Saturday nights at Knoxville are just as important to Knoxville’s Alan Zoutte. He rolls in fairly early as well with his open trailer. His in-town tow is definitely not the longest, but it is also filled with excitement. Zoutte works a day job, managing the local 3M factory and prepares the car in his spare time.
Zoutte pulls into his familiar spot in the far back by the backstretch entrance. His son, Aidan, and father, Adrian, who preceded him racing Saturday nights, unload the car to get it ready for the night’s 360 sprint car portion of the program. They will do what they can to make the feature event. This year has seen car counts rising again in the class and it’s not an easy task for a team on a tight budget.
Getting to the track has been hard at times over the years. An engine issue can sideline the team for an indeterminate amount of time, possibly the season. And unfortunately, Zoutte is also known throughout the sprint car community as the most recent driver to crash through the plywood billboards in turns one and two and land on Highway 14.
Before Zoutte, the last driver to land on the highway was his dad. Nonetheless, the Zouttes would like to put that behind them and get to racing. After all, with a new catchfence in place, hopes are he’ll be the last to land unexpectedly on Highway 14.
The stories of Brown and Zoutte can be retold many times as one walks through the Knoxville Raceway pit area.
Tom Lenz, the 1989 rookie of the year in the 360 class, is still going strong. There’s Mark Dobmeier, who for nine straight seasons drove 10 hours one way from his home in Grand Forks, N.D., every single week to compete here. There is rookie Trey Starks, who flies in weekly from Puyallup, Wash., to gain experience and take advantage of the best weekly 410 sprint car purse in the country.
The year-end point fund is also the best in weekly racing and with eight chassis being given away each year, there’s always the chance to start the next season in a new ride.
Thanks to KRCO, Knoxville Raceway regulars have insurance coverage wherever they race.
The McCarl family is on its third generation racing at Knoxville. Carson McCarl is the youngest to win at the track, Austin McCarl won his first 410 track championship in 2018 and their dad, Terry, is third all time in Knoxville Raceway victories, behind only Lasoski and Doug Wolfgang.
The Phillips family from Pleasantville, Iowa, has fielded as many as three brothers in events at Knoxville Raceway, and the stories go on and on.
There are also some traveling racers mixed into the weekly fields. Thanks to programs from Casey’s General Stores and Howard Law, they will be well taken care of in terms of tow money and other contingencies. There are nights when they may even be gifted a right-rear tire by track officials.
Racing families are easy to find at Knoxville, but mostly the weekly scene is about one big racing family. When one driver needs a hand, a part or some advice, there are plenty of places to turn. Sure, it’s competitive, but the racing family always has each other’s back.
When the Outlaws come to town, the regulars circle the wagons.
On this particular night, the program kicks off with practice at 6:45 p.m. and the checkered flag falls slightly past 10 p.m. Brown takes the checkered flag in the 410 class, while Carson McCarl earns his first 360 sprint car victory and Matthew Stelzer wins his fourth consecutive Pro Sprints presented by Pace Performance main event.
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