Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – KNOXVILLE, IA – You’re guaranteed some magical moments when The Greatest Show on Dirt visits The Sprint Car Capital of the World.
This weekend, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars look to deliver on that promise with the much-anticipated season debut at Iowa’s famed Knoxville Raceway.
The two-day Brownells Big Guns Bash is the ultimate pre-game for the 60th running of the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals pres. by Casey’s General Stores, which offers a $150,000 grand prize on August 11-14.
Read up on some of the top storylines entering this weekend:
THE BIG THREE: When it comes to Outlaws at Knoxville, there’s no denying the current state of “The Big Three.” It’s Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet, and David Gravel without question. The numbers don’t lie.
Together, they’re the last three champions of the Knoxville Nationals, they’re the three winningest full-time Outlaws at the 1/2-mile, and they’re the three most successful drivers in the June doubleheader.
Since the June doubleheader was established in 2016, those three have helped to shut out every other Outlaw from victory lane. In those ten races, Schatz & Sweet each have two wins, while Gravel has one of his own. They’ve all been on the podium more than five times and all have recorded more than seven top-fives. You can count on each of them being favorites this weekend.
LOCAL LAPS: You can never have enough laps at Knoxville Raceway. Twice the season, teams have taken full advantage of a rain out and made the trip to the Iowa oval to attend a weekly show. Both times, an Outlaw walked away as the winner.
In April, when Devil’s Bowl rained out, the Knoxville season opener offered plenty of excitement when Sheldon Haudenschild scored his first-career win at the track, doing so in dramatic fashion with a last-lap pass over Giovanni Scelzi.
Two weeks ago, following Terre Haute’s cancellation, a new batch of teams trekked to town and this time, swept the podium. It was 2018 Knoxville Nationals champion Brad Sweet leading the way over Jason Johnson Racing’s Carson Macedo and his Kasey Kahne Racing teammate James McFadden.
NATIONALS PRE-GAME: Each and every year, the Brownells Big Guns Bash is crucial for teams and drivers. Excluding rare occurrences, this is the only weekend for the World of Outlaws to get a turn at the tricky 1/2-mile before the 60th running of the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals pres. by Casey’s General Stores comes around on August 11-14.
It’s the most prestigious event of the season, and it pays a cool $150,000-to-win. Making the preparation and practice all that much more important before game time arrives. Fan can BUY TICKETS HERE for the Knoxville Nationals.
KNOXVILLE REGULARS: Just like the PA Posse or California clan, there’s always a stout group of local competitors waiting to face the Outlaws when Knoxville rolls around. That’s no different this year.
Leading the charge is Brian Brown of Grain Valley, MO, who ranks fifth (53 wins) on Knoxville’s All-Time Wins List, with two of those coming this year. Terry McCarl of Altoona, IA will also be in action, chasing his 60th career win with a chance to tie Doug Wolfgang for second on the All-Time Wins List.
Other winners this season at Knoxville include Austin McCarl, Lynton Jeffrey, and most recently Giovanni Scelzi. Leading the Knoxville championship and expected to be in contention this weekend is also Davey Heskin of St. Michael, MN and Justin Henderson of Tea, SD.
GRAVEL’S GAINING: Saturday’s win at Granite City (MN) Speedway, his fifth of the season, marked another large dose of momentum for David Gravel and his Big Game Motorsports #2. They took that momentum and built on it come Sunday, taking advantage of a local show at Huset’s Speedway and getting a victory before the $30,000/Win Huset’s 50 brings the Outlaws to town on June 21-22.
With Sweet missing the podium for the seventh-straight race, Gravel cut the points advantage down to -56 points. He’ll have another two chances this weekend at Knoxville, where he’s the reigning Nationals champion, to close the gap even more.
FITTING PLACE FOR HISTORY: Obviously, he’ll take a win anywhere. However, you can’t underscore the magnitude of where such a historical win comes for Donny Schatz. Mother Nature spoiled his golden opportunity to do it at River Cities (ND) Speedway last Friday, but if it can’t be home, the hallowed grounds of Knoxville (IA) Raceway is probably second best.
The Knoxville, IA 1/2-mile will forever be linked to Schatz. The 10-time Knoxville Nationals champion is only two titles away from tying “The King” Steve Kinser for the most all-time. He’s won 27 career Features on the black book clay, ranking 10th all-time. It’s a place that has made the Fargo, ND native a lot of money and fame during his storied career.
More than the glory of getting his 300th career World of Outlaws win, Schatz just wants the sigh of relief from getting his first victory of the year. His current 35-race dry spell is his longest with the Series since 2002-03.