By MIKE MALLETT
Preparation is everything in racing.
Drivers spend hours, days and weeks getting ready for races like the 360 Knoxville Nationals going over their cars meticulously to be ready to unload at the track. Unless you are the high point man Lynton Jeffrey.
Jeffrey wasn’t even sure Friday morning if he was racing. It’s a good thing he did because he ended the night third in the feature and the overall high point man to earn the pole on Saturday night.
“Not a bad job considering we didn’t have a motor this morning and didn’t know we were racing at 9:30,” said Jeffrey. “Fortunately, we talked about doing something and it came together about lunch time. We put the motor in the car and here we are. I haven’t raced a 360 since this race last year. I’m pretty happy with it.”
It will be Jeffrey’s first time starting from the pole position for an event at the Knoxville Nationals. He’ll now set the pace for the biggest 360 event in the country.
“You can’t not be,” he said when asked about being excited about starting on the pole. “Running that pace at the front of that field is going to be extraordinary. That is going to be something different for me. I’ve never really experienced that before. We’ll see what happens. We’ll just hang in there and hope to have a good car at the end of the race and not the start.”
In Friday night’s A-Main Jeffrey worked hard to get onto the podium. He had a hard-fought battle with Clint Garner for the fourth position. The pair swapped the spot several times before Jeffrey secured it in the final quarter of the race. He noted his car was where it needed to be at that point in the race.
“Clint got me a couple times,” said Jeffrey. “He got me up over the curb. I got crazy aggressive for a few laps and everything stuck and worked. The restart didn’t help me that much. I figured out something there at the end and it got me rolling. It will help me out tomorrow.”
The Mayor Does It Again
The unelected mayor of Knoxville, Brian Brown, secured the win on preliminary night. Fans swarmed him as he exited victory lane after the race wanting pictures and autographs. He remains a fan favorite at the speedway.
He wasted little time asserting his dominance Friday as he jumped to the lead on the opening lap of the 20-lap feature. He used a slide-job in turns three and four to take the point and set sail from there.
“I felt like the start was going to be very important,” said Brown. “Between Terry and I, nothing against the front row, but I felt like with our experience whoever got to the lead first and to clean air between us was going to win the race. I knew I wanted to get clean air. Once we did that, I knew it should be clean sailing.”
Brown spent much of the race hammering the cushion with his No. 21 until he got to slower traffic. At that point, Brown began moving around trying several different lines on the speedway to make sure he wasn’t giving up any time.
“I was kind of searching around there at the end,” he said. “I knew that when I got to traffic I didn’t want to be a sitting duck and not move around. I was a bit concerned because I was running the top down there (turns three and four) and they started throwing that moisture across the middle. Not knowing how far these guys were behind me, sometimes you can get beat by a guy in a shorter lane. That was my biggest concern.”
By virtue of his win and the rest of his night Brown will go off from the inside of the third row for the finale Saturday evening.
“Overall, a solid night,” said Brown. “I would have liked to qualify better than ninth, but a lot of guys want to win the A-Main too, so you can’t be picky. We are going to have our work cut out for us tomorrow, but if we get our car working right we can win from anywhere.”
McCarl in the Hunt
Terry McCarl started alongside Brown in the second row. McCarl had a great race with Christopher Thram before he ended the night in the runner-up position.
“24 cars are always tough,” said McCarl of Tham. “He did a great job. I started finding the bottom there and I got up beside him. I just didn’t get there. He took my line away. That is exactly what I would have done to him. It took me a bit to get going and get back up there.”
Due to the tire shortage, McCarl indicated that Monday’s Front Row Challenge will not feature the King of the Hill match races. Instead, drivers will compete in a series of foot races with a $3,000 purse on the line.
Kyle Larson timed eighth quick in time-trials to line-up fifth in the third qualifying heat. Larson failed to advance into the top four spots in the heat putting him into the B-Main.
Larson went on to win the 12-lap B-Main earning the 20th starting spot in the feature. He drove up through the field in his No. 57 to finish eighth in the final rundown. He had a great battle for most of the feature with Tyler Courntey who eventually finished in 11th.
Larson will start 16th in Saturday night’s 360 Knoxville Nationals finale.
Odds and Ends
Kelby Watt set fast time on the night with a lap of 16.422…Heat race wins went to Davey Heskin, Tasker Phillips, Austin Miller, Jeffrey and Ian Madsen. Dylan Westbrook had his lap disallowed in time trials after not going to the scales. He did not return to compete the rest of the night…New York driver Chase Moran made his Knoxville debut. Unfortunately the teenager brought out the red flag after he flipped at the start of his qualifying heat. He climbed out unharmed, but his Nationals are over…Daryn Pittman was running in a qualifying spot in the second heat when the powerplant appeared to expire on his Mike Heffner owned No. 27…Jamie Ball was docked a row for jumping the start of the B-Main…Heskin flipped in the A-Main on lap seven. He ran down the backstretch to show his displeasure to Madsen over the incident…The 50/50 paid $3,249 to the winner on Friday.