What We Learned At The Knoxville Nationals

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PHOTOS: 59th Annual Knoxville
The four-wide parade lap prior to Saturday's 59th annual NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals finale. (Mark Funderburk photo)

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – The Jason Johnson Racing team has something figured out at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.

The No. 41 was fast all week, with David Gravel winning all three features he was in and giving the team its second NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals triumph in the past four years.

• Logan Schuchart and Shark Racing are going to win one of the sport’s crown jewels. It’s only a matter of time.

Schuchart, who finished second in last month’s Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway, fought his way through Friday night’s Hard Knox program to make the main event for the third straight year.

His Drydene No. 1s was the fastest car on the track during the second half of Saturday night’s feature, as Schuchart blasted from 22nd on the grid to finish second.

• Saturday night at the Knoxville Nationals is one hot ticket. The event sold out for the second consecutive season — with all 20,322 seats sold.

• The Hard Knox qualifying on Friday night has added a lot of intrigue to the Knoxville Nationals.

Weekly Racing At Knoxville
Brian Brown had a frustrating run in this year’s NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals. (Ken Berry photo)

• The margin between making the A-main and having a frustrating week can be razor thin. For example, Brian Brown made a dazzling move on the first lap of his Thursday night heat race to get into a transfer position. However, an accident before the end of the lap required a complete restart, and Brown didn’t make it back into the top four.

As a result, he ended up in the night’s B main and back far enough in points that he had to run the Hard Knox program on Friday. More bad luck there put him in Saturday’s C main.

Had he simply transferred through the heat race, he’d have had a very different Knoxville Nationals experience. Other drivers could tell similar stories.

• Race fans still love Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell. A huge crowd showed up to watch the Ralph Sheheen Show Saturday afternoon at Knoxville Raceway with the two appearing together for the first two segments of the show.

Everyone was surprised when the two played to the crowd hand in hand at the end of their time on stage. Kudos to both for embracing what they mean to the fans of the sport.

• USAC midget champions Tanner Thorson and Spencer Bayston should each have quality winged sprint car rides. Both showed great speed in one-off Knoxville Nationals rides with CJB Motorsports and VanDyke Motorsports, respectively.

• Jason Sides has quality equipment. Tim Kaeding, who is racing a limited schedule in a second Jason Sides machine, again showed the speed that the Sides machines have. If he became a full-time owner, the popular free spirit could be one of the most successful owners in the sport.

• Aaron Reutzel and the Baughman Reutzel Motorsports team are factors anywhere they unload. The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions point leader and reigning champion has seven victories this season and finished in the top five during the Knoxville Nationals A-main for the second consecutive year.

• There are a lot of competitive sprint car teams and drivers that do not run full time with a traveling series. Wednesday night winner Trey Starks, Parker Price-Miller, Cory Eliason, Tanner Thorson, Gio Scelzi and 52-year-old Tim Shaffer are among those who turned in stellar performances during the Knoxville Nationals.

• Shane Stewart is one gritty dude. After a somewhat embarrassing crash during his qualifying night, Stewart fought back and put the CJB Motorsports No. 5 in the feature. It was his 19th consecutive A-main start. He moved from 23rd to finish 12th.

• The late nights of the Knoxville Nationals aren’t as easy to navigate as they once were.

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