PENN YAN, NY — Blog by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Mark Funderburk Photo — Tonight at the 54th Annual FVP Knoxville Nationals is going to be a night of epic proportions race fans. One complete show at 7:00pm, clear the stands, followed by another full show going off at 11:00pm.
If you’re keeping score at home or in the Knoxville Turn 3 camping area, I do believe that is well-past ‘Beer Thirty’. It’s pretty incredible that they’re going to try and pull this off at Knoxville and on their biggest stage of the year. The weather is really forcing their hand on this 2-for-1 qualifying night spectacular as there was rain forecasted for the late morning and early afternoon hours. If you are so inclined, Dirtvision.com is going to be the place to catch up on all the action. I’ll also throw in how neat this new (well, new to me) Race Monitor App is for the computer or smart phone like I have it set up. $4.99 a year and you’re watching Live timing and scoring- not bad!
Ok back to the Nationals! If you’ve kept up at all with MAVTV’s ‘Knoxville Dirt Dreams’ you may not find anything here that you don’t already know. But for those who haven’t been following along, I’m going to give you a few names that have had great runs in Iowa on a weekly basis that shouldn’t surprise you to see do well as this week unfolds.
One of the first names that might get overlooked and not considered a ‘sexy pick’ is that of Justin Henderson. That is a team that had some struggles early on in the race season in weekly competition, but came on strong both is his 360 and 410 as the season came closer and closer to the Nationals. Justin and his 1D team will be participating in the 7:00 qualifying show and I believe that will benefit them based on having run the full season this year.
Another guy who is a fairly polarizing figure at Knoxville every week is that of Terry McCarl. He is a guy who had a good deal of mud slung his way during 2014 for his aggressive driving habits on the track. Some of that criticism was fair, some was not, but when I look for a guy that has that true grit and can grind it out to get me a good finish at Knoxville- Terry could absolutely be that guy. He also doesn’t have any other cars to really worry about as his son that has competed in the Nationals several times is not on the 2014 entry list. This should keep the driver from Altoona, IA focused on the goal of bringing home a Nationals win.
One last driver that I feel has benefited greatly from running Knoxville weekly is the driver of the Big Game Tree Stands #7 of ‘The Crowd Pleaser” Craig Dollansky. Craig picked up several regular season wins at Knoxville in 2014, and in my humble opinion, is an example of someone who will benefit this week in having made the choice to come off the road with the Outlaws Full-Time and focus on racing at Knoxville Raceway. He also will take part in the 7:00 show and with the rain that has already fallen- expect the track and the #7 to be lightning fast.
Now let’s take a look at some World of Outlaws drivers who will make some noise this week. I’ll start with the big purple elephant in the room. The one that nobody wants to talk about but knows that come Saturday night will be a factor in the win- Donny Schatz. Schatz has won 7 out of the last 8 Knoxville Nationals Main Events and looks to complete 4-in-a-row if he can take the STP #15 to victory lane Saturday night. Last year proved that even when he has a bad qualifying run and has to come through the B-Main, he can still win. The 2013 Nationals set the record for deepest starting spot in the field before going on to the win. Don’t let yourself not think about the Tony Stewart Racing #15 as this week carries on or you will likely get caught in the Donny Schatz-Knoxville quicksand.
A young star who really showed us something the last time the WoO were at Knoxville was Brad Sweet when he took the victory. Brad is becoming a guy who can really turn it on in the big money races and races that carry a great deal of prestige. I look at how well they have run at times this season, look at his performance the last time the Outlaws were in town and say it would be no surprise to see the 49 car for KKR in victory lane.
But that’s not who I’m going with this week. I’m going with a guy who has been on fire lately- ‘The Madman’ Kerry Madsen. His American Racing Custom Wheels #29 parked it last week in the Ironman 55 event in Pevely, MO and really showed me that even in a race that was 55 laps in length- Kerry can get it done. He won the King’s Royal at Eldora a few weeks back and proved that he can get it done on a big stage such as that at Eldora. Don’t forget who he had to hold off at both the King’s Royal and at Pevely- Donny Schatz. Go Kerry go, I have a lot of pride on both Turn 5 Live and Motorsports Madness riding on this one my friend!
WEEDSPORT SPEEDWAY HOSTS SUPER DIRTCAR SERIES TONIGHT:
What a spectacular night it was a few weeks back as we got the first glimpse of the new Weedsport Speedway in Weedsport, NY. The birthplace of DIRTcar and home of an incredible amount of racing and entertainment history. I am sure Tom Baker could help me fill a 2-hour special talking about his memories at ‘The Port’ and I know I could throw in a bunch as well. Weedsport is that place that mom and dad would love to go to in the middle of summer to see the best of the best Modified drivers. Unfortunately, DIRTcar moved to the Charlotte, NC area and Weedsport got left in the proverbial dust. I think a lot of dirt fans held a lot of resentment toward the sanctioning body for literally leaving Weedsport in the weeds.
A clean slate was given to our beloved track when Al Heinke took over ownership and tapped Modified standout Jimmy Phelps to be the Speedway’s General Manager. The two have brought the speedway back to life and tonight will host the first Big Block Super DIRTcar Series event in years. The crowd was superb for the Sportsman Classic held in July and I can tell you tonight will be standing room only for the ‘Hall of Fame 100’. My top 5 for tonight will be: Matt Sheppard, Justin Haers, Alan Johnson, Jimmy Phelps and Billy Dunn.
Until next time race fans…take a kid to the races and keep it on the cushion!