By MIKE MALLETT
The Hard Knox program gives drivers one more chance to lock into the 50-lap A-Main at the Knoxville Nationals. Drivers earn starting spots 21 through 24 based on their finishing order in the night’s feature event..
On this night it was two drivers that have had Friday success before in Rico Abreu and Shane Stewart along with Pennsylvania drivers Anthony Macri and Brock Zearfoss picking up coveted spots in the 60th running of the Knoxville Naitonals.
They each gave their thoughts about running on Friday night while also securing a position in the feature as they go for a shot at $150,000.
Rico Abreu (Winner): “It’s just the circumstance we got put in. I just show up to these races to win, and I’ve really worked on my mindset and my emotions as a driver to not beat myself up so much over a poor finish. I’ve gotten older and accepted more how difficult Sprint Car racing is and how easy it is to be inconsistent, and me racing with the Outlaws, I’ve seen how easily these guys can get off, but how quickly they can get right back on and get to where they need to be. Over the last few years we’ve made some crew changes and some chemistry changes. I’ve focused on working with others because I learn more from each person I work with, taking little bits and pieces and moving on to the next race.”
Anthony Macri (Second Place): “I’m still speechless, honestly. This is like my seventh trip to Knoxville, so to put it into the Knoxville Nationals is unreal to me and a dream come true. I’m struggling for words right now. I think I’ll go to Dingus and have a late start to work tomorrow.
“I can tell you right now our main goal this year was to put it in the Knoxville Nationals. I don’t want to seem like a bitch right now, but I might cry. That was the main goal for this year and we got it done. Running on the road this year has changed me as a driver. I know how hard you have to race and keep your emotions in check, and when you suck one night, don’t let it get to your head and move onto the next night. Running night in and night out with these guys for the month and a half or so we were on the road changed me as a driver and going back to PA kind of proved that. This year, we have seven wins, but I feel like we’re in a slump and could do better. Overall, I’m honestly ecstatic about the progression of this team and I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Shane Steward (Third Place): “Coming into this race, I’ve only ran a couple times all year. Even then, my goal stayed the same to get into the main for this race. We still got to do well early in the night, but we’ve been struggling to find speed since we’ve been here. I think we’ve done a good job making changes and getting me more comfortable in this car. The speed here has changed so much over the past three or four years.”
“I’m just thankful they have this night, for the longest time, and the last two Nationals I’ve had to come through this race. Because of that these last couple years have been my toughest runs at the Nationals.”
Brock Zearfoss (Fourth Place): “Getting in is a huge confidence booster, huge for morale for this team. I’ve been through a rough patch all year with the concussion and all that, behind the eight ball and tearing up cars because of that, so it’s important for my team and myself to come here and be competitive and lock it in. My guys have been through a lot fixing cars for me all season, so it feels good to get it done for them.”
Each of these drivers will be looking for some luck and a solid finish on Saturday night in the finale as they race for $150,000.