KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Brian Brown picked up where he left off at last year’s Knoxville Nationals by winning the preliminary feature for the 53rd annual FVP Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway Thursday night.
Brown, who finished second to Donny Schatz by mere feet in last year’s finale, stormed from seventh to second on the first lap and took the lead from Roger Crockett on a lap-two restart.
From there, he held off Kerry Madsen on a series of restarts and sailed to what the Missouri native and two-time Knoxville Raceway track champion called “the biggest victory of my career.”
It was his 24th career triumph at the half-mile oval and his first during the Knoxville Nationals. Brown also earned the second most points on the night and will start outside the front row for Saturday’s $150,000-to-win event, sharing the row with Joey Saldana, who earned the most points after setting fast time and finishing fifth in the feature.
“Man, I am so happy,” Brown said. “I was so nervous going in to tonight. I didn’t let all the people who thought we were supposed to be up here down. We got a hell of a start and we go by him and held on from there.
“It is by far the biggest win of my career to this point. It seems like we always qualify good, run well in the heat and struggle in the A main, but we carried it through all the way tonight.”
Madsen had several shots at Brown on restarts, but Brown kept the lead, running the Australian out of room at least once.
“I did put him in the infield a little bit, but I gave him enough room there where I gave him a choice to lift,” Brown said.
“I guess I played it too patient, but I’m really glad with where we are,” said Madsen after locking himself into Saturday’s feature.
Kevin Swindell finished third after starting eighth. After having not run a sprint car all season, Swindell has finished on the podium in all five of his starts during Southern Iowa Speedweek beginning during the 360 Nationals.
“I knew I would be OK in the 360s because the speed is down,” the third-generation driver said. “I was worried because the 360 still felt fast to me and I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to handle it. It wore me out tonight and that was the hardest I have worked in a long time. With six or seven laps to go my head was up against the head rest. To have thought I would come in here and finish on the podium in all five races that I have run, I would have never thought of that.”
Roger Crockett finished fourth and Saldana came home fifth.