Auto racing: Survive and advance at Knoxville

·12 min read

Aug. 12—KNOXVILLE — Donny Schatz knows what it takes to win at Knoxville.

That might explain why Schatz left night one of 410 qualifying for 2022 Knoxville Nationals feeling somewhat disappointed. Despite finishing on the podium after coming home as the runner-up in the A-Main on Wednesday night, tying David Gravel for first place in points with 469, Schatz felt like it was a sub-par filled with somewhat subpar results.

"To say I'm somewhat disappointed? Yeah, I didn't really beat anyone in those heat races. The bottom lane-and-a-half wasn't even close to being run. It wasn't running when we qualified. I was pretty furious about that, but what do you do. I don't do the race track.

"This is the Knoxville Nationals. This is our biggest race. It's kind of surreal to think about all the different equations that could have occurred. Guys that aren't close to being in the show qualified in the top eight. I'll be curious to see if it continues that way."

While Schatz had a look of frustration, Logan Schuchart was again all smiles walking off the track at the Knoxville Raceway. The winner on Sunday of the Capitani Classic scored the A-Main win on Wednesday night, picking up $12,000 and 444 points leaving the 27-year-old Pennsylvania native in eighth place with one night of qualifying left for 50 other cars to try and top Schuchart's top-10 total.

"It definitely feels good to pick up two wins at Knoxville," Schuchart said. "When you look at the big picture, I'd like to be better in qualifying. It was the same thing at the Capitani (Classic) on Sunday. We didn't qualify as good as we needed to. I need to do a little homework and figure out why we're qualifying as well as we need to.

"We raced well. As the race went on, I didn't feel as good as what I needed to. I felt like I wanted to move off the top, but I felt like I was taking a big chance not really knowing how my car would react to it. It looked like there was a lot of meat in the middle of the race track."

Schuchart led at the outset of the 25-lap main event from the pole position ahead of Gio Scelzi, James McFadden, Cole Macedo and Justin Peck. Peck hit the low side of four to get by Macedo for fourth.

Davey Heskin slowed six laps in to bring the second cushion. On the restart, McFadden gained second from Scelzi, while Macedo retook fourth from McFadden.

"I think we're good when we get the race track like this and get to racing around," said Schuchart. "I wanted to diamond the corner. The middle had so much meat, but I didn't feel like I could do it. I kind of felt like a sitting duck. I thought I'd see Donny there at the end, but we were able to hold on for the win."

Schatz also entered the top five at that point, but fell back as 360 Nationals champion Aaron Reutzel moved in front of the 10-time Nationals winner on lap eight.

It wasn't easy by any means," Schatz said. "It gave us an opportunity from Sunday night to try a little something and we were a little freer there."

Ian Madsen slowed to a stop to bring the final caution on lap nine. Schuchart led McFadden, Macedo, Scelzi, Reutzel and Schatz back to green.

The track really got racy at that point. Scelzi regained third and moving by McFadden for second on lap 11 while Schatz was regaining momentum as well moving up to fourth.

We passed some cars and may have found something that should help us on Saturday," Schatz said. "It was a frustrating overall night, but ultimately points are important on a night like this"

On lap 13, Schatz worked by McFadden for third and took second from Scelzi four laps later setting his sights on the leader. Schuchart and Schatz hit lapped traffic with seven laps to go.

"It looked like there was a lot of meat in the middle of the race track," Schuchart said. "I had a feeling Donny would be coming at the bottom. I didn't want to cut my momentum off to go down there and try it. I just kept running my line."

In the end, Schuchart beat Schatz as lap traffic ultimately slowed the 10-time Nationals champion down over the final two laps. Gravel, Scelzi and McFadden made it to the finish line placing in the top five while Reutzel, Peck, Macedo, Corey Day and Roger Crockett rounded out the top 10.

"I got to Logan at one point, but I never really tried the top," Schatz said. "I started getting pretty aggressive trying to get there, but then I started big-picture racing. There were several lap cars. One was stopped at the bottom of three and four. I started to play a little more cautious towards the end."

By not pushing the issue and settling for second in the A-Main, Schatz and Gravel ended Thursday holding down the top two spots in qualifying for Saturday's 50-lap race for the Knoxville Nationals title. While Schatz was making his charge towards Schuchart at the front of the field, Gravel powered past Scelzi to finish on the podium on Wednesday to clinch a share of the first-night points lead.

"It's not a great point total (469). I don't know if I've ever seen that at the Nationals where all the fast guys didn't transfer through," Gravel said. "There was just a lot of grease at the bottom of the race track. It made it difficult to make anything happen.

"I'm happy to finish the A-Main the way we did. It just felt like a sloppy night. We definitely have work to do."

Before a lap could be completed in the A-Main, Brandon Wimmer came to a stop and retired. Wimmer replaced broken valve after crossing the finish line with a win in the third heat race, edging Justin Peck despite pouring smoke out of the back of the vehicle throughout the final two laps.

"I (thought) we we're down a cylinder," Wimmer said after winning the third heat. "We don't have another engine, so we're hoping it's nothing too serious."

Parker Price-Miller set quick time over the 51-car field and won the B main. Carson Short, Day, Brandon Wimmer, Scotty Thiel and Mark Dobmeier won the heats. Brock Zearfoss claimed the C-main.

"The car felt great. I just had to figure out that lane," Dobmeier said after winning the fifth heat race of the night. "The track started loosening up as the night moved along. Hopefully, we've figured out the fastest lane to run for this weekend."

Night two of qualifying, featuring defending Knoxville Nationals and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, was ongoing Thursday night as the Courier went to press.

AUTO RACING

61st NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals

Time Trials (Qualifying Order), 2 laps: 1. 11M, Parker Price-Miller, Kokomo, IN (10), 15.362; 2. 19, Brent Marks, Myerstown, PA (3), 15.543; 3. 39, Justin Sanders, Aromas, CA (17), 15.544; 4. 2KS, Ian Madsen, St. Mary's, NSW, Aust. (6), 15.577; 5. 49J, Josh Schneiderman, West Burlington, IA (9), 15.584; 6. 3, Ayrton Gennetten, Gravois Mills, MO (24), 15.606; 7. 3P, Sawyer Phillips, Pleasantville, IA (2), 15.628; 8. 17, Sheldon Haudenschild, Wooster, OH (12), 15.632; 9. 17W, Shane Golobic, Fremont, CA (11), 15.664; 10. 2, David Gravel, Watertown, CT (20), 15.664; 11. 15, Donny Schatz, Fargo, ND (32), 15.691; 12. 55T, McKenna Haase, Des Moines, IA (30), 15.700; 13. 21H, Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow, OK (7), 15.700; 14. 7S, Robbie Price, Cobble Hill, BC, Can. (13), 15.717; 15. 7, Justin Henderson, Tea, SD (29), 15.751; 16. 71, Cory Eliason, Visalia, CA (46), 15.764; 17. 24, Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA (16), 15.780; 18. 7W, Dustin Selvage, Indianola, IA (5), 15.791; 19. 40, Clint Garner, Sioux Falls, SD (1), 15.792; 20. 1AU, Marcus Dumesny, Sydney, NSW, Aust. (31), 15.798; 21. 8, Aaron Reutzel, Clute, TX (49), 15.802; 22. 14J, Cole Macedo, Lemoore, CA (14), 15.803; 23. 13, Justin Peck, Monrovia, IN (34), 15.807; 24. 18, Gio Scelzi, Fresno, CA (47), 15.831; 25. 83, James McFadden, Warrnambool, VIC, Aust. (36), 15.869; 26. 1S, Logan Schuchart, Hanover, PA (33), 15.871; 27. 16A, Colby Copeland, Roseville, CA (28), 15.896; 28. 101, Lachlan McHugh, Gold Coast, QLD, Aust. (51), 15.909; 29. 11, Roger Crockett, Broken Arrow, OK (22), 15.917; 30. 84, Scott Bogucki, McLaren Vale, SA, Aust. (25), 15.923; 31. 20, AJ Moeller, Rockwell City, IA (40), 15.937; 32. 14, Corey Day, Clovis, CA (42), 15.944; 33. 55, Hunter Schuerenberg, Sikeston, MO (27), 15.958; 34. 2M, Davey Heskin, St. Michael, MN (48), 15.963; 35. 55W, Mike Wagner, Harrisonville, PA (18), 15.966; 36. 17C, Carson Short, Marion, IL (15), 15.979; 37. 91, Kyle Reinhardt, Neptune City, NJ (44), 15.983; 38. 6B, Brandon Wimmer, Fairmount, IN (41), 16.003; 39. 73, Scotty Thiel, Sheboygan, WI (38), 16.006; 40. 13JT, Mark Dobmeier, Grand Forks, ND (37), 16.029; 41. 3Z, Brock Zearfoss, Jonestown, PA (35), 16.032; 42. 47X, Dylan Westbrook, Scotland, ONT, Can. (26), 16.138; 43. 65, Jordan Goldesberry, Springfield, IL (19), 16.151; 44. 2KK, Kevin Ingle, Huron, SD (4), 16.174; 45. 10, Skylar Prochaska, Lakefield, MN (21), 16.225; 46. 1X, Jake Bubak, Arvada, CO (45), 16.283; 47. 1M, Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, NE (50), 16.286; 48. 22, Riley Goodno, Knoxville, IA (39), 16.314; 49. 9JR, Derek Hagar, Marion, AR (43), 16.388; 50. 45, Rusty Hickman, Bendigo, VIC, Aust. (8), 16.612; 51. 52, Blake Hahn, Sapulpa, OK (23), NT

Heat one (started), 10 Laps, 2:43.0: 1. Carson Short (1); 2. Aaron Reutzel (4); 3. Logan Schuchart (3); 4. Donny Schatz (6) / 5. AJ Moeller (2); 6. Cory Eliason (5); 7. Ayrton Gennetten (7); 8. Parker Price-Miller (8) / 9. Brock Zearfoss (9); 10. Jake Bubak (10)

Heat two (started), 10 Laps, 2:42.3: 1. Corey Day (2); 2. Kyle Reinhardt (1); 3. Colby Copeland (3); 4. Cole Macedo (4) / 5. Brent Marks (8); 6. Terry McCarl (5); 7. McKenna Haase (6); 8. Sawyer Phillips (7) / 9. Dylan Westbrook (9) DNS — 10. Don Droud Jr.

Heat three (started), 10 Laps, NT: 1. Brandon Wimmer (1); 2. Justin Peck (4); 3. Hunter Schuerenberg (2); 4. Lachlan McHugh (3) / 5. Justin Sanders (8); 6. Brady Bacon (6); 7. Dustin Selvage (5); 8. Sheldon Haudenschild (7) / 9. Jordan Goldesberry (9); 10. Riley Goodno (10)

Heat four (started), 10 Laps, 2:44.6: 1. Scotty Thiel (1); 2. Gio Scelzi (4); 3. Davey Heskin (2); 4. Roger Crockett (3) / 5. Robbie Price (6); 6. Shane Golobic (7); 7. Ian Madsen (8); 8. Kevin Ingle (9) / 9. Derek Hagar (10); 10. Clint Garner (5)

Heat five (started), 10 Laps, 2:44.0: 1. Mark Dobmeier (1); 2. James McFadden (4); 3. Mike Wagner (2); 4. David Gravel (7) / 5. Justin Henderson (6); 6. Scott Bogucki (3); 7. Marcus Dumesny (5); 8. Josh Schneiderman (8) / 9. Skylar Prochaska (9) DNS — 10. Rusty Hickman

C main (started), 10 Laps, 2:42.4: 1. Brock Zearfoss (2); 2. Dylan Westbrook (3); 3. Riley Goodno (8); 4. Jordan Goldesberry (4) / 5. Derek Hagar (7); 6. Skylar Prochaska (5); 7. Jake Bubak (6); 8. Clint Garner (1) DNS — 9. Don Droud Jr., 10. Rusty Hickman 11. Blake Hahn

B main (started), 12 Laps, 3:23.6: 1. Parker Price-Miller (1); 2. Brent Marks (2); 3. Ian Madsen (4); 4. Justin Sanders (3) / 5. Ayrton Gennetten (6); 6. Sheldon Haudenschild (8); 7. Shane Golobic (9); 8. Justin Henderson (13); 9. Brady Bacon (11); 10. McKenna Haase (10); 11. Josh Schneiderman (5); 12. Dustin Selvage (16); 13. Cory Eliason (14); 14. Robbie Price (12); 15. Brock Zearfoss (19); 16. Terry McCarl (15); 17. Sawyer Phillips (7); 18. Marcus Dumesny (17); 19. Riley Goodno (21); 20. Dylan Westbrook (22); 21. Jordan Goldesberry (23); 22. Kevin Ingle (20); 23. Scott Bogucki (18) DNS — 24. AJ Moeller

A main (started), 25 Laps, NT: 1. Logan Schuchart (1); 2. Donny Schatz (7); 3. David Gravel (8); 4. Gio Scelzi (3); 5. James McFadden (2); 6. Aaron Reutzel (6); 7. Justin Peck (4); 8. Cole Macedo (5); 9. Corey Day (12); 10. Roger Crockett (11); 11. Hunter Schuerenberg (13); 12. Parker Price-Miller (21); 13. Brent Marks (22); 14. Colby Copeland (9); 15. Justin Sanders (24); 16. Kyle Reinhardt (17); 17. Carson Short (16); 18. Scotty Thiel (19); 19. Mike Wagner (15); 20. Lachlan McHugh (10); 21. Mark Dobmeier (20); 22. Ian Madsen (23); 23. Davey Heskin (14); 24. Brandon Wimmer (18). Lap Leader: Schuchart 1-25. Hard-charger: Price-Miller.

Wednesday Points

1 15 Donny Schatz 469

2 2 David Gravel 469

3 19 Brent Marks 462

4 11M Parker Price-Miller 457

5 39 Justin Sanders 456

6 8 Aaron Reutzel 447

7 18 Gio Scelzi 445

8 1S Logan Schuchart 444

9 83 James McFadden 441

10 13 Justin Peck 441

11 14J Cole Macedo 435

12 2KS Ian Madsen 434

13 14 Corey Day 422

14 11 Roger Crockett 417

15 16A Colby Copeland 416

16 3 Ayrton Gennetten 414

17 55 Hunter Schuerenberg 410

18 17W Shane Golobic 407

19 17 Sheldon Haudenschild 405

20 49J Josh Schneiderman 401

21 101 Lachlan McHugh 399

22 17C Carson Short 398

23 7 Justin Henderson 396

24 91 Kyle Reinhardt 395

25 21H Brady Bacon 395

26 55T McKenna Haase 392

27 73 Scotty Thiel 390

28 55W Mike Wagner 390

29 7S Robbie Price 386

30 3P Sawyer Phillips 385

31 2M Davey Heskin 384

32 13JT Mark Dobmeier 382

33 71 Cory Eliason 381

34 6B Brandon Wimmer 380

35 7W Dustin Selvage 376

36 24 Terry McCarl 373

37 1AU Marcus Dumesny 360

38 84 Scott Bogucki 333

39 20 AJ Moeller 332

40 40 Clint Garner 323

41 3Z Brock Zearfoss 318

42 47X Dylan Westbrook 306

43 65 Jordan Goldesberry 302

44 2KK Kevin Ingle 301

45 22 Riley Goodno 293

46 10 Skylar Prochaska 278

47 9JR Derek Hagar 272

48 1X Jake Bubak 271

49 1M Don Droud Jr. 265

50 45 Rusty Hickman 257

51 52 Blake Hahn 230

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.