View from the Stands (7/22/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
Danny Lasoski won his first race at Knoxville Raceway June 2, 1984, twenty-nine years later he gets win number 99 at the famed half-mile. Hard to believe someone is within grasp of 100 career wins here at Knoxville, but The Dude is going to pull it off at some point, another milestone in his already storied Hall of Fame career! Lasoski has struggled in 2013 to this point and if he is going to start peaking, now is the time to do it three weeks before the Nationals.
Lasoski led every lap, but his nephew Brian Brown was on his bumper at the end of the non-stop twenty lapper, losing by only half a second. Brownie looked solid once again at Knoxville, getting his eighth top five in as many starts. It sounds like Lasoski has parted ways with the Zemco team, and will be in his own 33 car or the Burch 1m sprinter for the rest of the season.
Ian Madsen won the Huset’s All-Stars race on Sunday night to follow up a good night at Knoxville on Saturday. Madsen drew a good number in qualifying (third) and set quick time, making a statement that he is hanging in the 410 points race, and he gained six points on Bronson Maeschen on the night thanks to his qualifying effort. Masechen got the other end of the pill draw, drawing twenty-seventh in the order on a hard slick track. Ian finished third in his heat, started eighth in the feature and finished eighth. Masechen started eleventh in the feature and finished fifth for his eighth top five finish of the season.
Davey Heskin drove from ninth to third in the feature, breaking that string of four consecutive fifth place finishes, and he moved around Zomer to grab fourth place in points. Heskin is consistently getting top five finishes this season. In ten weekly shows, he has nine top ten finishes, and if it weren’t for the third night of the season where they had some mechanical problems, they could be right in the thick of the championship points race. As it is he is 171 points back of the leader, so he has a slim shot still, but I’m liking Heskin’s chances to put the 56 car in the Nationals championship race again.
Terry McCarl found himself in the B Main after losing a tire in his heat race, but he drove from twenty-first to seventh in the non-stop twenty lap feature to salvage a good night. On the promoter side, the Osky Challenges are coming up soon, Aug 5 & 6. The Monday Front Row Challenge is now 30 laps instead of 25, and oh yeah, Tony Stewart will be there in case you haven’t heard. Should be a good show.
How about Don Droud Jr. and the Sonner 47 car finishing fourth this week to back up their third place finish last week! Good work guys!
Mark Dobmeier was hot, now he is cold. Qualifying eighteenth and twenty-first the past two weeks has put him deep into the starting field of the features where he has had to work hard to finish eleventh and ninth. He won his fourth heat race of the season this week, a sign of not qualifying well typically.
Jamie Veal was the first driver to take advantage of the tire “mulligan” rule this year, as they claimed to find something wrong with their tire. Teams are allowed one mulligan per season. This is exactly what the new rule this year is for. The new tire rule was hard to catch on to at first, but basically you can use any tire that has been stamped at the scales. You can use the tire from the feature the week before, and bolt it on in a heat race the following week if you want, or vice versa, to get a little more mileage out of them.
Shawn Peterson of Irving, Texas has been at Knoxville the past two weeks competing in the 410 and 360 classes. He hasn’t had an impressive finish yet, twentieth last week in the 410 and missed the feature this week, but his cars might be one of the coolest paint schemes I’ve seen all season. Other drivers going double duty this week were Jon Agan, Dustin Selvage, Clint Garner, Brian Brown,
Dustin Selvage’s roller coaster season continued with mechanical issues this week not allowing the 7K car to start the feature. Tough break for the Williams team.
Rico Abreu made his third stop at Knoxville this week racking up a tenth place finish, giving him three top tens in four features (was here on twin features night). Rico looked smooth this week and I think he will be tough to beat for Rookie of the Year at Nationals. I can’t help but wonder what Paul Silva is learning while wrenching for Rico as he gets ready to field his 57 car for Shane Stewart in the Nationals.
Jason Solwold lasted six weeks in the Todd and Susan LaHaise 82 car, and filling in this past week was 360 driver Clint Garner, who has two 410 career wins at Knoxville. Let the rumor mill start, follow www.ibracn.com for the silly season news on who will end up in the 82 for Nationals.
Tasker Phillips started on the pole of the feature, but he got over the right rear of Brandon Wimmer entering turn one and got into the fence. It was unfortunate for Tasker who hasn’t been able to put together a good qualifying night until this past week and wasn’t able to take advantage of the situation. And unfortunately for Wimmer he was running second and catching Lasoski for the lead when he suddenly pulled in on the third lap with problems. Wimmer had a good showing at the Kings Royal last week and is climbing in my power rankings.
Brian Brown dominated this feature. Clint Garner set quick time for the first time this season putting him in the eighth starting spot for the feature where he finished second, 2.7 seconds behind Brown. Garner basically has the 360 championship sewn up with a 224 point lead. I don’t think Joe Beaver can catch him at this point without some luck.
It was great to see Billy Alley back at Knoxville! He is a popular driver, fan friendly, and after speaking with him after the races it was amazing how much he has grown up and matured as a person. Hard to believe the kid is 30 years, and a proud father of two kids today. He is back racing again with a new team and he seems to be having fun. They haven’t won a race yet this season, but been fast. He hopes to climb the ladder back to the top again but knows it’s not going to be easy. He should be back again this coming Saturday night tuning up for the 360 Nationals, where is a two time champion winning back to back in 2004 and 2005.
Alley led the first six laps of the feature before being passed by his old rival Brian Brown. I had flashbacks of 2006 watching this race. Look for Alley to improve in the coming weeks, and I think Brian Brown made a statement that he will be tough to beat at the 360 Nationals, and he has won both 360 features he has started this season at Knoxville. He should be able to give Shane Stewart a run up front.
In the third heat there was an incident at the start that saw Tom Lenz drift into Matt Moro, who drifted and made contact with RJ Johnson who wound up going into the turn one fence ending his night. RJ then through his steering wheel at Moro under the caution, in what I believe is the first such incident on the track! But I do believe Sammy Swindell threw his wheel at an official one time in the pits. It was a rough night for RJ who was trying to race in the 410 class as well in the #55. The 55 had problems and didn’t make it out for qualifying and were loaded up when the heat races started, so the frustration boiled over. That’s racing though.
Lee Grosz made his second appearance at Knoxville this season, and the long drive from North Dakota resulted in a broken cam shaft in the heat race ending their night.
16 year old Chris Martin won his third heat race of the season this week and is steadily improving.
Larry Ball Jr. won again, his third in a row and fifth of the season. J Kinder finished second, Chris Walraven third who also set quick time, and 15 year old Sawyer Phillips finished fourth.
We had a 305 driver show up from Honolulu, Hawaii this week!!! Keoni Texeira qualified fourth and finished eighth in the feature in an impressive debut. Just last week I was going back looking through the list of names and the states they represented that had never entered the Nationals, Hawaii was of course on the list, so weird timing. I wish I had known he was from Hawaii earlier when I was in the pit area before the races so I could meet him and get to know his story, and how he got here. I did find that he raced at 34 Raceway in Burlington earlier this month. I will try to follow up on him next week if I can.
Videos/Slide Shows: If you want to get your juices pumping for the Nationals I have created three videos with past Nationals photos and winners. I apologize, but for some reason my blog software wouldn’t hyperlink the link here. You will have to highlight the link and right click to see your play options, or copy & paste.
1961-1990 Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx1BTk8-pro&feature=c4-overview&list=UUoOvmiEZuc4RYUYCyLNAMXQ
1991-2011 Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkFiILNtihE&feature=c4-overview&list=UUoOvmiEZuc4RYUYCyLNAMXQ
2012 Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3WS51-90YA&feature=c4-overview&list=UUoOvmiEZuc4RYUYCyLNAMXQ
We have one more weekly show this Saturday before the 360 Nationals the following week! Below is my updated 410 power rankings, and the debut of my 360 power rankings. The 360 Nationals is harder to predict, and you could make a case for anyone in the top twenty-four to have a top five or top ten car. A lot more unknowns in the 360 with so many driver and car combinations coming together for one week only. You will see on the website under EVENTS section that the 410 Nationals have the Wednesday-Thursday night qualifying nights breakdown, but those will change some to balance the field a bit. Some drivers were already moved from Wednesday to Thursday last week, and Jim Nier has withdrawn his entry.
Nationals Power Rankings: 1. Schatz, 2. Brown, 3. Stewart, 4. McMahan, 5. Dollansky, 6. Larson, 7. Kaeding, 8. Pittman, 9. Shaffer, 10. K.Madsen, 11. Maeschen, 12. Heskin, 13. Gravel, 14. S.Smith, 15. Dobmeier, 16. Blaney, 17. Hafertepe Jr., 18. Hodnett, 19. Zomer, 20. T.McCarl, 21. Rahmer, 22. I.Madsen, 23. Henderson, 24. Saldana. First five out: Sammy, Sweet, DeWease, Darrah, Lasoski.
360 Nationals Power Rankings: 1. Stewart, 2. Brown, 3. Larson, 4. Bacon, 5. McCarl, 6. Herrera, 7. Dover, 8. Crockett, 9. Maeschen, 10. Zomer, 11. Jeff Swindell, 12. Lasoski, 13. W.Johnson, 14. J.Johnson, 15. Heskin, 16. Garner, 17. Shaffer, 18. Alley, 19. Hafertepe, 20. Hannagan, 21. Gharst, 22. D.Wood, 23. K.Swindell, 24. Cornell.
This past Saturday night I sat up in the press box and helped Bob Wilson with the live results on the website. My appreciation for Bob and Bill W. and that job went way up! Bill was on vacation, so Bob was filling in. I’m sure after you get a few nights under your belt it gets easier, but wow, was there a lot to do. And I was trying to keep up with Twitter posts at the same time. It was fun, but a crazy night, and it didn’t seem like I got to watch as much racing on the track. My appreciation for the announcers went up as well. It’s not an easy job at all and Tony Bokhoven does a good job week in and week out. With Tony gone this week doing TV we had Jason Price and Dustin Hoskins filling in, along with Kris Krug on loan from KNIA/KRLS radio helping with the victory lane interviews. The track is actively working on finding an announcer to replace Blake Anderson, but look for Blake to be back to help out during the Nationals some. And Johnny Gibson will be on the mic as well at Nationals with Tony, so the live PPV on www.thecushion.com is shaping up to be a great broadcast.
*Don’t forget we are still taking pre-orders for the book, Knoxville Nationals: The First 50 Years. You can pre-order the book by finding the book order form available on the track website in the “entry forms” section. You will also be able to buy them in person the week of the Nationals.
*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.