DUQUOIN, Ill. – A unique format has been introduced for the fourth annual Junior Knepper 55 on Dec. 15 at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin.
Instead of the pill draw determining the starting lineups for the heat races, drivers will be allowed to choose where they will start, provided there is an open position when it is their turn to pick.
Drivers will first draw a pill for the order in which they will have the opportunity to choose which heat race and position they will start. This puts the decision into the drivers’ own hands, thus lessening the element of “luck of the draw.”
In prior years, if a driver draws a low number in the pill draw, the driver is automatically assigned to the front row of a heat race. This year, all competitors will draw as usual, with the resulting order leading to the Junior Knepper 55 Draft Lottery.
The picking process will be covered live on the Speed Shift TV pre-race show.
It will create a mental tug-of-war for drivers to figure out whether they want to take a more extreme approach to make a run to the front, or take a conservative approach in order to earn the most passing points, as well as having to guess the track conditions and setup correctly to advance through the night with the most points.
As the track changes over the course of eight heat races, track conditions may change, creating more passing opportunities which increases the probability of a driver being able to make a run from the tail of the field to earn more passing points.
However, drawing toward the front or the back may not always be the best-case scenario with the new format, as the sweet spot of where a driver wants to start the race from changes through the night.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said reigning Knepper 55 winner Christopher Bell. “This gives us a chance to put ourselves where we think we can get the most points. Speaking from my experience, getting stuck on the front of the heat is less fun and (gives a driver) less points. I want to help myself and put on a better show for the fans.”
“I like the idea that you kind of get to choose your own destiny,” added 2016 USAC National Midget champion Tanner Thorson. “Taking some of that luck out of it and putting it in our hands only makes me look forward to Saturday even more.”
It’s a unique format and idea that will add another intriguing aspect to the show to create the most entertainment for fans and remove fate out of the pill draw.
“This is an idea I was instantly excited about,” noted Knepper 55 promoter Nick Knepper. “Scorer Jake (Croxton) came up with something cool and new, and once they determined it was feasible, it was a no-brainer to try it in this special event setting.
“My family and I are excited to continue this event honoring my grandfather, and we hope everyone is as excited as we are to watch this play out.”
Most of the traditional aspects of the format will remain unaltered. There are two rounds of preliminary races – heats and qualifiers – in which competitors can earn passing points, which will determine the starting lineups of all the remaining events.
Passing points are earned based on advancement forward in relation to the assigned starting position at the one-to-go signal, meaning that scratches that alter the lineup are taken account of and the official lineup is set based on who shows up.
Following heat races, the four qualifying races will consist of the top 40 in points from the heats, who will be assigned starting positions in the qualifier based on the points earned in said heats. There will be a six-car invert in each qualifier, with the driver that earns the most points starting sixth in the first qualifying race.
Drivers ranking 41st on back in total passing points following the heat races will be placed into two C-Mains. The top-two from each C-Main will transfer to the back of the qualifying races, adding one driver to the tail of each of the four qualifying races.
After the qualifiers, the point totals from the heats and qualifiers are added together. The top 12 in total points will transfer directly to the feature. All other cars will start straight-up by total points earned, staggered between the two semi-feature events.
The top-four finishers from each semi-feature will transfer to the 55-lap main event.