By Mike Mallett
The old cliché that time flies when you are having fun is no joke. It really does.
The last 10 days in Iowa have flown by. It’s been a blur. A very, very entertaining blur at that. The 2023 edition of the Knoxville Nationals is just about over. As I always say, today is my happiest and saddest day of the year rolled into one.
Today is the end of the line. It’s hard to believe after three grueling nights of intense racing at the Knoxville Raceway that the time has come to crown the 62nd champion of the event, with a nice $185,000 to check to go with it. It’s been memorable, and hopefully today is the icing on the cake.
So to get you started and ready for tonight’s main event, here is a look at your locked-in field through the lens courtesy of Dirt Track Digest photographers Jeff Ferguson (aka Sasquatch), Brent Smith, and Quentin Young. Beyond that, you’ll find my prediction on the winner and line-ups for each race on the racing program this evening.
A-MAIN STARTING LINE-UP THROUGH THE LENS (50 Laps):
- 57 Kyle Larson (482)
- 24 Rico Abreu (480)
- 15 Donny Schatz (479)
- 1S Logan Schuchart (479)
- 41 Carson Macedo (474)
- 39 Hunter Schuerenberg (462)
- 55 Kerry Madsen (459)
- 83JR Buddy Kofoid (459)
- 18 Gio Scelzi (458)
- 14 Corey Day (458)
- 4 Ian Madsen (455)
- 3J Dusty Zomer (453)
- 5 Spencer Bayston (451)
- 2KS Chase Randall (449)
- 7BC Anthony Macri (449)
- 49 Brad Sweet (449)
- B Main Transfer #1
- B Main Transfer #2
- B Main Transfer #3
- B Main Transfer #4
- 8 Aaron Reutzel (Clute, TX)
- 2 David Gravel (Watertown, CT)
- 10L Scott Bogucki (McLaren Vale, SA, AU)
- 2M Davey Heskin (St. Michael, MN)
A-MAIN PREDICTION: For this Knoxville Nationals, there seem to be so many contenders for the win. Rico Abreu has been just about the fastest car each time he has competed at Knoxville. He can also pass cars. He came from Pella, Iowa (the 21st starting spot) on Thursday to finish two spots off the podium. It was pretty impressive. He did the same in the 360 Nationals to finish on the podium.
Kyle Larson hasn’t looked his best, but how do you count out a former champion and the driver who wins just about every sprint car race he enters? You just can’t. He knows how to rise to the occasion. Last year, he had misfortune early in the morning when he got a flat tire. The only concern about picking him is that he’s on the pole. Yes, I know, that sounds weird, but Larson is the one that is best on the hunt. He takes advantage of mistakes to beat you. Now, I may be reading into things too much here, but hey, that’s what I do.
Then there is Donny Schatz. Schatz always seems to find himself at the Nationals, no matter how he’s running when he walks through the gate on Wednesday night. When the Nationals roll around, he’s the 11-time champ. That wasn’t luck. His last preliminary win came 20 years ago, and he didn’t win the Nationals that year. Is that an omen? I don’t know.
This may be the hardest pick I’ve made in all of my years of making predictions, or, should I say, educated guesses that never pan out. I did get it right last year, so there is that. So, after all the debate in my head, I’m going to go with Abreu. Abreu has Ricky Warner turning the wrenches on the No. 24R, and the combo has been the top team in the country for much of the year. Can he do it for 50 laps? That is the question, but I think it’s time for Abreu to break through and finally put a crown jewel on his resume.
B-MAIN (22 Laps, Top Four to A): 1. 13 Justin Peck (449), 2. 83 James McFadden (447), 3. 9 Kasey Kahne (446), 4. 88 Austin McCarl (443), 5. 21 Brian Brown (439), 6. 71 Shane Stewart (439), 7. 6G Garet Williamson (438), 8. 7TAZ Tasker Phillips (437), 9. 7W Dustin Selvage (435), 10. Sheldon Haudenschild (434), 11. 9P Parker Price-Miller (Kokomo, IN), 12. 19 Brent Marks (Myerstown, PA), 13. 7TW Brandon Wimmer (Fairmount, IN), 14. 5T Ryan Timms (Oklahoma City, OK), 15. 1 Justin Henderson (Tea, SD), 16. 11 Cory Eliason (Visalia, CA), 17. 26 Zeb Wise (Angola, IN), 18. 22K Kaleb Johnson (Sioux Falls, SD), 19. 21H Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, OK), 20. 4W Jamie Ball (Knoxville, IA)
B-MAIN TRANSFER PREDICTION: Justin Peck, James McFadden, Austin McCarl, Brian Brown
C-MAIN (15 Laps, Top Four to B): 1. 3 Tim Kaeding (San Jose, CA), 2. 39M Justin Sanders (Aromas, CA), 3. 49X Tim Shaffer (Aliquippa, PA), 4. 2K Lynton Jeffrey (Sydney, NSW, AU), 5. 4CW Chris Windom (Canton, IL), 6. 5C Dylan Cisney (Port Royal, PA), 7. 7S Robbie Price (Cobble Hill, BC, CA), 8. 17W Shane Golobic (Fremont, CA), 9. 17B Bill Balog (Hartland, WI), 10. 42 Sye Lynch (Apollo, PA), 11. 12X Ayrton Gennetten (Gravois Mills, MO), 12. 18T Tanner Holmes (Jacksonville, OR), 13. 52 Blake Hahn (Sapulpa, OK), 14. 6B Clint Garner (Sioux Falls, SD), 15. 24T Christopher Thram (Sanborn, MN), 16. 1K Kelby Watt (Adel, IA), 17. 1C Brenham Crouch (Lubbock, TX), 18. 1X Jake Bubak (Arvada, CO), 19. 3P Sawyer Phillips (Pleasantville, IA), 20. 3Z Brock Zearfoss (Jonestown, PA)
D-MAIN (12 Laps, Top Four to C): 1. 11N Harli White (Lindsay, OK), 2. 25 Lachlan McHugh (Gold Coast, QLD, AU), 3. 20G Noah Gass (Mounds, OK), 4. 24H Kade Higday (Pleasant Hill, IA), 5. 50YR JJ Hickle (Quilcene, WA), 6. 22 Riley Goodno (Knoxville, IA), 7. 13JT Mark Dobmeier (Grand Forks, ND), 8. 91 Kyle Reinhardt (Neptune City, NJ), 9. 35 Zach Hampton (Plainfield, IN), 10. 10V Cap Henry (Bellevue, OH), 11. 70 Kraig Kinser (Bloomington, IN), 12. 101 Kalib Henry (Sacramento, CA), 13. 44 Chris Martin (Ankeny, IA), 14. 21T Cole Macedo (Lemoore, CA), 15. 1M Don Droud Jr. (Lincoln, NE), 16. 83T Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, CA), 17. 16A Colby Copeland (Roseville, CA), 18. 55T McKenna Haase (Des Moines, IA), 19. 95 Matt Covington (Glenpool, OK), 20. 17X Terry McCarl (Altoona, IA)
E-MAIN (10 Laps, Top Four to D): 1. 16 Brooke Tatnell (Sans Souci, NSW, AU), 2. 35B Austin Bishop (Elverson, PA), 3. 44P Skylar Prochaska (Lakefield, MN), 4. 105 Cody Ihlen (Pipestone, MN), 5. 1A Chase Dietz (York, PA), 6. W19 Trent Pigdon (Cardup, WA, AU), 7. 20 AJ Moeller (Rockwell City, IA), 8. 2KK Kevin Ingle (Huron, SD), 9. 4J Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, AL), 10. 27 Carson McCarl (Altoona, IA), 11. 17AU Jamie Veal (Warrnambool, VIC, AU), 12. 45 Rusty Hickman (Bendigo, VIC, AU), 13. 121 RJ Johnson (Tampa, FL), 14. 9H Landon Hansen (Newton, IA), 15. 15JR Cole Mincer (Burlington, IA), 16. 6X Frank Rodgers III (Lucas, IA), 17. 4K2W Matt Wasmund (Jackson, MN), 18. 65 Jordan Goldesberry (Springfield, IL), 19. 6 Bill Rose (Plainfield, IN), 20. 37 Ayden Gatewood (Caruthersville, MO), 21. G5 Gage Pulkrabek (East Grand Forks, MN), 22. 56 Joe Simbro (Pleasantville, IA), 23. 78 Bill Wagner (Reeder, ND), 24. 15H Sam Hafertepe Jr. (Sunnyvale, TX)