KNOXVILLE, Iowa — One night can change a lot.
And it did for three drivers on Friday night at Knoxville Raceway.
Brooke Tatnell, Chad Kemenah and Cap Henry all earned spots in the feature lineup for tonight’s FVP Knoxville Nationals, shedding some light on what had been forgettable seasons for all three.
Tatnell has trudged through what he called “the worst season of my career,” and it looked worse on Friday when he ran out of gas while in a qualified position in the feature. But he fought back and became the first driver to take advantage of a new rule that makes the winner of the SPEED SPORT World Challenge eligible for the 25th starting spot in the A main.
He banked $10,000 for winning the World Challenge and earned his fifth start in the feature that pays $150,000 to win and $9,500 to start.
“This completely changed our Nationals,” Tatnell said. “We came here tonight with a shot at qualifying well and that didn’t pan out the way we needed it to. And then we were in position to make it through the feature tonight and we ran out of fuel. I was pretty upset, but I walked away and I calmed down and I told the boys, ‘let’s get ready for the World Challenge.’
“We got our confidence back tonight and we have a fast race car. Fifty laps around here is a long way around here. You have to be very careful and take care of your equipment.”
Kemenah, who along with Henry and Jac Haudenschild, was among three Ohioans to make their way into the feature Friday night, has struggled with consistency this season while racing full time with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series.
After qualifying 19th, winning the C main and finishing last in the B main on Wednesday night, Kemenah’s season appeared to have hit a new low.
“Tonight was huge,” said the former Nationals runner-up. “We have had so many ups and downs this season.
“It’s the biggest roller-coaster ride you could take. Yesterday we were down and out and 24 hours later we are standing here with the biggest smile on our faces. There is no place like Knoxville. It will make you love it, or make you hate it in the blink of an eye. We’re excited. We are in the main and we’re going to try to go forward.”
Finally, All Star regular Cap Henry had parked his ride only a few weeks ago and it looked like his season was finished, but some friends intervened with some financial help and he worked his way to a second-place finish behind winner Kyle Larson on Friday and earned his first Knoxville Nationals start.
“It is definitely the biggest race of my career,” said Henry. “I was joking with my guys before, we only ever won three 410 shows before and I never won an All Star race to date. I never thought I’d make a Knoxville Nationals A main before I won my first All Star race.
“A month ago I was pretty down on my luck and I didn’t really know if I was going to get to race much this season,” Henry continued. “Luckily, I had some friends come through and help get me out here and I got back to racing and got into the groove of things and to run second tonight is a really big deal for us. It helps us get our confidence up and it definitely helps with the money situation.”
One day, 24 hours, so much can change.