KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Spencer Bayston’s drive from 17th to sixth, which nearly put him into the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals championship feature, was a performance that surprised even Bayston himself.

“I thought it was done before it ever got started,” admitted Bayston, who was involved in an opening-lap melee that sent him to the work area and relegated him to the back of the field.

However, Bayston methodically worked his way back up through the field, cracking the top 10 from last by the eighth round and getting up as high as fifth prior to the final restart with four to go Friday night.

But one wrong move following the final restart shuffled Bayston out of the mix and left him to settle for a sixth-place finish during the Hard Knox feature, two spots short of locking into the grand finale.

Even having a chance left Bayston in shock, after he moved up 11 spots from where he started the race.

“The last restart, when I was riding around behind Dominic, it set in that I was actually right there and that was probably my one shot to try and get by him,” said Bayston. “I wanted to make the move, obviously, because the Saturday B-main is so tough to get through and filled with heavy-hitters.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have enough to pull it off, but our week isn’t over and now we’ll see what we can do tonight to try and qualify into the big show.”

Bayston’s lone mistake came when he chose the wrong lane at the end of the backstretch, allowing Austin McCarl to get by him and knocking him out of contention to challenge Dominic Scelzi for the final guaranteed spot in the Knoxville Nationals A-main. The top four feature finishers moved on Friday night.

“The biggest thing that doomed us was getting into turn three the first lap after the restart,” recalled Bayston. “I was following right behind the No. 41 going down the back straightaway, and I was waiting for him to either break to the bottom or sail it in on the top … and he didn’t really do either one. He didn’t react either way and just drove in a lane off the outside in the middle of the race track.

“By the time that I realized I needed to nail the bottom, it was already too late and I got hung,” he added. “That killed me. That was everything.”

In fairness, Bayston didn’t know what he had left to fight with Scelzi for fourth, as he had to “race the wheels off” his Van Dyke Motorsports No. 5h just to get in position to pounce in the final laps.

“I felt like I used everything up getting to that point, honestly, and when I got there we were probably the worst we’d been all race long,” Bayston explained. “My team put forth such a great effort, though. My car owner for the week, Harley Van Dyke, was so pumped and so excited to come as close as we did.

“At the same time, it’s kind of sour, because when you get that close you want to get that last little bit and lock in … but we can’t be unhappy with how we raced. We definitely performed at a high level.”

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