KNOXVILLE, Iowa – official release — In an incredible finish Brian Birkhofer passed Scott Bloomquist coming off of turn four on the final lap to win the 11th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals Presented by Casey’s General Stores Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway.
Birkhofer, in possibly the last race of his career, earned $40,000 for the win.
Mike Marlar made a late-race charge to finish third, followed by Jimmy Mars and 31st starting Don O’Neal, who finished fifth to maintain his Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points lead.
“What a way to go out if this is my last race,” Birkhofer said. “Who knows I may be back, but this one here will be hard to top. I got a run out of two on that last lap and I might have lifted for a split second I don’t remember. The car stuck on the cushion and I was fortunate enough to get by him. I don’t know what happened to him [Bloomquist]. Something might have gone wrong or broke, I’m not sure. In any case, we put our car in victory lane and I couldn’t be happier.
“I want to Mark Richards at Rocket Chassis and Vic Hill for the help on the engine this weekend. I am sure the crowd really loved that finish. That might be the race of the year, I don’t know. The track was so good all night long. We could run anywhere on the track tonight. I hit that berm a few times in turn four and it upset the car a little bit. We had a terrific race there early on with (Darrell) Lanigan. He and I went back-and-forth a few times for the lead there.”
Birkhofer led the first 30 laps of the 100-lapper until Lanigan forged ahead. Birkhofer then regained the top spot 10 circuits later. Birkhofer stayed in front until Bloomquist took over the point on lap 62. Bloomquist then held a solid lead until Birkhofer and Marlar started to reel him in. Just as Birkhofer and Marlar closed to within a few car lengths of Bloomquist, a caution came out with 14 laps to go.
On the restart Bloomquist fired off extremely well as Birkhofer and Marlar lost touch with him. As the laps wound down, Birkhofer started to close the gap. As the two drivers took the white flag, Birkhofer was about three to four car lengths behind Bloomquist. As the duo headed down the backstretch, Bloomquist took the low route into turns three and four as Birkhofer stormed to the outside of the track. As the pair came off of turn number four, Birkhofer had the momentum to get by Bloomquist to score the coveted win.
Bloomquist was disappointed at being denied a third victory in the crown jewel event.
“Something broke about two laps from the end. I’m not sure if it was a yoke or something. We could hardly get off the scales because something was dragging underneath the car,” Bloomquist said. “We had a great car tonight. It’s just disappointing to come up that short of winning.”
Marlar was happy with his third place run.
“We were flying out there, and I was catching the leaders there at the end. The cushion kind of threw me a few times. Our car was free and easy to drive, man I wish that caution hadn’t come out. Congratulations to Brian, it’s a great win for him. We can’t wait to get back here next year,” said Marlar.