By MIKE MALLETT
That’s the number a points a driver can earn at the Knoxville Nationals if everything goes as planned. If you hit your marks for one perfect lap in time trials to score quick time you earn 200 points. You weave your way from an eighth starting position to win your 10 lap heat for another 100 points. Then, you go off from the eighth starting spot in the feature and eventually park yourself in Victory Lane at the end of the night scoring another 200 points. It’s no easy task.
The last person to have the perfect night? Steve Kinser in 1992. It’s been 25 years since it’s been done. That’s what made Thursday night’s dominance by David Gravel so impressive. The Watertown, Conn., driver did it. He had the perfect night on preliminary night two of the 57th running of the Knoxville Nationals at the Knoxville Raceway.
“It’s surreal right now honestly,” commented Gravel. “It hasn’t been reality yet, but it’s just awesome to win and get up here again. I won in my own car a couple years ago. I’m just happy to win another race at Knoxville and start up front. Obviously there will be a lot of pressure on Saturday, but we’ve done this for a while so we’ll enjoy this tonight and hopefully we have a solid run on Saturday night.”
Gravel’s night started with fast time before an impressive heat race performance. Gravel was in the first heat which allowed him to run a non-traditional line. Gravel went four wheels above the cushion to propel himself from eighth to the win.
“Running the curb the down was an advantage in the heat race,” mentioned Gravel. “They knocked it way down. It was like running on a brand new race track with a bunch of grip. I just ran it wide open with four above it and it was really awesome. Third, fourth, fifth heat weren’t able to do that because the curb built up and it got really rough up there. It was one of those things that I was fortunate to be in the first heat race.”
In the feature Gravel stalked race long leader Mark Dobmeier even passing him for the lead to have it negated by a caution. After the restart he went back to work, regrouped before blasting by Dobmeier in traffic with a slider in turns one and two.
“With our type of racing clean air is so important,” mentioned Gravel. “Mark was probably just as fast as I was. When we caught lapped traffic Mark probably didn’t know what to do. I found something down low a couple laps and got a run on him. Sometimes you are just a sitting duck in the lead. Fortunately I took advantage of it and it’s an awesome night.”
It was an awesome night indeed that now puts Gravel on the pole next to Donny Schatz. Schatz has multiple titles in the event while Gravel will be looking to pick up his first when the green flag comes out on Saturday night’s 50-lap A-Main.