View from the Stands (8/3/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
The feature for night two of the 360 Nationals was dominated by Justin Henderson who went from his second row starting spot to the lead and drove away from the field in the non-stop 20 lapper. Henderson is no stranger to victory lane at Knoxville, winning a 410 feature earlier this season in his first night driving the Bryan Sundby #1, and winning the Friday Nationals “Hard Knox” feature a year ago in the LaHaise 82 car.
It seems like no matter whose car Henderson is in, he has been fast at Knoxville over the past 12 months. When I asked why he has been so good his response was, “Al Parker. That is the best bullet in my gun. He knows how to make a motor run and he knows what I like. I’ve been in different cars and that has been my biggest attribute. I don’t have to change the set-up much at all. Once you seem to find the sweet spot (set-up wise) the motor seems to be the biggest difference for me.” Henderson amazingly went out and qualified eleventh after drawing 54 of 55 in the order. Yeah… I think Al Parker had the engine dialed in.
Shane Stewart was able to drive from seventh to second in the feature, looking REALLY fast the final ten laps. Stewart qualified third (196), was second in his heat (97), and second in the feature (198) for a high point total of 491 and earning the pole for Saturday’s championship A-Main. “Once we burned some fuel off I was way better, I was pretty tight early in the race. The top was the place to be early and as the race went the cushion got higher and higher, and the bottom came in. I was able to find the middle in one and two. Paul Silva did a great job getting the car right and I can’t thank him enough.” I don’t see anyone beating Shane from the front row. He was sixth at halfway and then shot to second by lap sixteen. And if he car gets better the longer the race goes, that doesn’t set up well for the rest of the field with Saturday being 25 laps.
Kevin Swindell was third in the feature. He qualified fourth, finished third in his heat after a torrid battle for second with Henderson for a few laps. Kevin will line up fourth in the championship race. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t been on dirt since the Chili Bowl in January, and hasn’t sat in a sprint car since last year’s Knoxville Nationals. Kevin was settled into second midway through the feature but struggled in traffic a bit. He wasn’t going to hold off Stewart for long regardless. Everyone talks about Kyle Larson being a super talent, but in my opinion Kevin Swindell is just as good and I wish we could see him on dirt more often.
Terry McCarl was quick time getting a good pill draw, and then had problems in his heat race. He was in a transfer position and making clean slider pass coming through turns three and four when Dylan Peterson had a good run up high and as they exited turn four Peterson drove over McCarl’s right rear and flipped hard on the front stretch and McCarl’s right rear went down. I know some people think it was a bad slide job, and McCarl ran over him, but that’s just people hating on T-Mac. Terry clearly got run over from behind. Peterson had a good run, but he was a few car lengths behind McCarl by the time he got up to the cushion. T-Mac would win the B, and drive up to seventeenth in the feature. T-Mac will start in row eight on Saturday, and you will want to keep one eye on him back there.
Clint Garner came to race on Friday night! He qualified fifth, finished third in his heat, and fourth in the feature, which puts him in row three for the big dance. Garner’s best career finish at the 360 Nationals is ninth in 2006, his only top ten finish. He was thirteenth last year and hoping to improve upon that. For a guy who is a four time 360 track champion at Knoxville (about to make it five this year) he has yet to prove to be a challenger at the 360 Nationals, and he has a good opportunity to get on the podium Saturday.
Seth Brahmer went out sixth in the qualifying order and timed in second quick. He then snuck into a transfer spot in his heat holding off Jarrod Schneiderman there, and then fell from eighth to twelfth in the feature. He will start tenth in the championship feature Saturday.
Brian Brown drew 42 of 55 in qualifying and timed twentieth, not that bad considering the track conditions at the time, but timing outside of the top fifteen is hard to overcome in the point system. He won his heat, started thirteenth in the feature, and finished seventh. Brown didn’t seem to have the same car as he has the past couple of weeks at weekly 360 races. But they did hurt their best 360 motor last week when their throttle stuck and it’s still at the shop. As I saw Brown after the race and showed him he was tied for nineteenth and starting at the back of the A main, I could see his eyes wonder a bit and for a split second it was a look of disappointment, and then it was a look of focus and you could see him already calculating how to pass that many cars in 25 laps.
Robby Wolfgang has improved a lot over the last couple of years, but on Friday he looked better than I can ever remember, finishing sixth in the feature. Glad to see he finally has a car under him he is comfortable with, and a solid engine under the hood to show what he is capable of. He lines up in row seven and if he can move forward at all in this tough field of cars, I think he should be happy.
As I look at the Saturday feature lineups I see Shane Stewart winning handily. I hope Wayne Johnson can hold on for a top five because Sweet, Kevin, Henderson, Garner, Larson, and Lasoski are coming up to challenge. I think it will be a good race, but don’t see anyone beating the 57 car. The drivers in the back of the field to watch making a charge is likely to be Cornell, McCarl, Heskin, and Brian Brown.
The B-Main is no easy task with Scott Winters, Don Droud Jr, Joe Beaver, Jon Agan, Johnny Herrera, Danny Dietrich, Randy Hanagan, Jeff Swindell, and Mark Dobmeier. Going to be a good race to get in to the top four transfers. Keep your eye on Tim Shaffer and Brooke Tatnell in the C-Main.
Row 1: 57 Shane Stewart & 77x Wayne Johnson
Row 2: 49k Brad Sweet & 71s Kevin Swindell
Row 3: 21v Justin Henderson & 40 Clint Garner
Row 4: 41 Jason Johnson & 1K Kyle Larson
Row 5: 1m Danny Lasoski & 13v Seth Brahmer
Row 6: 05 Brad Loyet & 4J Lee Grosz
Row 7: 28 Jonathan Cornell & 1B Robby Wolfgang
Row 8: 24 Josh Higday & 83 Terry McCarl
Row 9: 5H Justyn Cox & 56 Davey Heskin
Row 10: 21 Brian Brown & 7k Dustin Selvage
The 305 cars will compete on Saturday night as well, as this their one night at Knoxville to showcase their talents over the weeks of Nationals.
*Be sure to use the official hash tag, #KXVNATS13
*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.