Thursday, August 09, 2018
Greg Hodnett Leads All 25 Laps to Score Night One of Knoxville Nationals
Brock Zearfoss hit the 8-car invert for the Feature perfectly, earning the pole for the 25-Lap Feature in his first Knoxville Nationals appearance, which set up an all Pennsylvania front row.
Hodnett drag-raced with Zearfoss down the long Knoxville Raceway front stretch to lead into turn one and subsequently the opening circuit. Hodnett and Zearfoss paced the field but as the duo began to approach heavy lapped traffic, the Red Flag flew for Clyde Knipp and Jamie Ball, who got upside down in turn three with 8 laps complete.
Both drivers walked away from the accident unscathed. When action resumed, Tim Shaffer pounced and got by Zearfoss for second and began chasing down Hodnett for the lead.
Austin McCarl brought out the caution with 11 laps remaining. Hodnett powered away on the restart, as Shaffer, Kyle Larson and 16-year-old Giovanni Scelzi went three-wide down the backstretch for second, inciting a roar from the Knoxville Raceway crowd.
Shaffer muscled his way into turn three to maintain the runner-up position and once again set his sights on Hodnett, who was establishing a strong pace.
Shaffer closed in on Hodnett and was poised to make a move before the final caution of the night flew for Dominic Scelzi with six laps remaining. Hodnett went to the cushion in turn one as Shaffer tried to stick his Demyan-Rudzik Racing No.49X to the bottom.
The duo switched lines on the other side of the Knoxville Raceway as Hodnett was glued to the bottom. Shaffer threw everything he had at Hodnett one last time in turn one, but couldn’t complete the pass for the lead as Hodnett went on to win his second career 410 Sprint Car Feature at Knoxville Raceway by less than a half of a second.
Hodnett described the last few laps as just hanging on, “I had no clue where anyone else was running, I was just trying to drive it hard. Seeing guys like Shaffer and Larson climb up the board is pretty tough, because you don’t know where, while you are running out front,” Hodnett said in the post-race interview.
“I really do like Knoxville, it tends to make you drive pretty straight and hard, which is what I like to do. I’ve always felt comfortable here and I really enjoy the atmosphere,” the pilot of the Heffner Racing No.27 added.
Tim Shaffer, the 2010 Knoxville Nationals Champion, settled for second and was in good spirits. “Greg was rolling pretty good, I had to run the car a little harder to try and close in, but Greg wasn’t making any mistakes. We had speed early this year but haven’t had as much lately. My guys have been working hard and trying to find speed at the same and we did that tonight,” Shaffer said.
Kyle Larson ended his night on the podium, but more importantly as the high point man for the night with 475 markers. “It’s cool to be the high point man after your Qualifying night, I doubt it will stand after tomorrow, but hopefully I’ll be in the second row,” Larson said.
“Prelim nights are obviously so important for everyone, but it’s essential for me to lock-in. With my NASCAR schedule, I can’t come back Friday, so I knew that I needed to lock-in for Saturday’s Feature or I would be watching. And I don’t want to watch on Saturday,” Larson added with a smile.
Giovanni Scelzi continues to impress the Sprint Car world and came home fourth in his first Knoxville Nationals appearance aboard the Indy Race Parts No.71. Donny Schatz picked up the KSE Hard Charger on the evening, blasting from 21st to complete the top five and secure himself 474 points, good enough for second on the night. Ian Madsen charged from 22nd to sixth with Lucas Wolfe hanging on for seventh after his top wing panel collapsed late in the race.
Aaron Reutzel, Kerry Madsen and Brock Zearfoss completed the top ten. Logan Schuchart set fast time over the field but after winning the Last Chance Showdown failed to go to the scales, thus disqualifying him from the event and burying him in the point standings. Schuchart owned up the mistake and hopes to prove himself Friday.
Feature Finish: 1. 27 – Greg Hodnett; 2. 49X – Tim Shaffer; 3. 57 – Kyle Larson; 4. 71 – Giovanni Scelzi; 5. 15 – Donny Schatz; 6. 18 – Ian Madsen; 7. 24W – Lucas Wolfe; 8. 87 – Aaron Reutzel; 9. 2M – Kerry Madsen; 10. 4 – Brock Zearfoss; 11. 9 – Daryn Pittman; 12. 29 – Willie Croft; 13. 5H – Sammy Walsh; 14. 99 – Brady Bacon; 15. 09 – Matt Juhl; 16. 11 – Roger Crockett; 17. 71X – Kevin Thomas, Jr.; 18. 40 – Clint Garner; 19. 15M – Bobby Mincer; 20. 85 – Chase Wanner; 21. 41S – Dominic Scelzi; 22. 2KS – Austin McCarl; 23. 10 – Clyde Knipp; 24. 5J – Jamie Ball; Lap Leaders 1-25 Greg Hodnett; KSE Hard Charger Donny Schatz (+16)
Top 10 in Knoxville Nationals Points:
1. Kyle Larson - 475
2. Donny Schatz - 474
3. Aaron Reutzel - 473
4. Kerry Madsen - 473
5. Tim Shaffer - 471
6. Giovanni Scelzi - 468
7. Ian Madsen - 467
8. Greg Hodnett - 462
9. Lucas Wolfe - 453
10. Daryn Pittman - 452