2002: Number 12 For Steve Kinser

    Steve Kinser celebrates after winning his 12th Knoxville Nationals in 2002. (Ken Simon Photo)
    Steve Kinser celebrates after winning his 12th Knoxville Nationals in 2002. (Ken Simon Photo)

    Editor’s Note: National Speed Sport News is going back in time and revisiting some of the past Knoxville Nationals races ahead of the 53rd annual FVP Knoxville Nationals. This is the fourth installment in the seven day series.

    KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Tyler Walker performs his cartwheel-back flip-round offs and P.J. Chesson celebrates victories by turning doughnuts and climbing the fence on the front straightaway.

    Steve Kinser showed more emotion than he had in his previous 463 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series victories Saturday, standing on the top wing of his No. 11 Quaker State Maxim and waving the checkered flag after winning the 42nd annual Mopar Parts Knoxville Nationals.

    Kinser led all 30 laps from outside the front row at Knoxville Raceway to win his 12th Mopar Parts Knoxville Nationals championship — his first since passing 13 cars on his way to winning the title in 1995.

    “I can’t climb the fence and I don’t know if it would hold me anyway,” Kinser said jokingly. I did pretty well on the wing though.”

    Danny Lasoski, the polesitter and defending champion, battled Kinser heroically through the first 25 laps as the painful effects of injuries he suffered two weeks earlier lingered. “The Dude” — a seven-time Knoxville Raceway champion — finished fourth in sprint car racing’s premier event.

    “This is pretty good since we’ve had crashes in the first corner the last two years,” Kinser said. “I didn’t feel good on the bottom all night; I just couldn’t roll it. I think they left the bottom down there for Danny. I thought it was him coming by me on the last lap. When I saw it wasn’t him, I said, ‘oh thank you, thank you, thank you.’ Danny did a great job just to get out there and race. He’s banged up really bad. For him to hang in there and run as hard as he did for 30 laps, if he was 100% you might have seen a different situation.”

    Donny Schatz, who celebrated his 25th birthday Saturday, almost stole the victory as Kinser turned sideways in the second corner with the white flag waving. Schatz’s No. 15 Parker Stores J&J was .336 seconds behind as Kinser took the checkered flag.

    “If we had been closer to those guys (Kinser and Lasoski) at the beginning, we might have had a better chance,” the dejected Schatz said. “I gave it the best I could, but Steve did a better job. We just congratulate him. I’ll have to come back again and try to win.”

    Kinser was uncharacteristically slow during the A Feature hot-lap session, but discovered the problem in time to run at full power throughout the race.

    “When we went out there in the hot-lap session, I just felt terrible and I couldn’t figure out why,” Kinser said. “I came in and I went to shut the fuel off and realized I only had it half-way on. I don’t know how it ran. We didn’t know what to do, but we left it alone and here we are.”