Larson Capitalizes On Night 1 of Goodyear Knoxville Nationals

Larson Capitalizes On Night 1 of Goodyear Knoxville Nationals
Severe afternoon storm leads to a late night for World of Outlaws at Knoxville Raceway
KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Aug. 8, 2012 – He’s done it again.
Kyle Larson, the phenom who wins in anything and everything he races, claimed the opening night of the 52nd annual Goodyear Knoxville Nationals on a stormy Wednesday at Knoxville Raceway in his first attempt in the prestigious event.

“Getting a win at Knoxville is so big, but it’s only a prelim night,” Larson said after winning the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series event. “It’s going to be tough for sure, but tonight gave me a lot of confidence going into Saturday.”

Larson took the checkered flags for the first time at the famed half mile around 1 a.m. to complete the weather-delayed opener in the biggest weekend in sprint car racing. Night Two of qualifying is Thursday with Opening Ceremonies scheduled for 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, a vicious storm blanketed the area with rain, wind and lightning around 4:20 p.m. The facility was under a severe thunderstorm warning during the storm, which lasted more than an hour before tractors began to work the soggy grounds. Cars first touched the track around 9 p.m. – approximately two hours late.

The weather also set up for a fast track and conditions that made it tough to pass most of the night. Eight of the top 10 qualifiers failed to advance out of the heats and it didn’t get any easier in the 25-lap main event.

Polesitter Davey Heskin dominated the first half of the race before the first caution on lap 14 for Mike Reinke, who stopped in turn four. At the same time the caution waved, second-running Randy Hannagan went up in smoke on the frontstretch after a fitting broke. His car caught fire under caution and had to be extinguished in the work area to cap Hannagan’s night.

Jason Sides utilized a near-perfect slide job on Heskin for the lead in turn two on the restart and Larson slid Heskin for the runner-up position in turn four. The trio entered traffic in a tight battle with seven laps remaining and a lap later, Sides’ left rear tire exploded in turn two. He spun around and ended up tipping over, which gave Larson the lead.

Sides was able to continue, but stopped in turn four with four laps remaining to set up another late restart. This time Brian Paulus was on Larson’s tail after narrowly passing Heskin on the previous lap. However, Paulus slowed dramatically while running second as he was facing the white flag and eventually brought out the final caution, which set up a green-white-checkered finish.

Larson sailed to the lead on the restart and Heskin held off Donny Schatz for second place after the duo traded slide jobs in the closing laps.

“I was just lucky to get back by Schatz,” Heskin said.

Schatz, the defending Goodyear Knoxville Nationals champion and the winner in five of the last six events, joked about being the elder of the podium finishers and praised Larson for the big win.

“This kid’s got a lot of talent in everything he drives,” Schatz said. “It’s good to see the younger guys come up.”

Craig Dollansky charged from 22nd to finish fourth and Lucas Wolfe ended fifth. Brooke Tatnell was sixth, 23rd-starter Shane Stewart placed seventh, 21st-starter Joey Saldana finished eighth, Dustin Selvage was ninth and Jonathan Allard rounded out the top 10.