By MIKE MALLETT
Practice makes perfect.
At least that’s what Logan Schuchart is hoping for after winning Sunday night’s Capitani Classic at the Knoxville Raceway to kick-off the 410 Sprint Car portion of the 2022 Knoxville Nationals. Schuchart was looking to get some seat time in preparation for his qualifying night.
“It just feels good to win a race,” said Schuchart. “We’ve been kind of struggling this year. We don’t usually run this race, but I always seem to qualify on Wednesday and we get a lockdown, hammer down track. I just wanted to get some laps. Even when we are here in June the track is pretty fast. It’s always slick tonight. I just wanted to get some laps and try some things to see how we felt. Maybe it will help, hopefully Saturday night. It’s nice to get in victory lane and hopefully learn some things.”
Schuchart faced heavy pressure from none other than the former king of the Knoxville Nationals. Schatz actually stole the lead away from Schuchart for one circuit before a lapped car impeded his progress. That opened the door for Schuchart to drive back by on the bottom.
Schuchart’s night nearly ended on lap 21 when Brady Bacon broke coming down the backstretch. Schuchart got into the back of him. Luckily, no damage was done and he was able to continue on. He led the final handful of laps for the $9,000 win.
“Obviously, I don’t know where he is going to go,” said Schuchart of Schatz. “I felt like he was faster than I was. The last lapped car helped me out and took his line the one lap. I was able to sneak back by. It about bit me right after that with Brady having trouble. With the caution coming back out and getting the race track back to myself I tried to make myself as wide as possible. He passed me on the bottom. I tried to slide myself and hopefully mess up his entry if he was right on my bumper. I had no idea where he was at.”
Donny Onto Something
Donny Schatz didn’t win, but he came close and he was impressive in doing so. Schatz rolled off eighth in the feature before driving to the lead. A lap car cost him the spot. From there he chased Schuchart until the final checkered flag flew at the end of the 25-lap A-Main.
“I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason to what you do in what corner,” said Schatz about the lapped car. “I think it’s just if you are on the outside of the race track or close and you got the wheels turning you better be up there. If you get caught up you go to the bottom. You guys (media) can watch how everyone is racing. It is different than it was five years ago. You just go wherever you have to and leave the pedal down and hopefully it catches up.”
After the caution with five to go, there wasn’t a line on the speedway that Schatz didn’t try. He used every inch of the wide Knoxville surface to get back around Schuchart for the lead.
“I went high, went low, went in the middle and tried to slide myself to,” said Schatz. “We just did a little bit of everything to try and figure out how to get there. You could gauge yourself off where Logan was. You get running the top and lose a bunch of ground or get turned across and get a run. You just had to keep trying things until something worked. I just ran out of laps.”
It seemed as if Schatz was very comfortable in the car, but he saw things differently.
“Comfortable and racing is a thing of the past,” said Schatz. “It is whatever you got to do to get grip, get drive. You see guys bounce off walls, cars on inside berms, you do what you have to. My guys have definitely done a phenomenal job of trying to get things more comfortable for me.
“I don’t think we’ll have that level of comfort that we had years ago that the cars were stuck the way they were. It’s a fine line. There is so much good competition that it’s a fine line of aggressive and super aggressive anymore versus a fine line between finesse and aggressive.”
A-A-Ron Keeps on Rolling
Quietly finishing in the third position was 360 Knoxville Nationals champion Aaron Reutzel. Reutzel ran a steady race. He didn’t have anything for the front two, but no one behind him could keep pace with his No. 8.
Sunday night was the first time Reutzel was able to make the feature directly from his qualifying heat since the inception of the event.
“It’s good to bring some momentum into Nationals,” said Reutzel. “I’ve always qualified really well for this race, started in the second row every year I’ve come here and I’ve never made the A out of the heat race. It is a plus to finally make the A straight out of the heat race. Our car is really good right now. I think tonight we tried a few more things. I’m pretty happy with a few of the things. I think a few other things we’ll change, but this is good momentum going into the weekend.”
It was not a good night for Lynton Jeffrey. It started on the highest of highs as Jeffery was fastest in Group B time-trials with a lap of 16.081. From there, things went downhill quickly. At the start of the third heat race, Jeffrey got into the back of Sam Hafertepe Jr., as he slid up the track in turns one and two. Jeffrey went over several times. Thankfully he walked away from the crash. His night was done. Clint Garner was also involved doing damage to the wing of his No. 40. He continued on.
As the fifth heat went green, Brian Brown looked to move quickly to the front of the heat race after starting third. Brown followed Anthony Macri off of turn two on the first lap. Brown got over the cushion and the car got sideways. When it did, the car dug into the cushion and he went for a wild ride. The car was put back on all four wheels and pushed back the pits with damage to the tail tank and the top wing. The team thrashed on the car to get it repaired. He went on to win the second B-Main before finishing a disappointing 24th in the feature.
Odds and Ends
69 cars attempted to qualify…James McFadden was quickest in Group A time-trials at lap of 15.737. He started fourth in his heat and did not transfer to the A-Main. He won the first B-Main… …Brock Zearfoss blew a motor in time-trials…Heat wins were taken by Davey Heskin, Buddy Kofoid, Daryn Pittman, Justin Peck, Anthony Macri and Gio Scelzi…After strong showing in the 360 Knoxville Nationals Sam Hafertepe Jr., came up one spot shot in the B-Main of making the feature…Cory Eliason was running in a transfer position when smoke billowed out of his No. 71. He was running second in the first B-Main at the time of the mechanical problems…Carson Macedo was the A-Main hard charger going from 18th to 11th in the rundown. The 50/50 paid $3,135 on the night.