KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Welcome to day three of the 52nd annual Knoxville Nationals. For the second day in a row, the weather is chamber of commerce perfect and what lies ahead is a night of racing that may be as intriguing as any in recent history of the Nationals.
This is our first update of the day and we will be posting sporadic additions until hot lapping begins at approximately 7:30 p.m. when we will live blog through the remainder of tonight’s racing program.
With the new format introduced this year, 72 of the 98 cars that signed in here this weekend are scheduled to race tonight. Twenty-six drivers are locked into Saturday night’s A main with 16 set for the A and the other 10 in the first five rows of the B main.
It is unlikely that all 72 cars will return tonight, but officials are planning for a field of more than 60. All competitors will get one lap of qualifying and there will be seven heat races with the top two finishers in each, advancing to the tonight’s feature. Three B mains are planned with the top two finishers in each of those making the final. Finally, the night’s top four qualifiers who do not transfer through the preliminaries will fill the 24-car field, starting straight-up from qualifying times.
The race will pay $4,000 to win with the top four earning positions 17-20 in Saturday’s grand finale. Fifth place tonight receives $5,000 and every competitor that starts the feature is guaranteed $1,300.
Among those in tonight’s field are 12-time Knoxville Nationals winner Steve Kinser and four-time Nationals champion Danny Lasoski.
Tonight’s program concludes with the SPEED SPORT Knoxville World Challenge pays $10,000 to win with drivers including Sammy Swindell, Donny Schatz, Jason Meyers and Kyle Larson scheduled to compete in the 24-car field.
• The 16 drivers locked into Saturday night’s race in order of starting position are: Stevie Smith, Craig Dollansky, Jonathan Allard, Brian Brown, Donny Schatz, Joey Saldana, Jason Meyers, Tim Kaeding, Kraig Kinser, Lucas Wolfe, Ian Madsen, Kyle Larson, Shane Stewart, Daryn Pittman, Lance Dewease and Paul McMahan.
• The 10 drivers opting to take positions in the top 10 of Saturday’s B main and not race tonight are: Davey Heskin, Mark Dobmeier, Greg Hodnett, Brian Paulus, Jason Johnson, Sammy Swindell, Tim Shaffer, Brooke Tatnell, Dustin Selvage and Jason Sides.
• It’s 7:20 local time and push trucks are still running in the race track. We are probably 20 minutes away from the start of hot laps.
• Steve Kinser, who hopes to keep his 35-year streak of qualifying for the Knoxville Nationals A main alive by securing one of tonight’s four qualifying positions, is off to a promising start. He drew the third qualifying spot for tonight’s 67-car field.
• At 7:43 local time the first hot-lap session has hit the track.
• 8:20 p.m., Tonight’s hot lap sessions are complete with Randy Hannagan and Danny Lasoski turning the two fastest laps.
• David Gravel was fast qualifier with a lap of 15.126 seconds of the half-mile oval. Cody Darrah, Dale Blaney, Joey Moughan and Jamie Veal filled the top five.
• Fast qualifier David Gravel moved from the second row to win the first heat of the night with Justin Henderson also transferring to the feature.
• Wayne Johnson won the second heat with Cody Darrah passing Josh Schneiderman on the white-flag lap for the final transfer spot.
• Dale Blaney won the third heat in dominant fashion, racing from the second row. Sam Hafertepe Jr. took the second transfer spot. Twelve-time Nationals champion Steve Kinser finished third and will have to run one of tonight’s three B mains. Kinser’s 35-year streak of qualifying for Knoxville Nationals A mains remains very much in doubt.
• Kinser rolled out the back gate after the third heat, heading to the team transporter for an apparent engine change.
• Blaney withdrew from Thursday’s qualifying night action after having to change an engine following hot laps. But his Fisher No. 2 has been fast tonight.
“The car is really fast. We just got dealt a bad hand last night and tonight every time we have been out tonight the car has been fast,” Blaney explained. “We start third in the feature and we can make up for last night.”
• Jac Haudenschild dominated the fourth heat race with Danny Holtgraver also transferring to tonight’s feature.
• Terry McCarl blasted to the front and won the fifth heat, beating Rager Phillips to the checkered flag.
• Jeff Swindell won the sixth heat with Knoxville Raceway regular Dusty Zomer nailing the second transfer spot. The last time Jeff Swindell raced in the feature at the Nationals was in 1999.
• Four-time Knoxville Nationals champion Danny Lasoski drove the John Zemaitis No. 1 to a dominant victory in the seventh and final heat of the night with Kerry Madsen finishing second.
• Austin Johnson, Lee Sowell and Mike Reinke flipped in a wild turn-three incident on the opening lap of the first C main.
• Steve Kinser made a daring three-wide pass, utilizing the middle groove to pass Greg Wilson and Joey Moughan to take the lead en route to winning the first B main and transferring into tonight’s feature. Kevin Swindell, who started seventh, passed Wilson on the final lap for the final transfer spot.
• Chad Kemenah won the second B main with Cap Henry finishing second.
• Bronson Maeschen won the third B main and Australian James McFadden claimed the second transfer spot.
• 11:44 local time, track maintenance continues
• Feature cars are pushing off.
• Yellow flag after four laps of the 25-lap feature. Cody Darrah leads David Gravel and Dale Blaney.
• Lasoski suffers a flat right-rear tire for a yellow flag on lap nine. David Gravel leads Darrah and Blaney.
• Jeff Swindell spins on lap 11. Gravel leads Darrah, Justin Henderson and Blaney.
• What a race! Justin Henderson won the 25-lap feature which saw him trade the lead with David Gravel multiple times. Gravel finished second with Dale Blaney third. The race for the final transfer spot was also wild with Cody Darrah passing Kerry Madsen for fourth on the final lap.
“It has been a roller-coaster all week,” said Henderson. “I am so excited I can’t even talk right now. This new format threw us for a loop tonight. We didn’t know what to think about it. It’s not all bad I guess. We would have been starting 11th in the B main under normal circumstances, so to come out here and win this race is kind of a historic night.”
• With a yellow flag after five laps, polesitter Sammy Swindell leads the SPEED SPORT World Challenge with Jason Johnson second. Donny Schatz, who started ninth, is the fastest car on the track in third place.
• Donny Schatz ripped from ninth starting spot to dominate the SPEED SPORT World Challenge 20-lap race, earning $10,000 for the victory. Sammy Swindell finished second.