So what is the equalizer in tonight’s $150,000-to-win feature? It’s the distance. Fifty laps makes it anyone’s race.
“Knoxville is one of the few places in the country, especially with 50 laps, that a starting spot is simply that, it is just a starting spot,” said Daryn Pittman, who starts 11th. “Schatz won a couple years ago from 14th and Shane Stewart finished second a couple times starting in the back. I think Shane will be difficult to beat with his best starting position (third) at the Nationals.
“You do not fake your way around here,” Pittman explained. “If you are not any good, you are going to the back and it doesn’t matter if it is 10 laps or 50. If you are one of the best cars, you are going straight to the front. You can’t block and hold guys back here like you can at certain race tracks. If you are good enough to pass guys, you are going to go forward and if you are not, you will be counting laps until the checkered flag because there is no way you will be able to hold a spot.”
Brown starts outside the front row and is a past polesitter for this race.
“You definitely want to start on the front row, but if something happens and you are not exactly where you need to be, it is not the end of the world,” he said. “Fifty laps has brought a different aspect to the Knoxville Nationals. In a sense, it’s not sprint car racing because you have 50 laps to do it.
“In the first 25 laps, you can’t get yourself out of position,” he continued. “You have to stay in contention and that’s where I messed up when I was on the pole in 2010. They waved the green flag and I took off like I was running from the cops. I have to get out of here and by the end of the race my stuff was worn out. Last year, we just sat back during the first half of the race.”
Chad Kemenah will start 19th.
“We have 50 laps. We need to get our car a little bit better and we have to take in the race track, but I think it is going to be similar to what it was tonight,” Kemenah said after finishing third on Friday. “There was a top and a bottom. You will see a lot of passing with some people on top and some on the bottom. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone can come from midpack to win this race. We have 50 laps to move forward and a lot can happen in 50 laps.”