For the third time in the past four years the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals had a new champion.
The 2019 Nationals saw David Gravel cap a thrilling week that saw him not only with the Nationals and the top prize of $150,000, but also he won his Preliminary Feature Thursday and before that he captured the Capitani Classic Sunday.
Gravel was dominant in the A-Feature Saturday in the Axalta sponsored No. 41 owned by Jason Johnson Racing.
Back in 2016 Jason Johnson was a first-time champion of the Nationals. In 2018 Brad Sweet was a first-time winner of the “Super Bowl” of Sprint Car Racing.
In 2017, Donny Schatz proved to be the master at Knoxville with his 10th win at the world-famous half-mile dirt oval.
But 2019, belonged to the driver from Watertown, Connecticut. Gravel started outside row one for the main event.
Leading lap one of the 50-lapper was Aaron Reutzel.
Joey Saldana was looking to join his father as champion of the Nationals as he led laps two and three.
Reutzel regained control of the race to lead laps four through 13. Gravel was right on Reutzel’s bumper after he passed Saldana for second following the ninth circuit.
Abiding his time, Gravel took control of the race on with a pass of Reutzel with 13 laps in the books.
Tim Kaeding managed a pass of Saldana on the 19th lap for third place behind Gravel and Reutzel. Hot on the trail of Kaeding was Daryn Pittman, who passed Kaeding for third on lap 20.
The mandatory caution flag flew with 25 laps completed. The running order had Gravel, Reutzel, Pittman, Kaeding and Brad Sweet.
Sweet, the defending champion of the Nationals, fought into the fray on the 21st lap, with a spot in fifth place.
On the restart following the yellow caution for refueling purposes, Pittman maneuvered around Reutzel for second.
Pittman has struggled over the years at the Nationals, but he had the secret formula in place Saturday with an opportunity to win.
The only problem for Pittman and the rest of the 24 car field, was dealing with Gravel, who was lightning quick.
Gravel managed the rest of the race well and he survived a couple of hairy situations along the way. close calls with the 18 car of Ian Madsen and the 09 of Matt Juhl.
It wasn’t close at the end with Gravel taking the checkered flag of Doug Clark, who is retiring from the flagstand at the end of the season.
Taking the second place check of $75,000 was Logan Schuchart, who made a last lap pass of Pittman.
Schuchart started the A-Feature in 22nd place after placing second in the Friday night A-Feature.
His charge to the front earned him the Hard Charger Award in the 1S sprinter.
Pittman held on for third in the Roth Motorsports car. It was by far his best finish at the Nationals, as he normally struggles to find the right combination for the Saturday evening Championship race.
Rounding out the top 10 in the A-Feature were Tim Kaeding in fourth, Reutzel fifth and Sweet in sixth.
Sheldon Haudenschild ran seventh with James McFadden eighth, Donny Schatz ninth and Go Scelzi 10th.
Schatz, the 10-time winner of the Nationals, brought out a yellow with six laps complete when mud packed under the throttle.
The only other caution was for Dominic Seelzi with four laps complete.
Gio Scelzi won the 22-lap B-Feature with Schatz second, McFadden third and Rico Abreu fourth.
Those four settled in spots 17-20 respectively in the big $150,000 to win event.
The 15-lap C-Feature saw Tyler Courtney win followed by Cale Thomas, Brian Brown and Carson McCarl. Those four tagged the tail of the B-Feature.
The 12-lap D-Feature was captured by Davey Heskin with Jason Sides winning the E-Feature.
Odds and Ends
Only two weekly competitors at the Knoxville Raceway cracked the 24-car field for the A-Feature. The wo were Trey Starks, who won the Wednesday Preliminary Feature and Matt Juhl.
Starks would finish 19th and Juhl 18th Saturday.
All three of the McCarl’s, Terry and sons Austin and Carson all finished the night in the B-Feature.
Sammy Swindell (1983) Knoxville Nationals Champion was 13th in the B-Feature.
Kraig Kinser (2005) Champion was 11th in the B-Feature.
Tim Shaffer who won the 2010 Nationals was 21st in the A-Feature.
Tanner Thorson was the Rookie of the Nationals. He hails from Minden, Nevada. James McFadden won $2,000 for winning the “Mr Sprint Car Award.”
Phil Dietz was the crew chief of the Nationals with the 41 car.
The No. 41 car also was awarded the Best Appearing Car Award and $500 and Best Appearing Crew Award and another $500.
Gravel replied, “It’s been a dream week! I always feel confident racing here. Tonight, I just let the race come to me.”
He added, “A shock fell off my car when running the Capitani Classic, but other than that it’s been a similar car all three nights.”
Schuchart said, “I can’t say enough about this team. To come from 22nd to second is pretty awesome. I had a bad night racing her Wednesday and Sunday.”
He continued, “This is the same car we raced and took second at the King’s Royal.”
Pittman said, “There’s a couple of laps I’d like to have back. I had a huge mistake with a lapped car and that cost me.”
“I’m kind of in between on my thoughts. We made too many mistakes to stay with David, he had the better car tonight, but I’m happy with our effort,” Pittman said.
59th Annual Nationals Results
E main, 10 Laps, 2:47.7: 1. 7JS, Jason Sides, Bartlett, TN (1); 2. 73AF, Joey Moughan, Springfield, IL (2); 3. 33m, Mason Daniel, Springville, CA (3); 4. 19T, Kevin Thomas Jr., Cullman, AL (5); 5. 17wx, Harli White, Lindsay, OK (7); 6. 17XL, Caleb Helms, Findlay, OH (9) / 7. 75, Glen Saville, Razorback, NSW, Aust. (4); 8. 84, Tom Harris, Banbury, OXFD, UK (8); 9. 74, Brodie Tulloch, Upper Caboolture, QLD, Aust. (6); 10. 15M, Bobby Mincer, Burlington, IA (10); 11. J4, John Garvin, Sarver, PA (12); 12. 56, Joe Simbro, Pleasantville, IA (11); 13. 85, Chase Wanner, Ottumwa, IA (15); 14. 2K, Kevin Ingle, Huron, SD (13); 15. 83c, Adam Cruea, Troy, OH (14) DNS – 64, Scotty Thiel, Sheboygan, WI; 5J, Jamie Ball, Knoxville, IA; 11c, Roger Crockett, Broken Arrow, OK; 48, Danny Dietrich, Gettysburg, PA; 40, Clint Garner, Sioux Falls, SD; 3H, Jac Haudenschild, Wooster, OH; 19P, Paige Polyak, Tiffin, OH; 2AU, Andrew Scheuerle, Toowoomba, QLD, Aust.; 2mm, Matt Moro, Polk City, IA; 57, Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, CA; 11T, TJ Stutts, Liverpool, PA; 18M, Lance Moss, Cherryville, NC; 53, Jack Dover, Springfield, NE; 35, Zach Hampton, Plainfield, IN
D main, 12 Laps, NT: 1. 56N, Davey Heskin, St. Michael, MN (2); 2. 45, Rusty Hickman, Bendigo, VIC, Aust. (1); 3. 7, Craig Dollansky, Elk River, MN (3); 4. 17w, Shane Golobic, Fremont, CA (4) / 5. 55, Brooke Tatnell, Sans Souci, NSW, Aust. (10); 6. 68, Chase Johnson, Penngrove, CA (8); 7. 99x, Skylar Gee, Leduc, ALB, Can. (9); 8. 3P, Sawyer Phillips, Pleasantville, IA (6); 9. W20, Greg Wilson, Benton Ridge, OH (7); 10. 18R, Ryan Roberts, Aurora, NE (12); 11. 3c, Cale Conley, Vienna, WV (11); 12. 44, Chris Martin, Ankeny, IA (5); 13. 9x, Jake Bubak, Arvada, CO (14); 14. Kevin Thomas Jr. (20); 15. Jason Sides (19); 16. 21P, Robbie Price, Cobble Hill, BC, Can. (16); 17. 29, Willie Croft, Roseville, CA (17); 18. Joey Moughan (18); 19. Mason Daniel (21); 20. Caleb Helms (22); 21. 9JR, Derek Hagar, Marion, AR (15); 22. 20, AJ Moeller, Rockwell City, IA (13); 23. Harli White (23); 24. 28P, Brian Paulus, Mooresville, IN (24) DNS – 2c, Wayne Johnson, Tuttle, OK; 51, Freddie Rahmer, Salfordville, PA
C main, 15 Laps, NT: 1. 71BC, Tyler Courtney, Indianapolis, IN (1); 2. 91, Cale Thomas, Fairland, IN (4); 3. 21, Brian Brown, Grain Valley, MO (8); 4. 27, Carson McCarl, Altoona, IA (2) / 5. 83J, Lynton Jeffrey, Prairie City, IA (9) ($100 bonus from Big River Garage Doors); 6. 21K, Thomas Kennedy, Winnipeg, MB, Can. (7); 7. 15H, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Sunnyvale, TX (3); 8. 35P, Skylar Prochaska, Lakefield, MN (6); 9. 99x, Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow, OK (12); 10. 49J, Josh Schneiderman, West Burlington, IA (11); 11. 1, Travis Rilat, Heath, TX (5); 12. 7x, Justin Henderson, Tea, SD (10); 13. 18s, Jason Solwold, Mt. Vernon, WA (15); 14. Shane Golobic (24); 15. 39M, Anthony Macri, Dillsburg, PA (13); 16. Davey Heskin (21); 17. Rusty Hickman (22); 18. 10, RJ Johnson, Tampa, FL (18); 19. 7sw, Jeff Swindell, Bartlett, TN (14); 20. 92, Sye Lynch, Apollo, PA (17); 21. Craig Dollansky (23); 22. 14M, Marcus Dumesny, Sydney, NSW, Aust. (16); 23. 1x, Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, NE (20); 24. 70x, Justin Peck, Monrovia, IN (19)
B main, 22 Laps, NT: 1. 71, Gio Scelzi, Fresno, CA (2); 2. 15, Donny Schatz, Fargo, ND (4); 3. 9, James McFadden, Warrnambool, VIC, Aust. (1); 4. 24, Rico Abreu, St. Helena, CA (3) / 5. 2, Carson Macedo, Lemoore, CA (8); 6. 13, Mark Dobmeier, Grand Forks, ND (5); 7. 70, Brock Zearfoss, Jonestown, PA (9); 8. 28, Scott Bogucki, McLaren Vale, SA (6); 9. 2KS, Austin McCarl, Altoona, IA (11); 10. 1a, Jacob Allen, Hanover, PA (10); 11. 11K, Kraig Kinser, Bloomington, IN (15); 12. Brian Brown (23); 13. 39, Sammy Swindell, Lakeland, TN (14); 14. K4, Chad Kemenah, Alvada, OH (19); 15. 7TAZ, Tasker Phillips, Pleasantville, IA (20); 16. 17BX, Bill Balog, Hartland, WI (16); 17. Tyler Courtney (21); 18. Carson McCarl (24); 19. 11, Hunter Schuerenberg, Sikeston, MO (17); 20. 88, Tanner Thorson, Minden, NV (7); 21. Cale Thomas (22); 22. 17B, Josh Baughman, Odessa, TX (13); 23. 5H, Spencer Bayston, Lebanon, IN (12); 24. 4, Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA (18)
A main, 50 Laps, NT: 1. 41, David Gravel, Watertown, CT (2); 2. 1s, Logan Schuchart, Hanover, PA (22); 3. 83, Daryn Pittman, Owasso, OK (10); 4. 7s, Tim Kaeding, San Jose, CA (7); 5. 87, Aaron Reutzel, Clute, TX (1); 6. 49, Brad Sweet, Grass Valley, CA (6); 7. 17, Sheldon Haudenschild, Wooster, OH (15); 8. James McFadden (19); 9. Donny Schatz (18); 10. Gio Scelzi (17); 11. 2m, Kerry Madsen, St. Mary’s, NSW, Aust. (21); 12. 5, Shane Stewart, Bixby, OK (23); 13. 26, Cory Eliason, Visalia, CA (13); 14. 12N, Joey Saldana, Brownsburg, IN (3); 15. 18, Ian Madsen, St. Mary’s, NSW, Aust. (14); 16. 71P, Parker Price-Miller, Kokomo, IN (5); 17. 19, Brent Marks, Myerstown, PA (9); 18. 09, Matt Juhl, Tea, SD (12); 19. 44s, Trey Starks, Puyallup, WA (11); 20. 13x, Paul McMahan, Nashville, TN (8); 21. 49x, Tim Shaffer, Aliquippa, PA (4); 22. Rico Abreu (20); 23. 69K, Lance Dewease, Fayetteville, PA (16); 24. 41s, Dominic Scelzi, Fresno, CA (24). Lap Leaders: Reutzel 1, Saldana 2-3, Reutzel 4-13, Gravel 14-50. Hard-charger Schuchart. Pole Sitter: Reutzel. Crew Chief of the Nationals: Phil Dietz