By MIKE MALLETT
If you are going to pick up your first Knoxville Raceway victory, there is no better time than the Knoxville Nationals.
Trey Starks admits he and his team have had some struggles in 2019 after making the decision to run weekly at Knoxville. They haven’t been able to quite get up to speed and the numerous rainouts this year haven’t helped them get laps to make the improvements necessary to get more consistent.
Wednesday night things finally all fell into place for the Washington State native. He went off from the outside of the second row, moved up to second quickly before eventually taking the lead and hanging on for the big win.
“We haven’t had the best season here at Knoxville for a few reasons,” mentioned Starks. “We have had a ton of rain. It feels like we’ve rained half the races out. Some nights we haven’t even been fast here. We’ve had some really bad luck and not so great runs here in the last month.
“Rolling into it, we were like ‘this is not how we need to be coming into the biggest month of the year.’ I know we are a product of our circumstances tonight. There were a lot of really fast guys that couldn’t make it through their heat. That makes a lot less guys out in front that you have to beat. It was great points night for us. I can’t believe it. We haven’t been this up to speed. To win our preliminary night insane.”
Starks battled with Mark Dobmeier. Dobmeier, who traditionally is good on the top of the track, was dedicated to that line. That forced Starks to look for something different. Eventually he found a lane on the bottom of the track which allowed him to use a slide job in turns three and four to take the lead. From there he moved around the track constantly looking for the quickest groove.
“I knew Mark was going to like the top and I, myself like the top,” cited Starks. “I hardly ever go to the bottom here. Frankly, I’m awful at it. I did okay tonight, I guess. We were good on the bottom in our heat race and that is kind of the point of running here, to get a little better at this race track. We’ve got some more chances to help ourselves around the bottom. And me just getting laps here.
“I used to be a strictly top guy, but I knew that was where Mark was going to be so I had to be on the bottom. I tried not to show my cards too early. One and two was significantly better on the bottom than three and four was. I knew I had to get him in one shot, then go wherever the racetrack let me go and was fastest.”
The win was a much-needed lift for Starks and the whole team. It’s been a pretty tough week. They have missed races, blown motors and frankly struggled. To say the confidence level wasn’t where he needed it to be would be an understatement.
“We’ve frankly had an awful week,” he said. “We’ve had terrible luck. The Capitani, we were not fast at all in qualifying. We found some major things wrong with the car. It was way too late. You are buried in a B-Main and you’re not good. At Osky (Southern Iowa Speedway) we had a decent top 10 run going only to run out of fuel with two laps to go, which was frustrating. Last night we got another decent top 10 run going and blew up our 360 motor. We hadn’t strung the runs together that makes you feel comfortable rolling into the Nationals.
“Rolling into Nationals you’d like to have some good speed here at this track. The Capitani is probably one if not the hardest race of the year. It’s understandable if you aren’t in contention for the win, but we were deep in the B-Main. That hurt our spirits a little bit.”
That all changed on Wednesday night as Starks was able to take advantage of the situation presented to him to right the ship. This win will go a long way toward morale moving forward.
“Like I said earlier, we were a product of circumstances,” commented Starks. “We were decent in qualifying, picked up the positions we needed to in the heat and I think we made the right adjustments and I made a couple of key decisions in the feature to put us here where we are. If you break it down, it’s not miraculous what happened, its just not necessarily expected. We were hoping to build some good points, but ended up with the win, which is fantastic.”