KNOXVILLE, Iowa – official release — Danny Howk photo — Brian Birkhofer returned to victory lane at Knoxville Raceway during the Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals on Friday night.
Birkhofer took the lead from Rodney Sanders on lap 14 and held off a charging Billy Moyer for the win during two of the crown jewel event. Trailing Birkhofer and Moyer across the finish line in the 25-lap preliminary feature were Steve Francis, Brandon Sheppard and Sanders.
“Man what a race. To win here at Knoxville is always special,” said Birkhofer. “We just got this Vic Hill Racing Engine this week and this Rocket Chassis has just been spectacular so far. I have to thank all the fans for coming out, this race track never seems to disappoint. After the frustrating run we had here last year it’s great to get back to victory lane.
“When you have Mr. Smooth (Billy Moyer) coming up through there you had better look out. He had a real good car tonight as well. That Sanders boy is a pretty good wheelman. I know he has won a lot in the modifieds. He jumped the cushion a few times and that helped me out, then to battle through traffic like we did tonight, it was just a great night of racing,” Birkhofer said.
With his solid performance on Friday night, Birkhofer will start on the pole of Saturday night’s 100-lap, $40,000 to win finale.
Sanders, who entered the event with one career late model victory, sprinted out to a comfortable lead at the start of the caution-free event. Bouncing off the cushion in turn four a few times allowed Birkhofer to close rapidly on Sanders, with Birkhofer making the pass for the lead with 11 laps remaining.
Francis made his way into the battle, taking the second spot on lap 19 from Sanders. Moyer, who started 10th, made a run for the lead as he passed Francis and then set his sights on Birkhofer. Moyer pulled alongside of Birkhofer on a couple of occasions, but Birkhofer would hold on for the win.
“After last night we were buried in the points,” said Moyer. “We went out and got a couple of Pro Power Engines, and we kept tuning on them tonight, and they really performed well. The track was excellent tonight. You could run anywhere on it.”
Francis was pleased with his team’s effort in getting him a podium finish.
“Tommy (Grecco) and the whole Clint Bowyer Racing team did a fabulous job tonight on the car. In the heat race it was so good I really didn’t want to change much. They went out there and graded off the top, and I was hoping they would burn that off in the consy races. It worked out for us tonight,” Francis said.