Column By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – KNOXVILLE, IA – Knoxville Raceway is a confounding puzzle of unique pieces: Black Zook clay, sweeping corners and an unwavering demand for technical driving.
Together, they make for one of the most challenging tracks to master on the World of Outlws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series tour.
But it’s a puzzle that Shark Racing solved last August.
First, Logan Schuchart topped both the Capitani Classic and his prelim night at the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals. Then, Jacob Allen backed up Schuchart’s win with his own prelim triumph. And finally, the duo advanced a combined 20 spots in “The Granddaddy of ‘Em All” to bring both of the Shark cars home in the top five of the 50-lap finale.
This weekend’s Premier Chevy Dealers Clash (June 9-10) marks The Greatest Show on Dirt’s first appearance at Knoxville since last year’s Knoxville Nationals. It’s the first time Schuchart and Allen will be able to test their strides since their magical week.
For Schuchart, who had prior Knoxville success, last year’s performance was especially gratifying with his teammate being right alongside him.
“It was nice for both Jacob and I to run well,” Schuchart said. “I’ve had some good runs (Knoxville) Nationals week in the past, but we never really both did it as a team. Both cars in the top five was pretty neat. We both won our preliminary nights. We won the Capitani. All around, the only way it could’ve been better is if one of us won on Saturday night.”
Allen felt similarly proud for their efforts as an entire organization.
“It was just a really special week for our team,” Allen commented. “Other than winning the (Knoxville) Nationals, those kinds of things are things you can only dream of that we as a team have those memories forever. It’s something really special to me.”
The two had mixed histories at the historic half mile heading into last year’s Knoxville Nationals.
Schuchart quickly adapted to The Sprint Car Capital of the World after joining the World of Outlaws tour in 2014. In only his second Series Feature start at Knoxville, Schuchart earned a top 10. In his last 17 Sprint Car Feature starts there, he’s posted 16 top 10s and podiumed on 11 occasions. The 30-year-old believes that the track suits their racing program and his driving style.
“It seems like our race cars go better on bigger racetracks,” Schuchart noted. “There’s only so much you can do to these things (Sprint Cars). It just seems like they’re set up for big racetracks. I think they’re technical racetracks. The track crews do a great job at putting on a great surface, so if you start in the back, you can still race your way up there.”
Allen’s early results at Knoxville tell a different story. Prior to his win in last year’s prelim, Allen’s best finish was 12th. But while the list of finishes make it appear as if Allen made a sudden jump, he notes that there’s much more beneath the surface. The pilot of the Shark Racing #1A experienced many encouraging moments at Knoxville prior to last August. The prelim victory and finale top five were a culmination of those moments helping lead to complete evenings.
“When people are just looking at statistics and they’re like, ‘Jacob’s Feature runs have been not the greatest or not right there to win races or top fives or top 10s,’ or however people look at it,” Allen said. “But really, in my life, I’ve had good moments at Knoxville. I’ve been top five in qualifying. I’ve had Heat Race wins. I’ve had moments just hadn’t put it all together… Last year, that all came together for me.
“Knoxville is a really tricky place to race at. It gets very, very slick. The slick seems different than most places. It’s a lot more technical. It’s a fast track.”
The Shark duo head into this weekend’s pair of races at Knoxville looking to replicate their success from August. Schuchart’s season has been an efficient one thus far with a victory, five podiums, and 19 top 10s through 26 races. He and his Shark Racing #1S team currently reside fourth in points.
Allen hasn’t quite matched his 2022 speed that brought him to Victory Lane five times, but he’s put together some strong runs with a pair of podiums and eight top 10s, including two in the last four races.
If last year’s Knoxville Nationals is any indicator, both of the Sharks are set for a productive weekend at one of the sport’s most iconic venues.
“I believe in myself and believe that as long as I put myself in the right opportunity, I can accomplish big moments and big wins,” Allen said. “My team and my situation is a little more unique. We’re a unique team that’s figured out how to be there together to win on a national level.”