Last November, both drivers earned championships in dominant fashion – Harvick in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Schatz in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing, scored a series-best eight poles, won five races, earned 14 top-fives and 20 top-10s, all while leading a series-high 2,137 laps en route to his first Sprint Cup title.
Schatz, driver of the No. 15 Bad Boys Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, scored eight quick times, won a series- and career-best 26 races, earned a series-best 63 top-fives and 80 top-10s, and led a series-best 438 laps on his way to his sixth World of Outlaws championship.
Both drivers put up impressive numbers in their respective title runs, and as the 2015 season has shown, both drivers have kept their foot planted firmly on the throttle.
Harvick has finished second or better in nine of the last 10 point-paying Sprint Cup races and 10th or better in every Sprint Cup race dating back to last November at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. During this streak, Harvick has scored four wins, five second-place finishes and an eighth-place result while leading a series-high 1,103 laps – including the 17 laps Harvick has led thus far in the rain-delayed Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Schatz, who carries the title of the winningest active full-time World of Outlaws driver, currently leads the series in wins (five), top-fives (11), top-10s (15) and laps led (93).
Harvick leads the Sprint Cup point standings by 26 over Joey Logano and Schatz leads the World of Outlaws point standings by 23 over Shane Stewart.
“I think when you look back at the performance from this year to last year, it’s virtually the same with the speed of the car. It’s just that the team is better,” Harvick said. “It’s the same group of guys, but everyone just knows each other so much better now. When you look back at the first half of last year and you look at the first seven weeks of this year, it’s just run so much differently just because this group of guys knows each other so much better. When you look at the results, it would look a lot different from last year but, really, it’s very much the same only with a team that has been together longer now. The guys on the shop floor, the pit crew and the guys on the pit box – everybody is performing at such a high level.”
Harvick will resume his title defense when the skies clear and racing resumes at Bristol. Schatz’ next race is the Texas Outlaw Nationals April 24-25 at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas.
“Every year we set goals, and coming off 26 wins last year, our expectations were extremely high for this season,” said Schatz, who like Harvick in Sprint Cup was the first driver in his series to win multiple races. “Getting off to a fast start in terms of wins hasn’t been something we’ve been able to accomplish in the past, but Ricky Warner (crew chief), Steve Swenson (car chief) and Eric Prutzman (tire/shock specialist) really put in a lot of work this offseason to have us ready. Our entire program has been solid from qualifying through the end of the night, and that has been a big key to our consistency. We’re really motivated to get better every week and be in position to win every night.”
History says Schatz won’t be slowing down. In the last two World of Outlaws seasons, Schatz has won the most races and led the most laps of any fulltime driver. In 2014, he led 438 laps (next closest driver led 384 laps) and won 26 A-Features (next closest was 14). In 2013, Schatz led 427 laps (next closest driver led 226 laps) and won 23 A-Features (next closest was nine). Perhaps Schatz’s most impressive statistic is that he has gone 169 races – dating back to March 23, 2013 – without a Did Not Finish (DNF).