KNOXVILLE, Iowa – David Gravel accomplished a feat that hadn’t been seen for 25 years during Toyota Qualifying Night at the Knoxville Raceway on Thursday, scoring a perfect 500 by sweeping time trials, his heat race and the 25-lap main event.
Gravel took the point from polesitter Mark Dobmeier with seven to go and stretched his legs in the No. 5 Go Muddy.com/CJB Motorsports sprinter, driving away down the stretch to both record the win and garner the pole for Saturday’s 5-hour Energy Knoxville Nationals championship A-Main.
After grabbing the point moments before a lap 10 caution and having to restart second after the field reverted to the last completed lap, Gravel made sure to seize the moment the second time around.
“The one time we got the lead, the yellow came out, and I was a little frustrated because I knew Mark was good in open track,” said Gravel in victory lane. “I was just going to run behind him till we got to lapped traffic (again), and then work the bottom (to pass him).”
“The top was the fastest way around. … Luckily I was able to be in control of the race, even running second, and got by Mark there later in the race. … Like Kyle Larson said (Wednesday night), I’ve never driven a sprint car as good as I am right now. I hope he gets to race Saturday and we can duke it out.”
Gravel’s perfect score is the 10th-such effort in the history of the Knoxville Nationals and first since Steve Kinser accomplished the feat in 1992.
Dobmeier and Wayne Johnson led the field to the green flag from the front row, with Dobmeier getting the advantage on the opening lap while Daryn Pittman dove from fifth on the grid to nab second before the end of the opening lap.
Moments later, the first caution of the night came out as defending Nationals champion Jason Johnson and Dominic Scelzi got together in Turn 4, with Jason Johnson sustaining heavy front end and front axle damage.
That incident both ended the Ragin’ Cajun’s night and set up a complete restart, allowing Dobmeier to dash away by more than a second by the time Brooke Tatnell worked his way to second on the second round.
The man on the move early was Gravel, who charged from eighth to third in four laps and quickly began posting fast lap after fast lap as he zeroed in on the front of the field.
Gravel finally blasted past Tatnell on the eighth revolution as the leaders got into heavy lapped traffic, and two laps later was on Dobmeier’s tail tank just before the second caution of the night came out for third-running Tatnell, who lost a right rear tire and made contact with the wall as a result.
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