KNOXVILLE – Trey Starks picked a great time to win his first ever main event at the Knoxville Raceway! The Puyallup, Washington native held off a strong field at Knoxville Raceway Wednesday to take home the $12,000 Brandt Professional Agriculture Night of the 59th Annual NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores.
Aaron Reutzel found himself on top of the point standings, topping the 53-car field with 487 points, ahead of Tim Kaeding (466) and Paul McMahan (465).
Mark Dobmeier shot out from the pole to lead early in the 25-lap feature, ahead of Starks and James McFadden. Starks stayed true to the low side of the track, but performed a slider in front of Dobmeier in turn four to lead lap five. Reutzel, who started eighth, moved into the top five by lap nine, and the leaders entered lapped traffic on the 11th circuit.
Scotty Thiel brought out the only caution of the race, when he spun in turn three on lap 12. Haudenschild battled back and forth for the fourth spot, while Starks held off Dobmeier for the point.
McFadden gained late, taking second from Dobmeier with five to go. Starks entered lapped traffic again with three laps remaining, but maintained his advantage over McFadden at the line. Haudenschild passed Dobmeier for third on the last lap, while Reutzel settled for fifth. Brent Marks, Tanner Thorson, Jac Haudenschild, Paul McMahan and Tim Kaeding rounded out the top ten.
Jamie Ball, Jac Haudenschild, Wayne Johnson, Tasker Phillips and Thorson won heat races that saw eight of the top ten qualifiers not transfer (top four) to the main event. Freddie Rahmer won the C main, and Kaeding claimed the B.
“I absolutely cannot believe it,” said an emotional Starks in Victory Lane. “This hasn’t been the best year for us for multiple reasons. We’ve had a ton of rain and haven’t got the laps we wanted to here. We learn something every week we come here, and it seems like the last couple weeks nothing has gone our way. After all the bad luck this week, to say we were due for this one is an understatement. To say we were due for this one is an understatement! We’ve needed this one, and tonight was the night to do it. Anybody who knows me running around this place…I don’t run the bottom. This year has taught me how to run the bottom here.”
“We really didn’t need that caution,” said McFadden. “I felt like we could go good on the bottom of three and four. Trey did a good job. He didn’t make too many mistakes. I wish the race was longer. We got better and better as the race went on. I messed up the start a bunch. We seem to bury ourselves in qualifying and can race good. I made too many mistakes in that feature race.”
“We definitely can’t complain after that,” said Sheldon Haudenschild. “
Odds and Ends
Starks commented his week throughout the summer consisted of working at home in the state of Washington with his brother and dad at their machine shop Monday through Wednesday.
Thursday he would hop a plane from Seattle to Des Moines.
Quite often the team would race Friday at Jackson in Minnesota and Saturday at Knoxville when the weather cooperated.
Then it was fly back home on Sunday.
That agenda was throughout the entire summer.
It paid off for Starks on the first night of the 410 Nationals.
“We haven’t had a good season at Knoxville. It’s insane that we won a prelim night,” Starks said.
McFadden said to drive for Kasey Kahne is a pretty humbling experience. “It is a privilege to race for them.”
Donny Schatz, 10-time champion of the Nationals struggled throughout the night. The team changed motors after the heat race. Schatz ran 11th in the main event.
Perry Bell contributed to this story.
A main, 25 Laps, NT: 1. Trey Starks (4); 2. James McFadden (2); 3. Sheldon Haudenschild (3); 4. Mark Dobmeier (1); 5. Aaron Reutzel (8); 6. Brent Marks (6); 7. Tanner Thorson (10); 8. Jac Haudenschild (12); 9. Paul McMahan (7); 10. Tim Kaeding (21); 11. Donny Schatz (24); 12. Gio Scelzi (22); 13. Tasker Phillips (14); 14. Wayne Johnson (13); 15. Austin McCarl (16). (Top 15 Only)