View from the Stands (9/5/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
The 2013 season started off with a rain out unfortunately for the fourth time in six years. Those damn April showers. May wasn’t much better with two rain outs, but we dodged the rain a few nights to get the shows in. My faith in the swirling vortex of winged sprint cars thwarting off rain was restored this season. Many nights I looked at the radar thinking it looked bad for Knoxville, only to see storms break up as they approached and miss us.
If I could come up with a name for this season, it would be the season of the semi-regulars. The weekly point racers won only six of the 13 features this year. Dobmeier won three, while Maeschen, McCarl, and Heskin won one a piece. I think it’s great that guys like Shane Stewart, Brian Brown, Danny Lasoski, and Kevin Swindell show up and win races at Knoxville. Where else in the country do Outlaw caliber drivers show up regularly? We are blessed at Knoxville.
Breaking down each week.
April 27: Shane Stewart showed up in the Indy Race Parts 71 car on opening night and whipped the field timing sixth, winning his heat race, and led 19 of 20 laps to win the feature. Shane came in still sharp from racing in the winter in Australia, and in the states in the spring, and it showed as he looked better than anyone else at the track by far.
May 11: The World of Outlaws were in town, Brian Brown led early, Dollansky passed him for the lead on lap nine, and lurking most of the race was Schatz who went on to win by a straightaway.
May 18: Davey Heskin spanked the field leading all 20 laps. Brown came from seventh to second.
June 1: Ian Madsen led the first half of the race, Brown used a restart to make the pass an win. This was also the night of Austin Johnson’s front axle clearing the fence in turn one, prompting the new rule for tethers.
June 8: Sam Hafertepe Jr. was leading and pulled in about halfway, Ian Madsen led briefly before Terry McCarl went by to get the win and hold off a last lap charge from Dusty Zomer.
June 15: WoO show where Brown led the first 14 laps before Schatz went by and led the final 11 laps. Great showing by the local teams this night, at halfway they held four of the top five positions with Maeschen, Ian Madsen, and Heskin in the top five before some bad luck came for Heskin with a tire sealed up, and Maeschen finished on seven cylinders.
June 22: Cars were timed in groups of three for the first time and it worked. Lasoski led early but lost the lead in traffic to Dobmeier, and McCarl was right there in third at the end. It was the closest 1-2-3 finish all season.
June 29: Dobmeier dominated this race and won easily for the second week in a row. Rico Abreu made his first appearance at Knoxville on this night.
July 6: Twin features night. Justin Henderson showed up in the Bryan Sundby car for the first time and won the first feature, while Dobmeier won the second feature. Ian Madsen struggled this night with an average finish of 16th for the two features.
July 13: Dustin Selvage led the first eight laps before Bronson Maeschen passed him and win the feature while claiming the point lead at the end of the night.
July 20: Danny Lasoski won feature number 99 on this night.
July 27: Brian Brown won this night but he had a great battle with Tim Kaeding as they exchanged the lead a couple of times on restarts. Kaeding was in second and had to pull in with the rear end going out. Brown looked so good in traffic, and on this night I knew Brown was better on this night than he had been all season.
August 4: The Capitani Classic had 81 cars show up. There were 67 cars in 2012. This has quickly become a great event thanks to the Sunday night placement. There is nowhere else that you can see 81 sprint cars in one night. Kevin Swindell hadn’t been in a 410 sprint car for a full year, and wins. The top five was Kevin, Henderson, Brown, Shane Stewart, and Craig Dollansky. Turned into quite a Nationals preview show.
August 7-10 was the Nationals. David Gravel, Brian Brown, and Kyle Larson won the prelim nights. We all know how Saturday night panned out with Schatz.
August 24: Danny Lasoski passed Dobmeier for the lead on lap 18 and went on to win his 100th career feature at Knoxville.
It was a great season for Bronson Maeschen. He was consistent with 10 top five finishes and 12 top ten’s, one feature win, and had quick time twice. Congratulations again on the championship fellas.
In my stats below you can see a driver’s average feature finish, qualifying average finish, and the QF rating is the qualifying average minus the feature finish average. I also have each driver’s average feature finish from their first six races, and the last seven races to see how they fared in each half of the season. I also listed their average finish on twin features night and the two WoO shows.
Looking at the QF rating, Mark Dobmeier was the hard charger of the season qualifying poorly with a 15.7 average, but was -8.4 positions better in the feature with 7.2 feature finish average. Rookie of the Year Garrett Dollansky has the worst QF rating at +5.6 as his feature finishes were consistently worse than his qualifying efforts.
My end of the season awards:
Driver of the Year: Bronson Maeschen
Crew Chief of the Year: Glenn Freeland
Most Improved Driver: Ian Madsen, was sixth in points last year to second this year.
Goody’s Headache Powder Award: Brooke Tatnell for missing six weeks injured.
Race of the Year: June 22 (see above).
Elbows Up Award: Mark Dobmeier, he won more races, and passed more cars than anyone.
Drivers Most likely to improve in 2014: Dustin Selvage and Garrett Dollansky.
Wild Card Award: Lynton Jeffrey. Jeffrey completed his 11th consecutive full season at Knoxville, which is the longest active streak of any driver. He has been in the top ten in points the past five years.
I want to give a shout out to Brandon Bingham. His “Around The Track” videos this year were a really cool addition to the Knoxville experience for fans. If you haven’t watched them on our YouTube channel you need to make time to do that over the off-season.
I also want to give a shout out and big thank you to our track photographers who provide some nice shots that I can use in the blog, on the website, our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram platforms. Thank You to Dave Hill, Ryan Nothcote, Danny Howk, Gordon O’Field, Conrad Nelson, Chuck Stowe, Brandon Anderson, Brad Brown, and Max Dolder. And a big shout out to Serena Dalhamer for her work and getting photos uploaded so quickly on Twitter for us, which makes my job easier!
Looking ahead to 2014 a bit, Larry Ball Jr. is coming back to the 410 ranks. His last full season in a 410 was 2004 it looks like in my records. I’m really hoping Clint Garner will move back to the 410 class next year where he had some successful years in the past. Garner was third in 410 points in 2006 and won a couple of features, so I know he can compete, and he has nothing left to prove in the 360 class. I anticipate that Ian Madsen and the Nehring 18 team have a really good 2014 with one full season under their belt now. I think Davey Heskin will be a strong championship contender again in 2014, he was the best car the second half of the season. And of course Maeschen and McCarl will be right there again.
I will follow up with a 360 & 305 season wrap-up next week!
*Eric can be contacted at email@example.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.