KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Sammy Swindell is aiming to race into his record-tying 35th-career Knoxville Nationals A-Main this weekend when Knoxville Raceway hosts the 57th edition of the marquee event.
Swindell will drive for A.G. Rains at the half-mile oval, which showcases the $150,000-to-win event Wednesday through Saturday.
“It’ll be tough because we’re running against a lot of good cars that run a lot of 410 races,” Swindell said. “We did a lot of work and got the car organized better. I think we’ve got a decent shot at it. Every time you go on the track you have to be right on.”
“If we can get a little advantage of going out at the right time for qualifying, that might give us a few spots. If we hit everything close, we have a shot to run good. You have to have the breaks go your way. If we can do that, I think we can have a good Nationals again.”
Swindell’s lone win in the event came in 1983. However, he has been a contender during dozens of races. Swindell has earned eight podiums, 14 top-fives and 20 top-10s since his first Knoxville Nationals A-Main in 1976.
Swindell and Rains used last weekend to tune up for the event by competing a trio of times at Knoxville Raceway, beginning last Thursday during preliminary action for the 27th annual 360 Knoxville Nationals presented by Great Southern Bank.
Swindell qualified 21st and placed third in his heat race to lock into 12th on the grid for the preliminary night main.
Unfortunately, a wild crash as the green flag was being waved to start the race resulted in Swindell flipping numerous times. He was unable to finish the race and the accident destroyed the race car.
“We got a really good start, but didn’t get to the flag stand,” he said. “I didn’t even see it coming. The next thing I knew the left rear was in the air and I’m bouncing off the fence and flipping. It was probably one of the worst ones I’ve ever had. This one tore up more stuff in any one crash than I’ve had in my career.”
The 22nd-place result relegated Swindell to the C-Main for Saturday’s finale. He placed second in the race to transfer into the back of the B-Main. Swindell then rallied from 19th to 11th in the consolation race.
“We got the other car together and went out,” he said. “It’s a little different. Unless we got a lot of breaks we weren’t going to make the transfer, so we were a bit cautious because that was the only car we had left.”
The team then tackled the Capitani Classic on Sunday for the final 410ci winged sprint car tune-up prior to the 410 Knoxville Nationals, with Swindell finishing 14th from a seventh-place starting spot.
“Al Parker got us a motor and it was really good,” he said. “We haven’t had a 410 in that car, so we were off a bit. We made a few changes and it felt pretty good on the warm-up lap before we lined up. Then we had a right front stop bolt break. It dropped the right front corner down. I was trying to run it, but still be careful so at least we had a car for this week. I figured out how to run it, but every time I was off the gas the right front dropped down so I had to be careful.”
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