One of the most decorated drivers in the history of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, Donny Schatz, receives cheers every time he captures a checkered flag. He is loved by many… and hated just the same. Schatz is currently involved in a crazy points battle with Daryn Pittman that will probably come down to the last race at Charlotte. But what’s on Schatz mind lately? The World Racing Group.
After a victory at Lernerville Speedway in July, Donny Schatz didn’t pull any punches when talking about the president of the World Racing Group Tom Deery, “Tom Deery [president and chief operating officer of the World of Outlaws] doesn’t even know our names,” Schatz said. “We are puppets, and they are the WWF. We don’t get wrapped up in the politics.”
“It’s like talking to a brick wall. They are more worried about entertainment and looking at that side of it, the fans get their money’s worth with two features.”
Schatz brings up a very good question: whose opinion should WRG be concerned with – the fans, or the drivers?
WRG’s Main Concern
I really don’t feel for Donny Schatz or any driver that races within the World of Outlaws that has a gripe with the series. The series has grown to a point to where Donny and many others gets to drive a sprint car for a living. If he isn’t happy with WRG, then go find another series to race.
It’s an interesting dilemma for the series owners though, do you listen to your drivers or the fans’ feedback? If the drivers aren’t happy, then the racing suffers. But, if the fans aren’t happy, then they don’t show up for the events and the racing will slowly die.
I tend to side with WRG on this one. I think they should consult the drivers about particular issues, but for the most part their main concern should be with the fans’ experience at the track.
Jeremy Elliot wrote a great column about the divide between the drivers and WRG where he brings up a point: The complaints have ranged from rules, to track surfaces, formats and tires. The one common thread: the drivers aren’t consulted by the men calling the shots.
Should WRG Consult With The Drivers?
Only the drivers know how much WRG are consulting with them about the decisions the series has to make. But one point that is brought up by many drivers including Sammy, and Schatz is the tire selection this year. Sammy was quoted as saying, “It’s like having a pavement tire on the left rear and an inner tube on the right,” Swindell said. “It’s what the series wanted.”
WRG made the switch to Hoosier tires last year, ending a near three year agreement with Goodyear. For three years Goodyears were what everyone in the series raced. So when deciding what tire would be next for the series what good would it have done to speak with the drivers within the series? I know some drivers dabble in other series, but for the most part many of the heavy hitters only run within WRG. Doesn’t it make more sense to speak with the folks at Hoosier to come up with a tire?
Listen, I believe drivers should be consulted to a certain extent about whats happening within the series. They are the one’s putting their lives in jeopardy each night. But tire selection can have supporters on both sides of the fence. I’m sure if you asked Daryn Pittman who has 42 top ten finishes and 8 wins this year, what he thinks of the new tire combination he wouldn’t be nearly as harsh as Sammy who has only two victories.
My point throughout all of this is simple, cut WRG some slack. Donny Schatz is right in one aspect – whether he likes it or not, he is in the entertainment business. We all come to an event to be entertained, we want to see great racing. The World of Outlaws accomplish this task more often then they fail it. The series has arguably never been more competitive, and fans continue to pile in every track.
Running a series as large and with a schedule as crazy as the World of Outlaws isn’t easy. These guys spend countless days on the road more so then the drivers, they will usually arrive at the track a day earlier then the rest of the teams to begin setting up banners, and ensuring the each event is held in such a way that the fans walk away saying how incredible the event was.