It is a beautiful June Saturday in Knoxville, Iowa. A couple from Oregon steps out of their car and approaches the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum.
They are welcomed at the door. It is their first trip to “The Sprint Car Capital of the World.”
They are shown to the sixth floor of the Bryan Clauson Suite Tower. They step out of the door onto the observation deck and the enormity of Knoxville Raceway takes their breath away. They walk up to the railing and peer over. The tractors are tilling and water trucks are in motion around the big half-mile race track.
It’s finally race day.
The folks from Checkered Flag Concessions are making trips back and forth to the infield concession stand. As the gentle breeze blows a little bit harder 600 feet in the air, down below transporters and trailers — enclosed and open alike — are pulling on the fairgrounds. The public-address system is already belting out tunes and things are abuzz.
The couple has never seen anything like it. A first-time visit to Knoxville Raceway can be awe inspiring. It’s quickly apparent to the couple that Knoxville Raceway is the destination for thousands each Saturday night.
When fans from far and wide think about Knoxville Raceway, the Knoxville Nationals may be foremost in their minds. The event was started by Marion Robinson in 1961, paying $1,000 to win for supermodifieds. The event was a huge success and made Knoxville Raceway a player on the national scene.
In 1954, weekly racing came to the Marion County Fairgrounds for the first time. Modified stock cars eventually found a foothold on Saturday nights. Weekly racing has been the backbone of the community ever since.
Without it, the Knoxville Nationals would never have occurred, and certainly, without the weekly contingent to support it, the Nationals would not be what it is today.
Thousands have moved to the region over the years, bringing new companies, race teams, business, residents and revenue to the community of 7,000. For the majority, it is weekly racing that draws them. Certainly, the Nationals brings a boost to the local economy, but weekly racing from mid-April to the end of August is what sustains it.
The Saturday night weekly scene is something to behold. More than 200 employees assemble to carry out their duties. Race officials, safety personnel, concession workers, the track-prep crew, push-truck drivers, customer service, security, ticket takers, office personnel, the clean-up crew and many more have one thing in mind — running a smooth and entertaining event.
Driver Brian Brown hails from Grain Valley, Mo., and is proud of his Missouri roots, but Knoxville is home for him. His Casey’s General Stores/FVP No. 21 transporter brings flash and style with it and is the first to pull into the infield on this night.
The two-time 410 track champion grew up here on Saturday nights watching his uncle, Danny Lasoski, rack up win after win. It was a family affair that saw Brown run from the stands to be a part of the victory lane photo.
Racing for a living, Brown has solidly put himself in the top 10 in the 410 class nationwide. He has built his own team from the ground up through hard work and sponsorships he takes very seriously. He beat the World of Outlaws at Knoxville in June, and he’s beaten them other places as well. But there is nowhere he’d rather be on a Saturday night.
The pressure that comes from being the nephew of Knoxville Raceway’s top feature winner is real, but not nearly the pressure Brown puts on himself.
The years have taught him to relax a little and take it one week at a time. It has paid off. Still, when he rolls in, everyone knows he’s among those to beat every Saturday night. Through late June, Brown had won four features here this season.
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