KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Next year’s 50th annual Knoxville Nationals will pay a $1 million purse — $1,000,255 to be exact. The historic event at Knoxville Raceway on the grounds of the Marion County Fairgrounds will be Aug. 11-14.
“It will be 50 laps and if I don’t die, I would like to see it be 51 for the 51st and so on as the years go by,” said Knoxville Raceway Race Director Ralph Capitani.
Capitani said the winner’s take of $150,000 will not change, but all A-feature starters will be guaranteed $9,500 for making the race.
In addition to the race distance and purse, the track has many special plans in the works for the anniversary, including bringing back all of the former winners of the race and all of the past Knoxville Nationals Queens.
Concerts and other events are planned as well.
“The Nationals are not just about racing,” said Knoxville Raceway Vice President of Marketing Brian Stickel. “It’s a cultural festival.”
– Rain may have been the biggest story of the weekend. First rain delayed the Aug. 12 program three hours, hampering the chances of many of the qualifiers that ran in that program because of the lightening fast, but narrow track conditions that resulted.
Then, rain arrived about the time of hot laps Saturday night and the program was delayed twice before a major rain storm just after 10 p.m. delivered the knockout blow, postponing the B and A mains until Sunday night.
There was no question that Wednesday night qualifiers were hurt by the rain-delayed program and track conditions that resulted in little passing. Donny Schatz, the top point man Aug. 12, was seventh overall after Thursday’s qualifying night and only seven of the top 20 point earners ran on Wednesday.
– While everyone coming to the Knoxville Nationals this year knew Saturday night’s feature was being extended from 30 to 40 laps, there was a format change that surprised everyone. Traditionally 10 cars have been inverted in heat races during qualifying nights, but this year only eight were inverted in an effort to make it easier for the fastest qualifiers to transfer into the features through their heat races.
“The problem with the 10-car invert is that we had 50 cars on Wednesday night,” said Knoxville Raceway Race Director Ralph Capitani. “Some of those grassroots racers in the field were a second and a half slower than the fast qualifiers and they weren’t (driving) that straight. If you inverted 10, we would put several of those guys on the pole and then we would have problems in the first turn.”
Capitani sited several incidents in the past where slower cars starting on the front of heat races had triggered multi-car accidents at the start of the races.
“The decision was ‘do we take a chance on that, or do we invert eight?’ We inverted eight, and that’s the way it will remain.”
– Kraig Kinser, who won the Knoxville Nationals in 2005 but went off to race in NASCAR for a season and a half, admitted he’s had problems readjusting to sprint cars.
“I don’t feel like I have adjusted to the car as well as I had hoped to,” he said. “With all the rule changes in the two years I was gone, it was a big adjustment for me.”
Still, Kinser says he has nothing to prove.
“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove other than I want to win again,” said Kinser, who is the son of 12-time Knoxville Nationals winner Steve Kinser. “There isn’t a driver that doesn’t have a hunger to win this race.”
– After dropping off the World of Outlaws tour more than a month ago after some disappointing performances, Sam Hafertepe, Jr. has turned his season around. Hafertepe finished third on his qualifying night (Aug. 12) and qualified for Saturday night’s main event.
“I’m really comfortable in the car right now and I have a lot of confidence,” Hafertepe said.
– Knoxville regular Ricky Montgomery was transported to a local hospital for observation after a vicious crash during Saturday night’s D main.
– Australian driver Kerry Madsen injured his leg during a Friday morning charity softball game. He said doctors wanted to place it in a cast, but he refused and raced to a third-place finish in Friday night’s World Challenge. “It’ll be alright,” he said.
– USAC sprint-car champion Levi Jones climbed into Randy Nygaard’s No. 9 for Thursday’s program, but the car suffered mechanical problems during qualifying and did not return to the track. Jones drives for Tony Stewart in the USAC National Sprint Car Series
– Kasey Kahne entered a third car here, with Brad Sweet, who drives his USAC machines, wheeling the No. 91 as a teammate to Joey Saldana and Craig Dollansky.
– Brooke Tatnell was on hand helping his Pete Postupak-owned sprint-car team, but is still recovering from serious leg injuries suffered when a driveshaft broke in the No. 25 in July. Tatnell is expected to be out another six to eight weeks and veteran racer Kenny Jacobs, back from retirement again, was wheeling the Postupak entry here.