Donny Schatz won the Knoxville Nationals for the sixth time in seven years, holding off local favorite Brian Brown by 0.117 seconds Saturday night in the Sprint Car event.
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”This feels great,” Schatz said. ”This is the Knoxville Nationals.”
Schatz, from Fargo, N.D., took the lead on the 13th of 50 laps with a pass on the bottom of the track and held on to take the $150,000 winner’s check.
”I couldn’t get myself feeling very good,” Schatz said. ”I knew someone would be coming in the last couple laps. I did everything I could to keep it going forward.”
Schatz, who has finished in the top two at Nationals in 10 of the past 11 years, began noticing tire issues after being held up behind Cody Darrah’s car with three laps remaining.
”I got the air off the wing and the car just got a little weird,” Schatz said. ”I gas-pedaled it to try to get it back going and I could never get back going from that point. I used every bit of tire I could. It felt like they were canvas.”
Brown settled for a career-best second-place finish, but the near-miss didn’t lessen his post-race exuberance.
”I tell you what, I’m the happiest guy at Knoxville Raceway,” said the track regular whose previous best finish of seventh at Nationals came last year. ”Donny Schatz is a great champion. We were catching him there and I was like, `Man, OK, I want to catch him, but then what am I going to do with him?’ He’s just so smart, the way he plays traffic and I jumped the cushion one time off (turn) two when I thought I might have had something for him.”
Craig Dollansky was third, followed by Kraig Kinser and Jason Meyers.
Dollansky faulted himself for over-aggressiveness after a lap 35 restart.
”I was going to try to make a run (Schatz) and I gave up second place,” said Dollansky, who notched his fourth career podium finish at Nationals. ”Donny had a great car.”
Steve Kinser, Kraig’s father, failed to qualify for a Nationals championship feature for the first time since 1977. Steve Kinser has a record 12 Nationals titles, spanning three decades.
Former champions Danny Lasoski, Sammy Swindell and Tim Shaffer also missed the A-main.