Since 1961 the Knoxville Nationals has been a crown jewel event in sprint car racing across the globe. Once a year, the small town in Iowa is invaded with the best sprint car drivers and teams as a motorsport festival takes place as fan events, a parade, heat races and qualifying races all lead up to the 50-lap, $150,000-to-win feature race.
Brad Sweet won the event in 2018, and the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 NAPA AUTO PARTS team unloaded on Thursday with the speed to contend for another one.
The first eight rows of the starting line-up for Saturday’s A-main feature event is set by qualifying, heat races and a feature event starting on Wednesday night. Each driver is scheduled to race one night, and by virtue of the amount of points they score on their preliminary night determines if the driver immediately qualifies for the A-main on Saturday, or if they need to transfer in through additional E, D, C, and B-mains.
Sweet and his Eric Prutzman-led team had an outstanding prelim night, by qualifying third, advancing four spots in his heat race to finish fourth, and moving up from his seventh starting spot to finish fourth in his prelim feature; ultimately earning the team the second-most amount of points during the prelim nights and earning a front-row starting spot of the 60th annual Knoxville Nationals.
After a public autograph session, parade, 100-person NAPA hospitality Q&A, Sweet rolled off for the feature starting in the second position.
As the green flag flew, Sweet slipped back to sixth in the running order. The Grass Valley, Calif. native quickly battled back to the fifth then fourth position by lap 10. The top five cars battle wheel to wheel, searching for speed from the bottom of the half-mile track to the top lane.
On the 25th lap of the race, Sweet found himself running sixth in the order as the caution flew for the halfway break. The NAPA team went to work on the No. 49 adding fuel, adjustments and tires for the final 25-lap stint of the event.
On the ensuing green flag, Sweet battled with pole sitter Gio Scelzi and David Gravel for the fifth position. As the laps wound down, Sweet methodically worked his way into the top-three chasing leader and brother-in-law Kyle Larson and 10-time Knoxville Nationals champion Donnie Schatz.
Sweet would cross the start finish line in third, earning a $37,500 payday for his podium run.
Not a World of Outlaws points-paying event, the Knoxville Nationals has no point bearing effects on driver finishes so Sweet and company will enter Friday’s “Second Leg of the Northern Tour” event at River Cities Raceway in Grand Forks, North Dakota retaining their 140-point lead over David Gravel.
Thursday – Knoxville Nationals Preliminary Night
Qualifying – 3rd
Heat race – 8th/5th
Feature – 7th/4th
Saturday – Knoxville Nationals
Feature – 2nd/3rd
Points Standing - 1st - 7,360 points (+140)
Next Race -
River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND), August 20th
River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND), August 21st
Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD), August 22nd
Team Website - www.kaseykahneracing.com
Watch live - www.dirtvision.com