Donny Schatz has taken his 6th Knoxville Nationals Crown in 7 years in a superb Feature that saw 4th starter Brian Brown nearly steal victory on the line. In arguably the closest finish in the history of “The Nationals”, North Dokota’s Schatz just managed to cross the line 1/10th of a second ahead of the storming Brian Brown.
The final podium spot was taken by a gallant Craig Dollansky. The only Aussie to make the A-Main was Ian Madsen who started in P11 and crossed the finish line in 18th.
Donny Schatz was clearly exhausted on the podium having given it his all. He knew he was being attacked from behind and he had used up most of his rear rubber defending his position. At the end of the race Donny thanked the TSR Team, major sponsor STP and Tony Stewart for the privilege of racing the #15 entry. He thought that he has crossed the flagstand with “canvas” tires.
Listen to Donny Schatz’s victory speech here:
A MAIN – 50 laps Starting Positions : 1, Stevie Smith. 2, Craig Dollansky. 3, Jonathan Allard. 4, Brian Brown. 5, Donny Schatz. 6, Joey Saldana. 7, Jason Meyers. 8, Tim Kaeding. 9, Kraig Kinser. 10, Lucas Wolfe. 11, Ian Madsen. 12, Kyle Larson. 13, Shane Stewart. 14, Daryn Pittman. 15, Lance Dewease. 16, Paul McMahan. 17, Justin Henderson. 18, David Gravel. 19, Dale Blaney. 20, Cody Darrah. 21, Mark Dobmeier. 22, Davey Heskin. 23, Brian Paulus. 24, Jason Sides.
Underway in the 52nd Knoxville Nationals and Stevie Smith set about establishing a big lead early (2 sec to Allard after just 3 laps down). Schatz got past Allard soon after for second and gained ground on Smith with 5 laps registered.
Dollansky showing true determination did a great job early to stay in touch with Schatz. Smith and Schatz battled hard down low with 11 down, while Dollansky ran high and managed to stay with them. Traffic started to hold Smith up and the “capitalising” Schatz lunged to the lead on Lap 14, with Dollansky doing well in 3rd and Brian Brown in 4th. The luckless Jonathon Allard had drifted back from his second pole starting position to disastrous 10th at that point. The situation wasn’t to get any better for Allard with him ultimately coming home a further 3 positions back in 13th.
Not giving in, Smith tried an outside move on Schatz with 19 laps in the book, but just couldn’t make it stick. That seemed to spook Smith and Dollansky took 2nd from him at lap 20, as Schatz pulled away and started working toward lapping tail ender Cody Darrah. Brian Brown was coming on more and more and looked strong, making a move on Stevie Smith and grabbing 3rd. Kraig Kinser and Smith waged a battle of their own for several laps, with Kinser coming out on top as Smith drifted back with an ill handling car after starting in pole position.
Schatz lead Dollansky by 1.6 seconds as the Caution flag came out for the compulsory pit stop after 27 continuous laps. Brian Brown was running strong in 3rd and Kraig Kinser had flown under the radar to bag 4th after starting from P9. Next it was Smith, Stewart, Meyers, Saldana, Kaeding, Wolfe, DeWease, Allard, Henderson, Dobmeier, Heskin, Pitman, Blaney, Larson, Ian Madsen, Gravel, Darrah, McMahan and Jason Sides.
After the Fuel and Tire stop, 23 of the 24 original field restarted in single file formation with Brian Paulus unfortunately calling it a night with mechanical dramas. Paulus had done really well to transfer from the B Main after a very skinny racing season so far. Allegedly it was engine problems.
Schatz got a great start after the fuel stoppage and within 4 laps opened up an incredible straightaway lead. On lap 32 Schatz got over the cushion in Turn 2, crabbed sideways, nearly caught the wall and was lucky to gather it up. The track was rubber down on T1 and T2 and becoming abrasive on tyres. We Schatz’s tire going off ?
Kraig Kinser and Shane Steward waged a battle, alternating between the high and low lines – the dual continuing for several laps – Steward snatched the position only to have Kinser snatch it back.
Kyle Larson came to a stop and brought on the first cautions on lap 34 with a left rear wheel issue. Schatz sees his 2 second lead eroded as a result.
Restart order is Schatz, Dollansky, Brown, Meyers, Smith, K Kinser, Stewart, T Kaeding, DeWease and Heskin rounding out the top 10. Heskin had charged for P22 to now be in the top 10.
Racing underway and Dollansky goes to the cushion and Brian Brown attacks low, Brown takes second position and sets out after Schatz.
With 36 laps down awesome 3-wide action down the back straight is spectacular between K Kinser, Smith and Stewart for 5th place.
Brian Brown seeing an opportunity engaged in a battle for the lead and forged toward Schatz and with 10 laps to go pulls right up on his tail. A momentary “slack attack” by Brown nearly put himself into the fence and allowed Schatz to open the lead once again to 1.6 sec.
Heavy back marker traffic in front of Schatz allowed Brown to close up yet again and with a slingshot exit from Turn 4 Brown catapulted alongside Schatz as they approached the checker. Donny Schatz crossed the line Victorious for the 6th time in 7 years —– but by only 1/10 th of a second ahead the Flying Brian Brown. It was arguably the closest finish ever in the 52 years of the Knoxville Nationals.
A-Main Finish: 1 – 15 Schatz, 2 – 21 Brown, 3 – 7 Dollansky, 4 – 11k Kinser, 5 -21m Meyers, 6 -57 Stewart, 7 – 19 Smith, , 8 -30c Dewease, 9 -83jr Kaeding, 10 -56 Heskin, 11- 9 Saldana, 12 -13 Dobmeier, 13 -0 Allard, 14 -82 Henderson, 15 -27 Pittman, 16 -1K Larson, 17 – 2 Blaney, 18 – 55 I. Madsen, 19 -5w Wolfe, 20 -7S Sides, 21 -4 Darrah, 22 -89g Gravel, 23 -13x McMahan, 24 -28 Paulus
Footnote: Sam Hafertepe Jr. won the award for Best Appearing Car
So out of over 100 of the world’s best Sprint Car Drivers, over 4 days of magnificent racing, it came down to the final night where 93 Teams were still in the competition, The final night saw the lead up E, D, C and B Mains to eventually configure the 24 strong field for the 52nd Nationals. Here’s the wrap on the lead-up features:
E MAIN Finish – 10 Laps, 2 Transfers: 1, Bill Rose. 2, Ed Lynch Jr. 3, Critter Malone. 4, Tasker Phillips. 5, Geoff Dodge. 6, Sheldon Haudenschild. 7, Josh Hodges. 8, Ron Krysl. 9, Lee Sowell. 10, Seth Brahmer. 11, Austin Johnson. 12, Mike Reinke. 13, Johnny Herrera – Relatively uneventful heat. Late Charge from Ed Lynch Jr. to guarantee the last D-Main transfer spot.
D MAIN Finish – 12 Laps, 4 Transfers: 35 Tyler Walker, 1s Logan Schuchart, 08 Casey Mack, 17a Austin McCarl, 6x Kaley Gharst, 2x Dustin Morgan, 4d Danny Smith, 88 Jarrod Sneiderman, 47au Trevor Reynolds, 66 Geoff Dodge, 2k Kevin Ingle, 40 Caleb Helm , 2l , 1t Chris Shirek, 75 Glen Saville, 6 Bill Rose, 20 AL Moeller, 71b Robert Bell, 7taz Tasker Phillips, 7c Critter Malone, 1m Jim Moughan, 24h Brian Sebetto, 71au Domain Ramsay
Tyler Walker and Casey Mack were in a class of their own up to half race distance and lapping in low 16’s. Critter Malone spun in turn two with five laps remaining to bring out the only caution. Casey Mack lost a position to Logan Schuchart at the conclusion of the D Main. Concern was evident on everyone’s faces as the weather looked like closing in – fortunately it was not to play any role.
C MAIN Finish– 15 Laps, 4 Transfers: 59 Jac Haudenschild, 1z Danny Lasoski, 49 Brad Sweet, 55m James McFadden, 35au Jamie Veal, 53D Jack Dover, 54 Cap Henry, 1x Randy Hannagan, w20 Greg Wilson rounding out the top 10. Then came cars 35, 47, 1s, 49j, 18, 55x, 12, 17a, 8, 26, 17m, 99 and finally 6r
Jamie Veal jumped to the lead in the opening lap over polesitter and all time Knoxville Feature winner Danny Lasoski. The Yellows came out for debris on the track with 3 laps down. Sam Hapertefe #26 took a visit to the work area to replace a flat right rear and re-joined the tail. Veal worked the cushion with Lasoski hounding him. Lasoski pulled a slide job on Veal for 1st place couple of laps later. Jac Haundenschild powered to the lead through Turn 2 with 5 laps to go while Jamie Veal slipped back and fell into the clutches of Brad Sweet and with one lap to go James McFadden as well. James McFadden held on to take the final transfer spot to the B-Main.
B MAIN Finish – 22 Laps, 4 Transfers : 13 Dobmeier, 56 Heskin, 28 Paulus, 7s Sides, 1 Sammy Swindell, 83 Shaffer, 41 Jason Johnson, 71 Kevin Swindell, 29 Kerry Madsen, 11 Steve Kinser, 96 Maeschen, 98 Tatnell, 63 Kemenah, 24 Terry McCarl, 77x Wayne Johnson , 55xm McFadden, 1z Lasoski, 23w Winters, d4 Holtgraver, 39 Hodnett, 49 Sweet, 7x Selvage, 59 Haudenschild, 91 Zomer
On the first attempt to get underway, Dusty Zomer rode the rear wheel of Aussie Kerry Madsen and endured a sickening, violent flip end-over-end in Turn 1, then into the wall with the throttle jammed on, climbing the fence and flipping sideways toward the infield – finally coming to rest just before the infield berm and luckily OK. Madsen gave up his 11th starting spot and joined the rear as a result in P23.
Finally underway, Dobmeier jumped to the lead along with polesitter Davey Heskin and opened up a half a straightaway lead with 5 laps down. Swindell and Paulus have a great battle for several laps for 5th position. 9 down and Greg Hodnett while running 3rd is displaced by Paulus and starts a rearward spiral through the field. Sides and Swindell wage a desperate battle for the final transfer position. In no time Sides pulls a rabbit out of the hat and takes 5th from Swindell, then 4th from a floundering Greg Hodnett with 14 down – Dobmeier looked strong and continued to lead. At the checker it was Dobmeier first , followed closely by Heskin, Paulus and Sides
Wow——- Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Tim Shaffer, Danny Lasoski, Greg Hodnett, Kerry Madsen, Jac Haudenschild, Jason Johnson, Brad Sweet all unable to make it through to the A Feature for the running of the 52nd Knoxville Nationals !!!!!!
In contrast Brian Paulus earned the right to come off the back row of the A Feature – not a bad effort considering this B Main was only his tenth Sprint Car race this year.
Kinser came in at 10th sadly ending a 34 year straight-run history of qualifying for the Knoxville Nationals – Boy what a proud record !! Apparently the Team just couldn’t get the car “Hooked” up all weekend.
During the B Main Joey Saldana changed an engine, believing they were down on horsepower. Unfortunately it wasn’t to help none as Saldana crossed the flagstand in the A Feature in a very disappointing 11th after staring out in 6th.