Season Opener Notes

View from the Stands (4/30/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Social Media Commentator

Champion Cup Series 2013The 60th Knoxville Raceway season opener saw 33-410’s, 28-360’s, and 21-305’s for a total of 82 cars drive through the pit gate, a healthy car count to start the season.

410 Class:
Brian Brown went out thirteenth in the qualifying order and established quick time with a lap of 15.039.  Ian Madsen was second quick despite going out thirtieth in the order.  Dustin Selvage won the first heat with Mark Dobmeier on his tail.  Brian Brown had moved from sixth to second when his car seemed to have come out of gear and he stopped in turn two. Brown was towed to the pit and would start the B main.  Heat two saw the start get called back with Garrett Dollanksy not in line on the front row.  He moved to the third row which moved up Terry McCarl and Ian Madsen.  Madsen had a great start and was around McCarl on the first corner.  Madsen looked impressive and pulled away to an easy win.  Heat three was all Shane Stewart coming from the third row.  Stewart picked off cars easily after the field sorted itself out.  Davey Heskin took a little longer to get by some cars but looked impressive the last few laps and finished third.  In the B main Brian Brown pulled away to win easily.  I had clocked him at 15.9, 15.4, 15.8 most laps he was in clean air so the track was still fast around the cushion.  The Dunkin track preparation was spot on with a low groove, a high groove, and the middle came in as the moisture in the low groove was kicked up the track.

With Droud and McCarl starting on the front row of the feature it looked like they would duel it out for the win, but Shane Stewart drove his #71 around both of them on lap two and threaded his way through lapped traffic with no problems making it look easy on his way to victory.  2013-04-27_410 Shane StewartThe race behind Stewart for second was heated with Droud, McCarl, and Zomer for several laps until a lap nine caution for Austin McCarl who had a fire under his car.  The safety workers were there right away to extinguish it, but it wasn’t the night A-Mac had hoped for.  Stewart again pulled away on the restart and was never challenged.  McCarl would take runner-up honors with Ian Madsen getting by Droud and Zomer late for third place.  Brian Brown came from nineteenth to fifth.

410 Thoughts:
Shane Stewart is fast in any car he drives.  How this guy hasn’t landed a full-time WoO ride is mind boggling to me.  But it was great to see him come join us for a weekly show in the Indy Race Parts 71.

Terry McCarl is the man to beat for the championship.  No one is better at “racing” in the features than he is.  His experience makes up for whatever his car might be lacking.

I’m impressed with Ian Madsen and his new Nehring 18 team.  They were very fast off the trailer and I think he will be McCarl’s toughest competition.

I was glad to see Dusty Zomer qualify well (fourth) which is what he was lacking last season.  If he continues to qualify well and start up front in the features, he will win some races.

Davey Heskin qualified third, looked good in his heat race, but he didn’t go forward in the feature starting seventh and finishing eighth.  I will be watching him closely next week to see if this was a one night deal where they struggled with the set-up, or maybe the competition has got better around him.

I was disappointed with the 55 of Brooke Tatnell.  Tatnell qualified fifth, went from fifth to fourth in his heat race, and fifth to eleventh in the feature.  I was expecting more but I think they will improve as the season goes.

Bronson Maeschen started ninth and finished ninth in the feature.  Like Heskin I will keep an eye on Bronson to see if he improves next week.

Mark Dobmeier qualified thirteenth and drove from twelfth to seventh.  Qualifying has hurt them in years past, and that is something they need to improve upon to win a track championship and win races.

Good to have Brian Brown in attendance. What a tough break for him, losing the rear end in his heat race.  It would have been interesting to see him and Stewart battle for the win.  But he looked faster than anyone else all night.

The return of David Hesmer will have to wait one more week as his team burnt a piston in their engine on practice night.

360 Class:  Jamie Ball was fastest in group qualifying with a 16.305.  Randy Martin, Thomas Kennedy, and Tony Schilling were the heat race winners.  Tyler Groenendyk appeared to have the feature in hand, leading by half a straightaway at one point.  As Groenendyk entered lapped traffic he switched his line from the cushion to the middle and lower grooves and lost his momentum.  This allowed veteran Clint Garner to pounce on the opportunity and get by for the win.  Groenendyk still had an impressive run in second as he held off a charging Nate Van Haaften the last few laps for the position.

360 Thoughts:
Clint Garner is still the driver to beat in this class.  It was good to see Groenendyk have a good showing after struggling last season.  I hope that Tyler keeps progressing throughout the season. Although the track was perfect for passing and slide jobs, I didn’t see much of that with most of field finishing close to where they started, which left me scratching my head.  Was it just the first night and teams adjusting to new rules and tires?  Are the cars are more equal this year?

305 Class:
Matt Stephenson set a new 305 track record in qualifying with a lap of 16.846.  Matthew Stelzer won the first heat race on the last corner by passing Mike Mayberry on the outside.  Larry Ball Jr. destroyed the field in heat two.  In the feature J Kinder had the early lead with rookie Jake Strayer keeping pace, but Larry Ball Jr. worked his way from eighth to the front as they raced through lapped traffic and picked up the win.  Kinder and Strayer would finish second and third respectively.  Last year’s 305 track champion Stelzer finished fourth while Matt Stephenson rounded out the top five.

Wrap-up:  2013_chicken_bites_04 - CopyI’m looking forward to next Saturday night already.  Had the chicken bites this week, now I have to decide on tenderloin or nachos for next week… decisions.

2013-04-27 015The #4 of Dakota Hendrickson is my early season vote for best appearing car, although Ian Madsen’s #18 is a close second.

It was nice to see the return of a weekly program of sorts with the Full Throttle program being sold for $1 under the stands.  It has a scorecard inside, and people keeping score in the stands is a lost art.  When I was a kid, half the people in the stands would write down lineups and finishes.  I guess we are spoiled today with lineups on our smart phones with Twitter and the Mobile App.  I’m pleased to see the return of my friend Rustin Nelson writing a column in that program as well, he is always colorful.  And what a great crowd on opening night!!!  I hope that continues.  See you in the stands.

*Eric can be contacted at arniebhg@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @_EricArnold.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Knoxville Raceway.

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