BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Leading from start-to-finish, Austin Brown of nearby Millstadt, Ill., was the hometown hero on Friday night, dominating Belle-Clair Speedway to win the 28th annual Knepper Memorial.
The wire-to-wire score aboard the BOSS Chassis/Toyota Racing No. 17 marked the fifth-career POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League victory for Brown.
Earning the pole position via a strong sixth-to-first heat race win, Brown took the green flag for the 30-lapper with 16-year old Cannon McIntosh of Bixby, Okla., to his outside in the Dave Mac Motorsports/Spike-Toyota No. 08.
Brown immediately shot to the lead as McIntosh fell back and three-time POWRi champion Zach Daum moved into second aboard his Daum Motorsports/Eagle-Toyota No. 5d.
With lap traffic looming, Daum and defending Knepper Memorial winner Tucker Klaasmeyer were hot on Brown’s heels and ready to challenge. However, a lap 11 caution bunched the field back up and allowed Brown to sneak away, while a frenzy ensued behind him.
That frenzy saw Daum, Klaasmeyer, McIntosh and Tanner Carrick all squaring off, while Brown continued to pace the field.
The battle raged for second, with multiple position swaps between Daum and McIntosh. A red flag for top-10 running Tyler Thomas on lap 24, followed by a three-car tangle on the final lap between Klaasmeyer, Logan Seavey and Carrick shuffled the lineup late.
On the final green-white-checkered restart, Brown quickly pulled away, while Daum and McIntosh’s battle reached the boiling point.
As Brown came out of turn four to take the double checkered flags, Daum and McIntosh collided and tangled at the apex, both coming to a stop and ending a chaotic feature event.
Nonetheless, it was Brown’s night, as he climbed atop the BOSS/Toyota No. 17 following his wire-to-wire run and received both a standing ovation and roaring applause.
Escaping the wreckage of the final corner and leaving with a career-best second-place finish was California’s Jesse Colwell, while rounding out the podium with another career-best finish was Oklahoma’s Ace McCarthy, who hauled from 17th-to-third.
Finishing fourth was Oklahoma’s Kaylee Bryson and taking fifth was Jake Neuman.
Dirt modified ace Nick Hoffman crossed sixth in his POWRi debut, with rookie Daison Pursley, Nick Knepper, Presley Truedson and Chance Morton completing the top 10.
1. 17-Austin Brown (1); 2. 71-Jesse Colwell (6); 3. 28-Ace McCarthy (17); 4. 11B-Kaylee Bryson (16); 5. 3N-Jake Neuman (21); 6. 21KS-Nick Hoffman (7); 7. 9-Daison Pursley (8); 8. 55-Nick Knepper (15); 9. 5T-Presley Truedson (19); 10. 7M-Chance Morton (23); 11. 67K-Holley Hollan (18); 12. 27-Tucker Klaasmeyer (4); 13. 71K-Tanner Carrick (5); 14. 67-Logan Seavey (9); 15. 5D-Zach Daum (3); 16. 08-Cannon McIntosh (2); 17. 91T-Tyler Thomas (10); 18. 3B-Shelby Bosie (14); 19. 97K-Jesse Love (11); 20. 11-Daniel Robinson (13); 21. 22-Andy Malpocker (12); 22. 30T-Tyler Vantoll (20); 23. 20G-Noah Gass (22).
Lap Leader(s): Brown 1-30.
Hard Charger(s): Neuman (+16)