KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Thomas Kennedy held off a late and furious charge from veteran Sammy Swindell to become the first Canadian 360 feature winner at Knoxville Raceway Thursday night.
The win came on night one of the 28th annual Knoxville 360 Nationals presented by Great Southern Bank. Thursday’s top five point earners for Saturday’s finale include Brian Brown (484), Greg Hodnett (482), Kennedy (473), Jamie Ball (467) and Mason Daniel (464).
Kennedy shot out from his outside row one starting position to lead early in the 20-lap main event. Daniel settled into second, ahead of Ball, Scott Bogucki and Joe Beaver. Brown moved into the top five on lap two before sixth-running Tasker Phillips smacked the turn two wall. He was uninjured but done.
Kennedy led the field back to green after the only caution of the race. A furious battle for fifth ensued as Hodnett began pressuring Brown and taking the spot on lap eight. Both were pressuring Bogucki for the fourth spot. Eleventh-starting Swindell was waiting patiently behind the melee in front of him. He passed Brown, Hodnett and Bogucki for fourth in one fell swoop in turns three and four on lap 11. He then put Ball behind him for third.
The lead pair had gotten away, but they were slowed by traffic. Daniel closed on the leader, but Swindell was coming faster. He reeled them in, and after taking the white flag, shot by Daniel for second. His run low through three and four looked fast enough to make a dramatic pass for the lead, but Kennedy came down the track to block and secured his $3,000 win.
“I was having a tough time in lapped traffic,” said Kennedy in victory lane. “Sam (Hafertepe Jr.) and everyone else seemed to be the same pace I was. I knew I was losing a lot of momentum. I looked at the board and saw the No. 3 car was there. That’s the veteran of the veterans on this track. When I saw him underneath coming for the checkered, I thought, ‘There’s no way your passing me!’ We’ve been the best here this year, then we’ve ever been in the past. To be up here means a lot.”
Following Kennedy across the line were Swindell, Daniel, Brown and Ryan Giles. Hodnett, Dominic Scelzi, Ball, Shane Golobic and Cory Eliason rounded out the top-10.
“I was right there,” said Swindell. “If he hadn’t of come down and I got off the gas, we had him off the corner. The guys were racing hard back there. They were sliding all over, and I kept getting frustrated. (Bogucki) kind of slid in there and locked everyone up. I was the only one on the bottom and that thing opened up. We passed three cars there on the bottom. That’s all we needed. I knew when we got by the #33, that we were making good time heading into three. This car has been good. The last couple of months, we’ve been first or second, but we’ve had too many seconds.”
“We were catching (Kennedy) in lapped traffic,” said third-place Daniel. “I was able to close in and I tried to cut down in two. I was spinning my tires, and Sammy was able to catch us and the last lap got by us. It’s a really big show with the best drivers around the country. It’s really good to finish third.”
Tony Stewart set quick time over the 43-car field, while McKenna Haase, Giles, Seth Brahmer, Jonathan Cornell and Hafertepe won heat races. Stewart claimed the B main.
For complete results, advance to the next page.