Friendship brings Stewart to West FargoFARGO — There’s more to this racing thing than just making four left turns. At least that’s the way it feels if you’re working in track operations. That’s where it gets really interesting.
By: Ryan S. Clark, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — There’s more to this racing thing than just making four left turns. At least that’s the way it feels if you’re working in track operations. That’s where it gets really interesting.
That’s where you’re trying to attract old and new fans, keep the sport thriving while showing people racing is a viable entertainment option.
It probably didn’t go down exactly like that, but that’s the gist of the conversation Donny Schatz had with his friend/boss/NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart.
“He (Stewart) was telling me how he owns a race track,” said Schatz, who operates West Fargo’s Red River Valley Speedway with his family. “I told him we took over a track here and how we wanted to keep World of Outlaw shows here but we couldn’t get one. That’s when he said, ‘Heck, I’ll come up there and race.’ ”
It was that conversation that led to Stewart coming here to race twice last year. He’ll be doing it again this year. Stewart will race today while Schatz will sit back and hope this is one of many steps towards operating a successful track.
None of this should come as a surprise, given that Schatz and Stewart started their friendship following a business agreement. Schatz races sprint cars in the World of Outlaws Series. Schatz drives for Stewart’s team.
“He was the right fit for our organization at the time,” Stewart said. “And as time went on, we got to know each other better and we’ve become really good friends through it.”
Stewart said it started out as a “business relationship” that turned into the two “being like brothers.”
During the winter, the duo traveled to Australia to race. At dinner one night, Schatz talked about his race track and it eventually led to Stewart saying he would help out.
“I’ve raced professionally for 15 years, and to see how it works from a promoter’s standpoint is different,” Schatz said. “It is quite challenging to sell this to people because there are so many things to do for families these days.”
Stewart said racing on a dirt track for him is a no-brainer because he enjoys doing it. It was also an easy decision because he wanted to help out Schatz and his family.
Last year, the Schatz family took over the Red River Valley Speedway located at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds. This occurred after the fair board threatened to discontinue racing due to financial reasons.
Schatz and his family stepped in and saved the track, agreeing to lease the facility. They are entering their second year managing the facility.
“They are putting money into that speedway to make it better for the fans,” Stewart said. “They have a great race track out there and people that are NASCAR fans may not know that there is a track there. If we can come and help bring attention to the speedway, we are more than eager to go out and something like that.”
Clark is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.