KNOXVILLE – Connecticut’s David Gravel claimed the $7,500 8th Annual Bell Helmets Capitani Classic presented by Great Southern Bank Sunday night at the Knoxville Raceway, overcoming half a dozen lead changes in the 25-lap event. His exciting win came aboard the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41, and was the fourth in his career at the “Sprint Car Capital of the World.”
There were seventy-seven cars signed in.
Brian Brown earned the pole position by winning the $2,500 Ultimate Speedway Nationals at Valvoline Raceway in Parramatta, New South Wales, Pole Shuffle.
Brown took the early lead in the main event, followed by Gravel and Brock Zearfoss. Soon, Brad Sweet shot around Zearfoss for third, but the Pennsylvanian battled back.
Holding his line with a good run on the top of turn two, Zearfoss tried to fit between Sweet and the wall. Though the cars made contact and lost several spots, they both continued. Gio Scelzi was the benefactor, reaping third from the incident. He had company, however and a good battle for the position ensued with Ian Madsen.
Up front, Brown was nailing the bottom, with Gravel in pursuit. Finally, Gravel shot to the bottom of turn one and took the lead on lap eight. Kerry Madsen contacted the frontstretch wall at that point, and collected Tim Shaffer. Both returned after repairs in the work area.
Gravel led Brown, Scelzi, Ian Madsen and Sweet back to green. Brown gained momentum on the high side this time and reclaimed the point on lap 10, but Gravel battled back, taking Brown’s line and leading lap 12. The final caution came out when a cone was knocked onto the track with 13 laps to go.
Sweet claimed fourth on the restart, but up front, Brown ran low, Gravel through the middle and Scelzi up top in a battle for the lead. Lap 16 saw Scelzi pass Gravel for second, but Gravel repaid the favor with a slide job on the following circuit.
The leaders approached traffic, and with Brown on the bottom, Gravel found traction in the middle of turn two and took the lead back for good on lap 20.
Scelzi was fast again on the big half-mile and used lapped traffic to get by Brown on lap 21. Three laps later, he would get over the turn one cushion and lose the position.
At the line, Gravel won over Brown, Scelzi, Sweet and Daryn Pittman.
Hard-charger Tim Kaeding was sixth (from 20th), and Ian Madsen, James McFadden, Sheldon Haudenschild and Aaron Reutzel rounded out the top ten. Reutzel and Brown set quick time over their respective groups, while Brooke Tatnell, Shane Golobic, Mark Dobmeier, Brown, McFadden and Sam Hafertepe Jr. won heat races.
Josh Baughman won the C main, and Reutzel and Kaeding claimed twin B’s.
“(Brown) has been really good here all year, and he’s got one of the best cars,” said Gravel in Victory Lane. “He had me thinking when you’re in the lead, you don’t know what to do. He passed me on the top, and I knew if I hit the bottom, I’d be o.k., but man it was hard. I got tighter as the race went on, and it was harder to hold it down there. The lapped cars were all over at the end. We ran decent here at the Outlaw weekend, and to get a win here tonight gives us confidence for the whole week.”
“That was pretty awesome racing from my seat,” said Brown. “David’s one of the top two or three drivers in the world, and Gio is really good. I just wasn’t hitting my lines, and my car wasn’t stuck on the entries. I used the berm more than I wanted to. Three seconds in a row…it’s hard to be disappointed. We could be on the other end. Overall, it was a good night.”
“I made mistakes throughout the race,” said Scelzi. “The bottom was so narrow, I kept hitting the infield and squirting myself out. We had a restart and felt like we could have won…we just made a mistake. I pushed it a little bit too hard. It’s cool to do well on Bell Helmets night. They do a lot for us.”
A main, 25 Laps, NT: 1. David Gravel (3); 2. Brian Brown (1); 3. Gio Scelzi (5); 4. Brad Sweet (4); 5. Daryn Pittman (12); 6. Tim Kaeding (20); 7. Ian Madsen (6); 8. James McFadden (8); 9. Sheldon Haudenschild (18); 10. Aaron Reutzel (19); 11. Mark Dobmeier (11); 12. Sam Hafertepe Jr. (10); 13. Dominic Scelzi (14); 14. Lynton Jeffrey (9); 15. Brooke Tatnell (13); 16. Justin Henderson (22); 17. Tim Shaffer (23); 18. Spencer Bayston (24); 19. Hunter Schuerenberg (7); 20. Kerry Madsen (21); 21. Danny Dietrich (17); 22. Craig Dollansky (16); 23. Brock Zearfoss (2); 24. Shane Golobic (15). Lap Leaders: Brown 1-7, Gravel 8-9, Brown 10-11, Gravel 12-14, Brown 15-19, Gravel 20-25. Hard-charger: Kaeding.