By MIKE MALLETT
Tim Shaffer has been back in business in 2017. The Aliquippa, Pa., driver has been on top of his game scoring several wins and has been strong for much of the season. The driver of the Demyan-Rudzik Racing No. 49x kept those good times rolling on Night #1 of the 27th Annual Knoxville 360 Nationals. Shaffer led from start to finish in the 20-lap affair to claim the opening night win worth $3,000.
“Any time you get good laps, even it’s a 360 car, it helps you,” stated Shaffer after the win. “Hats off to my team. Everywhere we’ve been we’ve been learning a lot together. I think that is important. It’s all about communication with the team. It all goes to back to Cody Jacobs, he’s been awesome this year and really we are gelling together and working together. There are some key things that we learned together. We learned something new and its working.”
It’s never bad to have positive mojo at the Knoxville Nationals, regardless if it’s 410 or the 360’s. Shaffer indicated it’s been all positive this season and everyone is having fun. He believes that’s the key to his success.
“Everyone has the right attitude and we are having fun,” mentioned Shaffer. “That’s what it’s about. Right now as a whole we are having fun and working together. That’s what it’s going to take.”
His first ever 360 Nationals preliminary win helped put him in a good position for Saturday night. Shaffer was third in the overall points behind Jamie Ball and Aaron Reutzel.
Baughman Battles by Kennedy for Second
Texas native Josh Baughman battled hard with Thomas Kennedy throughout the feature with Baughmen eventually getting the better of him. Baughman had to work multiple grooves before he finally was able to dispatch Kennedy. By that point he had no chance of getting to Shaffer to challenge for a win.
“Me and Kennedy got racing hard there and it gave Shaff an opportunity to get out away from us,” said Baughman. “Once I got clear there I had to hit every lap perfect to try and run him down. The bottom is hard to hit here. Any time you can run the bottom and be good you are in it. You are going to be good. My guys gave me a great car and it was easy to drive tonight.”
Agan Scores Lucky Podium
Jon Agan was lucky to survive the start of Thursday night’s A-Main. Agan got up on the inner berm of the track at the green, did a wheelie and slammed down before shooting across the track. That caused a chain reaction which saw several cars flip down the front straightaway including Sammy Swindell. Thankfully no one was injured and for Agan’s sake he was able to continue on in order to finish third. Agan believed he had some help from behind from Aaron Reutzel who just clipped his bumper as he got sideways.
“It’s never a good thing when that happens,” cited Agan about the crash. “We got hooked. The guy starting behind us hooked us. Things never turn out well, especially at Knoxville because everybody is getting all over it and going hard. You can’t get into a guys back bumper. You can’t hook his bumper on the start like that. We are lucky, it hooked us, turned us and got the left front up on the berm. What it does it comes back down is slams the car and drives off the left rear real hard. Across the race track you go. You are trying to correct it but you are chasing it. We are extremely fortunate to come out of that clean. I hate that for everybody else. Again it all goes back to the guy hooking the bumper.”
Agan’s third place effort was good enough to put him seventh in the overall points after the first night. That should be good enough to lock him into the A-Main on Saturday night. He was sorely in need of some good luck after a tough go so far in 2017.
“As a whole we’ve been pretty fast here,” mentioned Agan. “We had a few off nights where we struggled a little bit. We led the race opening night here and got together with someone trying to pass us for the lead so we’ve had some bad luck that has cost us a little bit. Other than those nights we’ve had plenty speed. We hurt our only 360 motor on July 1st and haven’t been out since then. We came back last weekend with a brand new race car and a fresh motor and qualified well, heat raced real well, but didn’t get to run the feature. We had a power steering line go at the beginning of the feature. We really needed those laps. We were coming into tonight’s feature blind. We really didn’t know what he had for a race car. We didn’t qualify as good as we thought we would, but sometimes that works out alright. Hopefully it holds up.”
Knoxville Nationals Nuggets
Rager Phillips set fast time on the night with a 15.826 over 42 other drivers. That time was a new 360 Nationals record…
Dylan Gee started on the pole of the first heat race. He didn’t complete a lap before the rear axle broke forcing him to be towed to the pit area…
Phillips good night ended after he failed to transfer through his heat race forcing him into the B-Main. He qualified, but his A-Main ended on the first lap when he was involved in the “big-one.” He was credited with 24th…
As mentioned previously, the crash at the start of the A-Main began when Agan got out of shape off of turn four after contact from behind. He then bounced off Reutzel who shot up the track. Reutzel made contact with Swindell. He bounced off the frontstretch wall and started flipping. At that point he collected Harli White and Alex Hill. The trio flipped. Luckily everyone walked away unscathed…
Six laps later another hard crash occurred, this time between Jonathan Cornell and Joe Beaver. Cornell’s rear axle broke exiting the second corner. He shot into Beaver causing them both to go over. Just like the first crash, neither driver was injured but Cornell indicated that his weekend may be done…
Jamie Ball ended up the high point man for night one at 473 over Reutzel, Shaffer, Baughman, Kennedy and Seth Bergman. Bergman won the B-Main before finishing ninth in the feature. That was good enough for hard charger honors.