KNOXVILLE, Iowa — With a qualifying performance the likes of which hasn’t been seen in 25 years, David Gravel earned the pole for Saturday night’s 57th annual 5-hour Energy Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores.
The Watertown, Conn. driver banked $2,000 from Jeremy Elliott’s SprintCarUnlimited.com for sitting on the pole.
Gravel notched a perfect 500-point score in the No. 5 GoMuddy.com entry for CJB Motorsports, posting fast time during Thursday’s preliminary night program, charging from eighth to win his heat race and then leading the final seven circuits of the 25-lap A-Main en route to victory.
The last time a perfect qualifying night was achieved was in 1992, when Steve Kinser accomplished the feat en route to his eighth of a record 12 Knoxville Nationals titles.
Though Gravel recognized the significance of his achievement, he added that his team can’t rest yet.
“I was born in ’92,” Gravel chuckled. “Glad to be in the books as one of only seven guys to ever do that. Donny Schatz has won nine of these and hasn’t done that before, so hopefully we’ve got something for him on Saturday.”
“We can’t rest, though. It’s not over … it’s a long race on Saturday, so we have to keep working and make it happen.”
Speaking of Schatz, the nine-time Knoxville Nationals champion will roll off Saturday night from the outside of the front row in the No. 15 Arctic Cat/Ford Performance machine for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing.
Schatz collected 492 points after timing in fourth-quick, winning his heat and coming in as Wednesday night’s runner-up.
Brad Sweet landed third with a score of 489 points, making for a sweep of the front three grid spots by World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series regulars.
Knoxville regulars Kerry Madsen (487), Brian Brown (486) and Terry McCarl (478) follow that trio in positions four through six, with Brown locking into the A-Main this go-round after he had to drive in the C-Main on championship night last year.
Daryn Pittman (474) and Pennsylvania Posse member Greg Hodnett (472) make up row four, followed by Kyle Larson and the car he co-owns, driven by Shane Stewart.
Both Larson and Stewart tied in at 469 points, with Larson’s participation on championship night still uncertain as of Friday morning.
Austin McCarl, Paul McMahan, Mark Dobmeier, Rico Abreu, Ian Madsen and Wayne Johnson filled out the top 16 in point who locked thenselves into the first eight rows of Saturday’s 50-lap, $150,000-to-win main event.
Positions 17-26 on points through the first two nights had the option of locking into the first five rows of Saturday night’s B-Main, or scratching their point total and attempting to requalify on Friday.
All 10 of those drivers elected to stand on their point totals and attempt to race in via the 22-lap B-Main on championship night.
In order: Justin Henderson, Trey Starks, Jason Sides, Dusty Zomer, Lucas Wolfe, Christopher Bell, Danny Dietrich, Tim Shaffer, Matt Juhl and Dominic Scelzi will start first through 10th in the B-Main on Saturday.
Scelzi came out on top of a three-way tie for the final B-Main lock-in spot, edging Brooke Tatnell and defending Knoxville Nationals champion Jason Johnson.
All three had 429 points, but Scelzi finished highest of the three in the A-Main Thursday night.
Aside from Johnson, other notable names not yet locked into the big show are four-time Nationals winner Danny Lasoski, both Jac and Sheldon Haudenschild, former All Star Circuit of Champions titlists Dale Blaney and Chad Kemenah, 2005 Nationals winner Kraig Kinser, Joey Saldana and 1983 winner Sammy Swindell.
Competition at Knoxville Raceway resumes Friday with the Hard Knox qualifying night program, as well as the annual SPEED SPORT World Challenge.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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