News, Notes and Quotes from the Capitani Classic at Knoxville Raceway – DTD Exclusive

By MIKE MALLETT

KNOXVILLE, IA – Brad Sweet got a big confidence boost on Sunday night at the Knoxville Raceway in the eighth running of the Capitani Classic.  The Grass Valley, Calif., driver dominated the 25-lap feature go by leading every lap.  He was simply untouchable at the front of the field.

Afterwards Sweet did his best to put the night in perspective as Sunday started his week long quest for his first ever Knoxville Nationals title.  The Capitani Classic was an important stepping stone toward that, but he was realistic about what it means for later in the week.

“You got to look at who you are racing and when you take (David) Gravel, (Kyle) Larson and (Donny) Schatz out of it, I run second in all the big races to those guys,” mentioned Sweet.  “I came here with a lot of confidence to win this race.  I didn’t feel like it was super important, but racing against Donny and Gravel night in and night out, these guys don’t necessarily have that experience.  Brian Brown is one of the favorites to win the Nationals, but a lot of the other favorites aren’t here so you don’t really know how you stack up.  It’s just confidence.”

Sweet earned the best starting spot in field after an impeccable performance in the pole scramble.  The top eight drivers in time that transferred through heat races competed head-to-head, one-on-one with the winner moving on and the loser earning that starting position.  Sweet won all seven rounds.  He beat several heavy hitters including local favorite Brown in the process to earn the pole.

“In the scramble we kind of hit on something,” said Sweet.  “I would say it was essential in winning the race, but I would also say it was essential in giving us confidence moving forward here tonight.  I definitely think being on the pole was the place to be tonight for us.”

For Sweet the additional track time was key.  Each time his No. 49, Kasey Kahne Racing mount hit the track the team put a different setup in the car.  This testing and tuning will only help as he looks to gain speed on qualifying night and hopefully for Saturday night’s $150,000 to win A-Main.

“If you don’t try anything you aren’t going to learn anything,” commented Sweet.  “Every time the car hit the track it had a different setup in it tonight.  Even though we were on the pole of the A and wanted to win, we still wanted to try something just to make sure we were on the right track.  That is what we accomplished.  It was a good night for us.”

Sunday night Sweet was the dominant car running the inner hub of the speedway.  He only navigated off the bottom in traffic when he absolutely had to.  He did get a mid-race red that cleared the way for him.  From that point forward the driver known as ‘the big cat’ was methodical in hitting his marks on the inner groove of the speedway.  That was a byproduct of his car not being as good as it needed to be on the top.  It is something he knows must be improved.

“You can run 25 on the bottom, but if the bottom isn’t the place to be then it’s not going to do you any good,” said Sweet.  “I think you really need to be able to run all three lanes, especially to win the Knoxville Nationals.  You see Donny year in year out.  He runs the bottom when he needs to run the bottom.  He can pound the top when he needs to pound the top and he can go across the middle when he needs to.  I felt like we were close to that tonight.”

The next time Sweet hits the track at Knoxville will be Thursday night as he attempts to qualify for the 58th Annual Knoxville Nationals.  He works all year for the chance at Nationals glory.  He’s been close in the past and as of late it seems he is close in every big race he enters.  He hopes that this year is finally the year he can break through and beat Donny Schatz or another of the 100 or so entries in the event.

“When we start with Florida in February I start taking notes for the Knoxville Nationals,” cited Sweet.  “It is my all-time passion in life is to win this race.  They are all big races, the Kings Royal, we’ve been right there, but obviously this is the make or break race for us.  We are putting a lot of effort into it.  I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself.  I’m trying to do everything I can to beat the man and he’s hard to beat.”

Macedo Continues to Impress

It has been well documented how much pressure must be on driver Carson Macedo after he took the driving duties for the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41 this week.  The California native has been simply on point all week.  He won his qualifying night before finishing second in the Knoxville 360 Nationals.  On Sunday he continued his strong performances finishing in second.  As a result, his confidence is soaring right now.

“Knoxville is so unique so I think any laps here in a 360 or a 410, its seat time,” stated Macedo.  “It’s being here.  It’s being better at being smooth and running good laps.  Running the 360 Nationals was a huge confidence booster to me.  Obviously being able to have two really good runs and last night I felt like had circumstances been a little bit different, had the rubber maybe not laid down, we could have got another win.  Going into tonight that confidence lifts you up and makes you perform lot better.”

Like Sweet, Macedo used Sunday as a means of improving for the all-important qualifying night run.  He hasn’t really had the chance to work the bottom of the race track.  Sunday night he made it a point to work that lane once Sweet pulled away.

“Late in the race I tried to focus on running the bottom,” he said.  “It’s something I haven’t been able to do a lot yet.  I need to be better at it, especially come Saturday night of the 410 Nationals.  If we are lucky enough to put ourselves in a good position to be up front it would be a major key to be able to run the bottom.”

Capitani Classic Counterpoints

There were 67 cars pit-side for the eighth edition of the Capitani Classic…

Raindrops fell from the sky during the first few hot laps sessions.  It was never more than a brief sprinkle as a majority of the heavy rain remained north of the speedway throughout the evening…

Kyle Reinhardt flipped in hot laps following contact with R.J. Johnson in turns three and four.  His car was a complete loss and he did not return to action on the night.  He was able to climb from the car under his own power…

The field was split into two groups with Lynton Jeffrey setting fast time for group one with a lap of 15.412.  Aaron Reutzel was fastest in the second group with a lap of 15.587…

Heat race wins were taken by Tim Shaffer, Brock Zearfoss, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Chad Kemenah, Davey Heskin and Parker-Price Miller.  B-Main victories went to Jeffrey and Kerry Madsen…

Speaking of Madsen, he made an impressive charge in the A-Main coming from the 20th starting position to finish in sixth…

Rager Phillips flipped during his B-Main while Matt Juhl flipped in turn two during the A-Main.   Both drivers walked away…

Bill Balog had significant smoke pouring out of his car after the B-Main…

Only three regulars with the World of Outlaws competed on Sunday night after Iron Man 55 the night before.  Joining Brad Sweet was his teammate Daryn Pittman as well as Shane Stewart.  Stewart finished fifth in the A-Main while Pittman failed to make the show…

The 50/50 on the night paid $3,186.