View from the Stands (5/21/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
This past week at Knoxville Raceway I saw some of the best racing I’ve seen in quite a while in the 360 and 410 features. The 360 field welcomed ASCS invaders Jason Johnson, Jeff Swindell, Tony Bruce Jr., and Logan Forler, who all had an open night in their schedules. Jason Johnson and Brian Brown raced both 410 and 360 classes, so it was a stacked field and a nice 360 Nationals preview.
In the 360 feature the top five positions changed several times in the closing laps. Jason Johnson grabbed the early lead but on lap three was passed by Nate VanHaaften and the #3 started pulling away. Meanwhile Brown, Swindell, and Garner were working their way to the front. As the leaders entered some heavy lapped traffic with five laps to go, Johnson made his way back around VanHaaften but then Brown made his move low in turns one and two and went by everyone with three laps remaining. Garner then made his way to second while Johnson finished third, Swindell fourth, Van Haaften fifth, and Jon Agan came from fourteenth to sixth.
360 stats thru three weeks of racing….
Clint Garner: average feature finish 1.7, qualifying average 4.7
Nate VanHaaften: feature avg. 5.7, Q avg. 4.0
Joe Beaver: feature avg. 6.3, Q avg. 5.3.
Russ Hall: feature avg. finish 7.0, Q avg. 17.3.
Tyler Groenendyk: feature avg. 7.3, Q avg. 4.0.
Matt Moro: feature avg. 9.0, Q avg. 12.3.
Jon Agan: feature avg. 11.0, Q avg. 11.0, two heat race wins.
RJ Johnson: feature avg. 11.3, Q avg. 19.7.
Jamie Ball: feature avg. 11.7, Q avg. 2.3.
Randy Martin: feature avg. 13.7, Q avg. 9.7.
Clint Garner has one win, and two second place finishes for his average feature finish of 1.7, and is the only driver with three top five finishes. Nate VanHaaften is the only other driver with two top five finishes. Tony Shilling, last week’s feature winner missed the feature this week. Mike Houseman Jr. has two heat race wins. Despite Brian Brown qualifying eleventh, he reeled in the leaders throughout the entire race. Tony Bruce Jr. qualifying third, started sixth in the feature, but finished seventh after climbing as high as fourth. With 32 cars in the 360 class we had four heat races, inverting six, and the top five advanced to the feature. That made for some elbows up heat races!
The 410 class had thirty cars signed in with Ian Madsen setting quick time. The heats had an invert of six, and transfer six format. The only qualifier outside of the top six heat race starters to gain a transfer to the feature was Mark Dobmeier, who passed Lynton Jeffrey in heat two to knock Jeffrey into the B main. Dobmeier has struggled in qualifying again this season and timed in twenty-third this week, but he sure makes it exciting in his heat and feature. This would play a big role on the night as Jeffrey who had qualified fifth, gave up a top eight feature invert spot to the ninth fastest car in qualifying… Davey Heskin.
Heskin would start on the pole of the feature and dominate the race until a caution with two laps to go. On the restart the running order was Heskin, Maeschen, Zomer, Brown, McCarl. Brown went low in turns one and two and went by both Zomer and Maeschen and at the white flag he was on the cushion while Heskin was low and sliding up the middle to block. Heskin drove his #56 to perfection to hold off Brian Brown on the last lap. Brown got up and over the cushion in the middle of turns three and four trying to muster a last ditch effort, but lost his momentum and couldn’t get a run off of four to pull alongside Heskin. Davey was the man on this night! Brown finished second followed by Maeschen, Zomer, McCarl, Madsen, Jason Johnson, Dobmeier, Lucas Wolfe, and Dustin Selvage.
Early in the feature it looked like McCarl and Zomer would be able to keep pace with Heskin, but they didn’t. Then Bronson Maeschen looked like he was faster and catching Heskin, and on the last restart I thought he might have something for Heskin, but he didn’t. Brown almost did.
I’ve said this several times the past two seasons now, but Davey Heskin continues to improve and mature behind the wheel and continues to impress me. Five feature wins at Knoxville now for the Minnesota Mafia driver.
Maeschen and Zomer both showed they are championship contenders. Ian Madsen is on their heels.
Terry McCarl needs to find a little more speed, but he is still the man to beat in my opinion over the whole season. He is a seven time track champion and won 53 features in his career at Knoxville. Until he is beat at the end of the year, he is the top dog.
It was a disappointing night for drivers David Hesmer, Wayne Johnson, Jason Johnson, and Lucas Wolfe. Wolfe started sixth and finished ninth which is hard to figure out. I thought Wolfe would go forward in the feature for sure. Hesmer started eleventh, lost ground in the middle of the race after jumping the cushion in one and two, and pulled in after getting lapped. Wayne Johnson started twelfth and finished twelfth. Jason Johnson started ninth and finished seventh. But it was a good R&D night I’m guessing for the 41 team and their Roush-Yates Ford engine.
Can we claim Lucas Wolfe as a Knoxville Regular? Or is he still PA Posse?
Tasker Phillips drove from twenty-fourth to eleventh in the feature. Tasker shows glimpses of Jac Haudenschild, always exciting on the top!
I will have 410 stats next week after their third regular night, but the drivers who made the feature during the WoO show gained a big advantage on the field in points. Brian Brown is not committed to racing the entire season at Knoxville Raceway, but he is the point leader for now.
Dusty Zomer is second at 852, followed by McCarl 812, Ian Madsen 791, Heskin 750, Maeschen 687, and Dobmeier 650. We have a great point battle in the 410 class!
Congrats to 305 feature winner J Kinder this week! He ran a great race holding off Matthew Stelzer and Larry Ball Jr.
I think the Knoxville Nationals trophy deserves a name. Every famous trophy has a name. Lombardi trophy (Super Bowl), Stanley Cup (Hockey), Borg-Warner (Indy 500), Harley J. Earl (Daytona 500), so why not name the Nationals trophy after the event founder Marion Robinson, or the inaugural winner Roy Robbins?
I hear Katie Davis is singing the National Anthem this week for Memorial Day. She is the best! Enjoy the long holiday weekend race fans. See you in the stands!
*Eric can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.