View from the Stands (6/10/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
The race for the 410 track championship at Knoxville Raceway this season has turned into the multicar race that I hoped and thought it would. Terry McCarl won a thriller this past week, but one more lap and he might not have been the winner. Dusty Zomer was on McCarl’s bumper at the finish line. Davey Heskin was on the move as well late and finished third. Early leader Sam Hafertepe Jr. pulled in midway after dropping out of the top five, and Ian Madsen held the lead for a few laps before being passed by McCarl.
This may not be a news flash to some people, but the weather forecasting from our local TV and websites are not 100% accurate. This Saturday the races went off without a hitch although rain was near the raceway to the north. Somehow it stayed clear of Knoxville other than some sprinkles between 5 and 6pm, and then again just as the 410 feature was being pushed off that only caused a short delay. I’ve never been a big believer in the “winged sprint car swirling vortex theory” until this week. I understand why some people were unwilling to come out to the races due to the weather forecast, the radar and Doppler scare tactics on TV, and with smart phones most of us have this at our fingertips, but you can’t always bank on them being right. We are overdue for a good night of weather, so let’s hope we get that this week for the World of Outlaws.
With the feature invert being eight all season this has led to some great racing up front as Zomer and Heskin who qualified one-two, started in the fourth row in positions seven-eight, and were right there at the end of the twenty lap race. Qualifying in the top eight each night is essential in this format.
Mark Dobmeier has had the fastest car in the last half of the feature the last two weeks, but because he is qualifying twelfth or worse each night he is too far back at the start to catch the leaders, but has an average feature finish of sixth on the season. With a qualifying average of 16.5, Dobmeier has a -10.5 on the QF rating (qualifying average minus feature finish average). Remember I’m a number geek, and yes I made this rating up last year, but it is an interesting statistic to measure who is passing cars, and who is getting passed in the feature. A number less than zero is good, or in the +1 or +2 is the ideal number. That means you are qualifying in the top eight, and passing cars, or you are holding your position on the starting grid.
Unfortunately David Hesmer and Brian Sundby have mutually decided to part ways. Hesmer gave a good effort the past four races, but the car never came to him and you could tell he was timid and uncomfortable. His qualifying average is 9.3, but the feature finish is 18.0, giving him a +8.7 QF rating, which is the worst in the 410 class. The next worse is his teammate Garrett Dollanksy at +8.0 for the season. So I’m not saying it was all the driver or all the car, but they never figured out a set-up that worked for Hesmer, and that takes time and experience. Hesmer didn’t have enough of either this year, so I’m sad to see him hang up the helmet again, but happy that he gave it another try. Now the question is who replaces him in the BDS ride? I saw Justin Henderson roaming the pits two weeks ago….
Dusty Zomer is going to win a race a soon.
Davey Heskin looked the best he has all season this past week. Quick time, won his heat from the third row, and on the podium to finish the night.
Tasker Phillips is becoming one of the most exciting drivers to watch. He isn’t qualifying well, but he has managed to race his way up through the field most nights in the feature and has a -9.5 QF rating.
With only one top ten finish, how frustrated is Brooke Tatnell? Good driver, disappointing results so far. They need to find more speed in the Vermeer/Lewis #55.
It’s been great to see Lucas Wolfe at Knoxville so much this season. Knoxville hasn’t been a good track for him, and the only feature he has won here is the World Challenge. But the more laps he gets I keep thinking he is going to break out and have a big night soon.
Anyone seen Ryan Anderson? I miss the red and black 71R.
360 Notes: It was great to see Joe Beaver win the 360 feature this week, and he did it in convincing fashion driving by the race leader Randy Martin on the outside and then when it looked like Clint Garner might make a run, Beaver ran some perfect laps and Garner didn’t close in on him. It was Beaver’s third career 360 feature win, and he did it by setting a new eighteen lap feature track record at 5:09. Beaver is looking better and smoother than I can ever remember.
Nate Van Haaften has turned into quite the driver the past few seasons. It’s a matter of time before he wins a feature this season. And we don’t have a repeat winner yet in the 360 class.
Kudos to Matt Moro and his crew for getting a new car together in time to race this week after destroying a car the week before.
Jamie Ball and Tyler Groenendyk have both set quick time twice this season.
Jon Agan, Russ Hall, and Mike Houseman Jr. are the only drivers to win two heat races this season.
16 year old Chris Martin from Ankeny raced for the first time this week in the 360 class. Martin has driven one of the Brent Kaeding cars out west this spring and won a 360 feature out there. Kaeding has tutored drivers such as Kyle Larson and Rico Abreau in recent years, and his sons Bud and Tim are top shelf drivers as well. Martin has also been taken under the wing of Lynton Jeffrey and is helping to ease the learning curve at Knoxville. He had a solid night in his debut, he parked the car on the trailer in one piece, and was getting faster with each lap it seemed in the feature on his way to an eleventh place finish. I spoke with Chris briefly before the races on Saturday and he is another youngling who has graduated from go-karts and outlaw karts to a sprint car. It will be interesting to see how Martin progresses this season.
The World of Outlaws come into town this week. I’ll follow up with a second blog to preview their event later in the week! And I promise not to overlook the 305 class and will cover them more after mid-season championship in two weeks.
*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.