Column By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – KNOXVILLE, IA – Knoxville Raceway has hosted the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars at least one night every June over the past 19 years – a tradition that continues this weekend (June 9-10).
The two-night trip to The Sprint Car Capital of the World in Iowa will bring the nation’s top Sprint Car drivers to Knoxville for the Premier Chevy Dealers Clash.
The weekend will also serve as the final official opportunity for the full-time World of Outlaws teams to tune up for August’s $185,000-to-win NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals. It’s time to get those notebooks filled.
Let’s look at some of the top storylines to follow:
TITLE BATTLE RAGES ON: The World of Outlaws championship battle is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in Series history. It’s a three-man war between Carson Macedo, Brad Sweet, and David Gravel. All three have led the points at one time or another this year with a total of four changes atop the standings between the three happening already.
With seven straight top fives including a pair of victories, Macedo has reclaimed the top spot heading into Knoxville. Two years ago, Macedo swept the World of Outlaws June weekend at Knoxville. Macedo’s first start in the Jason Johnson Racing #41 – which he now pilots full-time – came at Knoxville in 2018. That night saw him win in his debut, topping a 360 Nationals prelim.
Sweet holds the second spot, only 10 points back of Macedo. The Kasey Kahne Racing pilot is a four-time World of Outlaws winner at Knoxville including the 2018 Knoxville Nationals. Sweet’s other three triumphs at the half mile have come during June.
Gravel completes the current top three but still very much within striking distance with 12 points between himself and Sweet and 22 markers to Macedo. Like Sweet, Gravel is a four-time Series winner at the Marion County oval, including a Knoxville Nationals crown (2019).
SCHATZ STAYING STRONG: Ever since drastically improving his performance at the beginning of May, Donny Schatz has showed no signs of slowing down.
The 10-time Series champion put together another productive two nights this past weekend with an eighth at River Cities Speedway on Friday and a third at Ogilvie Raceway on Saturday – the latter being his seventh podium in the last 11 races.
Now, Schatz rolls into arguably his best track. The most recent time Schatz was at Knoxville aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15, he collected his 11th Knoxville Nationals title – second only to Steve Kinser’s 12. The Fargo, ND driver has earned six of his 309 career wins during the month of June at Knoxville.
SCELZI’S STRIDES: It’s been a quiet surge, but over the last few weeks Gio Scelzi has become one of the steadiest forces on the tour.
The World of Outlaws rookie has posted five consecutive top 10 finishes. Over his last four races, Scelzi owns a trio of top fives and a 4.75 average finish. The recent performance has helped him and the KCP Racing team climb to seventh in points and closing on sixth.
Scelzi’s history at Knoxville suggests his momentum could continue to build. Back in 2021, he and KCP topped the 360 Nationals then sat on the pole of the 410 Nationals before finishing fourth. That same year, Scelzi earned a pair of top fives during the June World of Outlaws weekend.
J-MAC ATTACK: Another one of the hottest drivers on tour heading into Knoxville is Roth Motorsports’ James McFadden.
In the last five races, “J-Mac” has finished no worse than eighth and earned top fives in the three most recent events of that stretch. The Australian has already collected three World of Outlaws wins this season – his personal best for one year.
McFadden hasn’t had the best of luck at Knoxville in recent years, but he’s a former winner of the 360 Nationals (2019).
THE PRICE IS RIGHT?: Rookie Robbie Price is coming off his second best weekend of the season and his best since the opening pair of nights at Volusia.
The driver of the Sides Motorsports #7S finished 13th at River Cities before posting his second top 10 of 2023 at Ogilvie. The latter marked his third career finish inside the top 10 with the World of Outlaws.
The Cobble Hill, BC native hopes to carry the momentum into Knoxville. While Price doesn’t have much experience at several of the tracks on the Series calendar, he has his fair share of laps at Knoxville. Price has competed at the Knoxville 410 Nationals twice, the 360 Nationals once, last year’s June World of Outlaws weekend, and the Capitani Classic twice.
KNOXVILLE KNOWLEDGE: Knoxville’s stout crop of local drivers will have a strong presence this weekend with hopes of stealing a win.
It’s no surprise that the most recent winner in Knoxville’s weekly program is five-time and defending 410 Sprint Car track champion Brian Brown. The Grain Valley, MO native has already collected two wins this season moving him to second on Knoxville’s all-time win list. One of “Brownie’s” career victories at the half mile came against the World of Outlaws (2019).
Aaron Reutzel is originally from Texas, but he calls Iowa home these days. Reutzel has made four trips to Knoxville Victory Lane so far in 2023 – once with the 410 Sprints and three times in a 360. Reutzel’s best Knoxville finish with the World of Outlaws is third (2020).
Altoona, IA’s Austin McCarl is a former track champion (2018). The son of Terry McCarl also earned the pole of last year’s Knoxville Nationals. McCarl will chase his first World of Outlaws win this weekend.
More locals expected to join the field are Matt Juhl, Tasker Phillips, Riley Goodno and more.