KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Brian Brown took down a special win on Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway, driving to victory on opening night at the black-dirt Marion County Fairgrounds half-mile in honor of his late grandmother, Barb Lasoski.
Brown dove to the inside of race-long leader Justin Henderson coming to halfway in the 20-lap 410 sprint car feature, completed the pass and drove off from there, dominating the remainder of the Pella Motors/Kraig Ford/Town Crier Season Opener.
The race ran from start to finish without a caution, completed in just six minutes and 36 seconds.
Saturday marked Brown’s 45th career win in 410 sprint car competition at Knoxville Raceway, as well as his third season-opening victory.
Though a smattering of boos rained down from the crowd as he celebrated in victory lane, Brown was focused on family.
“This is for my grandma, my grandpa, my mom, Danny (Lasoski, Brown’s uncle) … our whole family, really,” Brown said. “Ya’ll can boo all you want, but I lost my grandma a week and a half ago. I sat up in section G, around rows 19 and 20 for a lot of years with her, and she was a big part of my life and career.
“It wasn’t one of the prettiest wins we’ve ever had here, but this one was for her.”
Though Brown was up by as much as three seconds during the 410 feature, the half-mile track was host to some tremendous two- and three-wide racing throughout the night, including in the closing laps.
“I’ve won here 45 times, and (winning) never gets old,” Brown smiled. “This was a wail of a race track tonight. The Duncans did a phenomenal job. You could go in four or five different lanes. When I got to Justin (Henderson), I just couldn’t figure out how I was going to get by him. I was probably better than he was in (turns) three and four, but when I’d get in his dirty air down in (turns) one and two, I’d lose everything that I gained on the other end. I just knew that I had to attack.
“There at the end, I got pretty sloppy, but at the end of the day when you go to the bank on Monday with a winner’s check, that’s all that matters.”
After starting from the outside of row six, Aaron Reutzel charged through the field to finish second, coming home .885 of a second in arrears at the checkered flag.
Kerry Madsen completed the podium after a last-lap pass for third, followed by Terry McCarl and Henderson, who led the first nine laps but faded after washing over the turn four cushion.
In other main event action on Saturday night, Ryan Giles (360 Sprints) and Matthew Steltzer (Pro Sprints) put on clinics in their respective divisions en route to dominating victories.
While a hotly-contested battle for second broke out behind him, Giles took off from the drop of the green flag in the 18-lap 360 feature, easily cruising to his seventh Knoxville 360 win over Jon Agan.
Giles never trailed and defeated Agan by 2.931 seconds at the checkered flag, despite heavy traffic.
“This is great. I’m real fortunate to be here,” said Giles. “Last year was a rebuilding year for us, whether it seemed like it or not, so to come back this season and start off like this is big. Hopefully we’ve got all the bumps behind us and can take it easy and have fun. Traffic made it tough, but man, that was fun.”
The 360 feature was only slowed twice by yellow flags, once on the initial start after Ryan Bickett tagged the outside wall in turns one and two and again on lap two for a spin by Christian Bowman in turn four.
Lee Grosz moved onto the podium with eight laps left and stayed there to the finish, crossing the line third ahead of Cory Eliason and Jamie Ball.
Carson McCarl, who contended for a top-three spot early in the main, faded to eighth at the finish.
Making his winged sprint car debut, Indiana young gun Zeb Wise finished on the lead lap in 14th.
Meanwhile, Steltzer wired the 12-lap Pro Sprint main event in a runaway, beating runner-up Devin Wignall by 2.705 seconds at the checkered flag.
“After the heat race tonight, I was really down on myself, asking myself if I still had what it takes to do this on this type of track,” said Steltzer. “I went to some of my mentor’s advice through the years … and basically threw the kitchen sink at this thing to make sure the front end wasn’t too high, and it was good.
“I knew the 21 car, Devin … I’ve heard good things about him and know he’s a good driver, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up with me tonight in his first time here.”
The Pro Sprint race was slowed by caution only once, for a spin by Tyler Barrick with one lap scored.
Brandon Worthington, Mike Johnson and Mike Ayers completed the top five.
410 Sprints (20 laps): Brian Brown, Aaron Reutzel, Kerry Madsen, Terry McCarl, Justin Henderson, Austin McCarl, Ian Madsen, Parker Price-Miller, Gio Scelzi, Christopher Bell, Dale Blaney, Brooke Tatnell, Davey Heskin, Cory Eliason, Lynton Jeffrey, Matt Juhl, Mark Dobmeier, Mason Daniel, Tasker Phillips, Spencer Bayston, Trey Starks, Josh Schneiderman, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Craig Dollansky.
360 Sprints (18 laps): Ryan Giles, Jon Agan, Lee Grosz, Cory Eliason, Jamie Ball, Clint Garner, Matt Moro, Carson McCarl, Calvin Landis, Jack Dover, Joe Beaver, McKenna Haase, Ryan Leavitt, Zeb Wise, Josh Higday, Dusty Ballenger, Kelby Watt, Rob Kubli, Robbie Price, Brad Comegys, Christian Bowman, Tom Lenz, Cody Wehrle, Ryan Bickett.
Pro Sprints (12 laps): Matthew Steltzer, Devin Wignall, Brandon Worthington, Mike Johnson, Mike Ayers, Chase Young, Jeff Wilke, Chris Walraven, Mike Mayberry, Tyler Barrick.