Night 1 of the 52nd Knoxville Nationals was taken out by young racing sensation Kyle Larson. At one stage around 5pm it looked like it could have game over as a severe storm swept through the local area, inundating the speedway. It was a credit to officials to bring the track back. The night got off to a very late start at 9pm.
Larson crossed the line in the preliminary 25 lap Feature ahead of polesitter Davey Heskin and Donny Schatz. Davey Heskin led the first 14 laps until the yellows were thrown for Mike Reinke who had ground to a halt in turn 3-4. Randy Hannigan who was running second also exited the event with a fire on the main straight.
On the restart Heskin was gobbled up by Jason Sides going into turn 2 and then again by a slide job from the fast moving Larson coming out of turn 4.
Sides, Larson and Heskin battled it out and raced hard through traffic until Sides blew a left rear with 6 remaining. Underway again and Brian Paulus looked a real threat on new leader Larson until he coasted to a stop as the white flag came out.
Larson jumped to the lead on the green-white-checker restart and crossed the line at 1:00 am a determined and deserved winner in this his first appearance at The Nationals. Davey Heskin and Donny Schatz had a brilliant last couple of laps locked in a dogfight – Heskin threw everything he had at it and held onto second place.
Best placed Australian in the A-Main was Brooke Tatnell in 6th, while Glen Saville crossed the line in 16th and way down the back Madsen came home in 23rd
Earlier in the evening Quick Time was set by Joey Saldana (14.715). Saldana had to qualify through the B- Main (1st place) and came home an impressive 8th after starting out of P21. Other big movers were fellow B-Main transferees Shane Stewart P7 from P23, and Craig Dollansky P4 from P22.
Heats (10 laps) were taken out by AJ Moeller, Kerry Madsen, Ed Lynch Jr, and Lee Sowell.
The C-Main (8 laps) was taken out by Rager Phillips from Jarrod Schneiderman.
The B-Main (12 laps) had a truckload of big names in it: Chad Kemenah, Paul McMahan, Steve Kinser, Joey Saldana, Shane Stewart, Craig Dollansky, Fred Rahmer, Brady Bacon, Brad Sweet and more. Joey Saldana won from Craig Dollansky, Shane Stewart and Paul McMahan. The best Steve Kinser could do was 8 th. West Australian Trevor Reynolds crossed the line in 18th just in front of fellow Australian Lynton Jeffrey.
Thursday night will see the second field of 50 cars go head to head in their qualifying.