By MIKE MALLETT
A sold-out crowd awaits Saturday night’s 60th running of the Knoxville Nationals. It’s been two years since fans and myself have been able to return to the Sprint Car Capital of the World for the most prestigious event on the schedule.
The anticipation is high and the money is real in 2021 with a potential payday of $200,000. This includes $150,000 in winner’s purse with another $1,000 on the line for each lap led in the 50-lap feature.
There are so many story lines to follow on Saturday night. Can Kyle Larson get his first Knoxville Nationals Crown? Could Brent Marks score the biggest win of his career? Will the Donny Schatz of old show up to win his 11th Nationals title? Is it possible that David Gravel goes back-to-back? Does a new driver emerge victorious at the end of the night?
Before we know the answers to these questions, DirtTrackDigest.com gives you a look at the cars currently locked into the A-Main starting field thanks to staff photographers Brent Smith and Jeff Ferguson (AKA Sasquatch Racing Photos). My predictions for the winner of the A-Main and B-Main transfer cars are included as well.
A-MAIN STARTING LINE-UP THROUGH THE LENS (50 Laps)
1 Gio Scelzi
2 Brad Sweet
3 Kyle Larson
4 Brent Marks
5 Donny Schatz
6 David Gravel
7 Kasey Kahne
8 Logan Schuchart
9 Brian Brown
10 Ian Madsen
11 Brooke Tatnell
12 Tyler Courtney
13 James McFadden
14 Justin Henderson
15 Justin Peck
16 Danny Dietrich
17 Winner – Saturday’s B-Main
18 Second Place – Saturday’s B-Main
19 Third Place – Saturday’s B-Main
20 Fourth Place – Saturday’s B-Main
21 Rico Abreu
22 Anthony Macri
23 Shane Stewart
24 Brock Zearfoss
A-MAIN PREDICTION: The front of the field is loaded with talent and winning pedigree. Of course Kyle Larson has to come into the feature event as the favorite. He’s won nearly every big race he’s entered. The biggest win missing from his dirt resume is the Knoxville Nationals. He’s the obvious choice, but I’m not taking the safe pick.
I’m going with the 10-time champion Donny Schatz. Schatz isn’t the hot pick or the popular pick. His 2021 hasn’t been up to his standards, but on his preliminary night he looked like the Donny of old with a chip on his shoulder. He was asked to give his thoughts on Larson after his third place run on Wednesday night during the press conference. He wasn’t having it. He’s focused, and more importantly, his car was glued to the bottom and the fastest car at the end of the night. The Knoxville Nationals is typically won on the bottom. Schatz will leave as an 11 time champion.
B-MAIN (22 Laps, Top Four to A)
1 Josh Baughman 2 Carson Macedo 3 Sye Lynch 4 Spencer Bayston 5 Cory Eliason 6 Kraig Kinser 7 Paul McMahan 8 Kerry Madsen 9 Sheldon Haudenschild 10 Sam Hafertepe Jr. 11 Scott Bogucki 12 Jac Haudenschild 13 Shane Golobic 14 Bill Balog 15 Kyle Reinhardt 16 Lynton Jeffrey 17 Josh Schneiderman 18 Davey Heskin 19 Daryn Pittman 20 Sammy Swindell
B-MAIN PREDICTION: Carson Macedo wins the B-Main after the huge mistake that cost him a place in the A-Main on Thursday night. Kerry Madsen, who was caught up in that incident, will be able to drive his Tony Stewart Racing No. 14 up from eighth into the show with Sheldon Haudenschild in tow. Cory Eliason will find a way to put his Rudeen Racing No. 26 into a transfer position at the end to complete the transfer cars.
C-MAIN (15 Laps, Top Four to B)
1 Wayne Johnson 2 Hunter Schuerenberg 3 Harli White 4 Tim Shaffer 5 Roger Crockett 6 AJ Moeller 7 Carson McCarl 8 McKenna Haase 9 Aryton Gennetten 10 Clint Garner 11 Matt Juhl 12 Sawyer Phillips 13 Colby Copeland 14 Mike Wagner 15 Tasker Phillips 16 Tim Kaeding 17 Terry McCarl 18 Tanner Carrick 19 Marcus Dumesny 20 Zeb Wise
D-MAIN (12 Laps, Top Four to C)
1 Mark Dobmeier 2 Jack Dover 3 Scotty Thiel 4 Dustin Selvage 5 Chad Kemenah 6 Jessie Attard 7 Skylar Gee 8 Chris Martin 9 Lucas Wolfe 10 Noah Gass 11 Robbie Kendall 12 Jordan Goldesberry 13 Derek Hagar 14 Jake Bubak 15 Greg Wilson 16 Ryan Roberts 17 Don Droud Jr. 18 Jeff Swindell 19 Riley Goodno 20 TJ Stutts
E-MAIN (10 Laps, Top Four to D)
1 Jason Sides 2 Austin Miller 3 John Carney II 4 Joe Simbro 5 Dylan Cisney 6 Jacob Allen 7 Tori Knutson 8 Bobby Mincer 9 Tyler Esh 10 Kevin Ingle 11 Logan Wagner 12 Ryan Giles 13 Austin McCarl 14 Skylar Prochaska 15 Matt Moro