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Kyle Larson (57) and Donny Schatz (15) battling at the Knoxville Nationals. - by DOUG AULD - TIM AYLWIN PHOTO

A Look Back At The 2021 Knoxville Nationals

Schuchart and Tatnell both failed to run top-four in their inverted heats, but finished one, two in the B-Main, with Danny Dietrich and Don Droud Jr. rounding out the top-four to transfer to the A-Main.

Zeb Wise and Justin Henderson led the field to the line for the Wednesday night preliminary feature. Wise and Henderson crossed the line for lap one side-by-side, with Wise credited for leading the lap, before Henderson took the lead as the two entered the first turn. Wise fell back before coming to a stop with rear-end issues nine laps in while running fourth.

Fresh off his win in the Sunday night Capitani Classic, traditionally used by many racers as a tune-up for the Nationals, David Gravel (who started sixth) took over the point with a pass on the bottom of one and two on lap 22 of the 25-lapper. Gravel stayed out front to earn the win. Gio Scelzi (who started eighth) slid Henderson for second as the two entered turn three coming to the white flag, and Schatz (who started seventh) made a pass on Henderson in the final corner to stand on the podium.

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Brian Brown held off Larson to earn the Thursday night prelim feature checkers. – TIM AYLWIN PHOTO

Henderson took fourth, with Justin Peck, Sheldon Haudenschild, Schuchart (who earned hard-charged by charging from 21st to seventh, James McFadden, Cory Eliason, and Spencer Bayston rounding out the top 10.

Thursday was another hot, sunny day at Knoxville, but a brief afternoon rain shower pushed through, moving the start of the Wolfe Eye Clinic Qualifying Night back slightly. Kasey Kahne set quick time with a lap of 15.142 in Dennis Roth’s No. 83, edging out Tyler Courtney by two hundredths of a second. Brad Sweet timed third (15.166), Kyle Larson timed fourth (15.167), Kerry Madsen timed fifth (15.187) in the Ford-powered TSR No. 14, and Brian Brown timed 11th (15.264).

Larson, Kahne, and Madsen failed to transfer through their heats. But Larson took the win in the night’s B-Main, with Madsen, Kahne, and Ian Madsen rounding out the top-four and transferring to the night’s A-Main.

Sam Hafertepe Jr. and Sye Lynch led the field to the green, but a hard wreck by Parker Price-Miller into the turn one fence negated the start. Price-Miller
was unhurt.

On the next restart, Hafertepe claimed the lead for lap one before Carson Macedo tagged the inside berm entering turn three as the field came around to complete the second lap. Macedo slid up collecting Paul McMahan and forcing McMahan into the outside fence. As the two collided, the majority of the racing surface was blocked in front of the field, collecting numerous cars, including Kerry Madsen, Sawyer Phillips, Sammy Swindell, and Marcus Dumesny.

McMahan took a hard hit in the CJB Motorsports No. 5 before the car erupted in flames. Paul was out of the car quickly, as Knoxville Safety Crew members dodged cars to get to him quickly.

McMahan suffered no burns, but was transported. Although he was given a clean bill of health by the local hospital, some vision problems and other symptoms led McMahan to follow up upon returning home to Tennessee. The results verified his suspicions, that he had suffered a concussion. While steadily improving, by press time McMahan has been unable to return to racing while
he recuperates.

Amazingly, while cars were colliding and flipping across the racing surface, a path opened enabling Kyle Larson to drive through the middle of the wreck unscathed, gaining multiple positions. Larson started the feature 21st, but would restart 10th with just one lap completed.

Hafertepe led the field to the restart, but a slide job by Brian Brown (who started fourth) in turns three and four put him ahead of Hafertepe to lead lap two.

Brent Marks (who started fifth) closed on Hafertepe, making the pass for second a lap later.

Meanwhile, Larson was working his way forward and made the pass on Marks for second on lap 15.

Cautions flew when Sammy Swindell came to a stop on lap 11, and again when Tyler Courtney came to a stop on lap 14, regrouping the field for restarts both times.
Just prior to the July runnings of the dual Kings Royals, Brian Brown called on his uncle, four-time Knoxville Nationals winner Danny Lasoski, to serve as crew chief on his No. 21. “I said, ‘If you promise to give me 100 percent, I’ll come help you,’” Lasoski replied. Brown agreed, and – starting with the team’s four-day performance at the Royals – his results have been impressive.

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