Barberville, FL — Three-time and defending World of Outlaws Sprint Car champion Donny Schatz and UMP DIRTcar Modified standout Jared Landers turned in a couple of incredible performances Tuesday night to kick off the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park.
Landers, of Batesville, Ark., was up first. With a field of 82 cars signed in, Landers started fifth on the grid and consistently hit his marks throughout the 20-lap main event. He worked his way to second and set his sights on NASCAR star Kenny Wallace for the lead. Landers made his move on Lap 9, carrying his momentum right through the middle groove on the wide, sweeping half-mile oval. He shot past Wallace and charged off to the checkered flag for his third victory at Volusia in the past two years.
The victory made Landers the first driver eligible to be crowned an Alltel All-Star by fan votes. Fans can vote via text message to 247253 and enter their driver’s letter code or by visiting AlltelAllStar.com. Votes will be tallied daily until Feb. 28. The overall winner as determined by fan votes will receive the $10,000 grand prize, while the top vote-getter in the other three divisions will earn $1,000. Over 12 consecutive nights from Feb. 3 to Feb. 14, 410 Sprint Cars, UMP DIRTcar Modifieds, Dirt Late Models and Big-Block Modifieds will all compete.
Landers, 26, who is still adjusting to fatherhood, knows the top prize would go a long way.
“It helps me to raise my baby,” Landers said. “We had my son in August. He’s been a good luck charm. I’ve won every race he’s at. I don’t know if I can keep that up. He’s been to five races so far and I’ve won all of them, including tonight. He’s staying for the rest of the week, that’s for sure.”
The eyes then turned to the 46 window-rattling winged 410 Sprint Cars that signed in. With the A-main set at 24 cars, a couple of rough starts led to damage on Schatz’s Armor All machine. He pulled into the work area, made repairs to the front suspension and restarted last in the field of what was then 23 cars. From that point on, Schatz turned in one of the all-time great performances in a Sprint Car. His J&J was locked in the low groove throughout the feature and he picked off cars at will until he finally swept his way into the lead and easily secured the checkered flag.
“The car was good,” said Schatz, of Fargo, N.D. “I still think there’s room for improvement. You have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing. Never settle for anything short of perfect.”
After making the repairs in the work area, Schatz was about as perfect as any driver has ever been in a Sprint Car over 30 laps. The victory made him the second driver eligible to win the Alltel All-Star competition.
“Any time you can get somebody involved in an event like this and have brand naming rights on it, it’s really neat,” Schatz said. “It’s good for all of the people who come here. There are people from all over the world who come here to race Modifieds, Late Models, Sprint Cars. It’s great to see what Alltel is contributing to everybody for coming and making this a big event.”
Through the first night of competition at the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH, the Alltel All-Star contenders and their text message Letter Codes include:
Sprint Cars — Donny Schatz, Fargo, N.D. (b).
UMP DIRTcar Modifieds — Jared Landers, Batesville, Ark. (a).
For more information about Alltel, please visit www.alltel.com. To cast your vote online visit www.AlltelAllStar.com.