished outside the top 10. As he rolled across the scales to check his weight, the crew discovered a flat tire.
"We've got to get our car a little better," Sweet said. "I'm not complaining. They just did a better job than us tonight. Chris is a hell of a driver. We've been chasing him for years now. We're getting a little closer. I think I'm starting to understand what the car is supposed to feel like."
This was Sweet's third top-three finish in three nights of racing at Eldora. He finished second to Kerry Madsen on Thursday night in the Joker's Wild.
The Kings Royal often features fairy tales, and Cole Duncan was Saturday's Cinderella story. Due to the unique inversion procedures used for the Kings Royal, he not only qualified for his first-ever appearance in the A-Main for this prestigious race but also managed to snag the pole by winning heat six.
Duncan held his lead for seven laps as Sweet struggled to find a line that would allow him past. When Schatz took the lead on lap 14, Duncan continued to hold onto the second position for the majority of the race until Bell joined the fray and disturbed Duncan's rhythm.
Duncan finished fourth.
Ryan Smith rounded out the top five.
Jac and Sheldon Haudenschild had their own family reunion going at the start of the show. Sheldon won heat three, which placed him on the outside of row two. Jac snatched the lead of heat four only minutes later and won in dominant fashion in order to line up on the inside of row two.
Sheldon was making his first Kings Royal A-Main start; Jac was making his 25th.
Sheldon remained with the leaders most of the night and finished 10th. Jac faded to 22nd--one lap off the lead.
Top 10 Finishers
1. Donny Schatz
2. Christopher Bell
3. Brad Sweet
4. Cole Duncan
5. Ryan Smith
6. Lee Jacobs
7. Chad Kemenah
8. Daryn Pittman
9. Kraig Kinser
10. Sheldon Haudenschild