It’s mid-August and the World of Outlaws regulars, along with some of the other top sprint car teams from around the country, are towing into the Marion County Fairgrounds. It can only mean one thing: the one and only Knoxville Nationals.
Well, not exactly.
Because of COVID-19 regulations in the state of Iowa, the Knoxville Nationals was upended and, instead, the 60th running of the historic event will take place on Aug. 11-14, 2021.
At the point when the decision was made, more advance tickets had already been sold than Iowa’s health department would allow total, which created a huge problem for Knoxville Raceway if the track management was to have gone forward.
Mainly, it was who gets a ticket, and who doesn’t?
THE ONE & ONLY (30 laps)
1 – Kyle Larson
2 – David Gravel
3 – Logan Schuchart
4 – Carson Macedo
5 – Spencer Bayston
6 – Brad Sweet
7 – Sheldon Haudenschild
8 – Austin McCarl
9 – Rico Abreu
10 – Daryn Pittman
11 – Cory Eliason
12 – Donny Schatz
13 – Gio Scelzi
14 – Joey Saldana
15 – Danny Dietrich
16 – Brian Brown
17 – Matt Juhl
18 – Shane Stewart
19 – Brock Zearfoss
20 – Jacob Allen
21 – James McFadden
22 – Shane Golobic
23 – Terry McCarl
24 – 87-Aaron Reutzel
Some of the fans who had already purchased tickets would have to be told their tickets were now being revoked, and what of the hearty lifers who perhaps hadn’t yet purchased a ticket but had been loyally attending the event at the big half-mile each August for years? How many of them would be turned away?
Ultimately, there appeared to be no way to run the Knoxville Nationals and not create a lot more anger and hurt feelings among the majority of fans than satisfied race attendees.
Thus, the event was postponed.
However, World Racing Group, the parent company of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, saw an opportunity to step in and promote a one-time replacement event.
Thus, The One & Only was announced. Instead of four nights of racing, there would be three, Aug. 13-15 (which would have been the Thursday through Saturday of the Nationals), two nights of full-field preliminary programs and a finale night featuring the Brownells Capitani Classic presented by Great Southern Bank.
The Capitani Classic, an annual race named in honor of the late Ralph Capitani, longtime promoter of Knoxville Raceway, has been held the Sunday prior to the 410 Knoxville Nationals week.
This year, it was the big show and the 30-lapper paid $50,000 to win.
The format called for the top-four in points after two preliminary nights to be locked into the dash for the Saturday night finale.
To no one’s surprise, Kyle Larson added to his massive 2020 sprint car win total in the 25-lap Thursday night opener in Paul Silva’s No. 57, passing early leader Logan Shuchart on lap 18 to take the lead, with Schuchart finishing in the runner-up spot.
Aaron Reutzel, Carson Macedo, and 2019 Knoxville Nationals and defending Capitani Classic champion David Gravel rounded out the top five.
Gravel took the reins on Friday night, holding off Larson to lead flag-to-flag for the win, with Larson forced to settle for second and Brad Sweet, Rico Abreu, and Shane Golobic rounding out the top five.
Larson, Gravel, Reutzel and Schuchart made up the top four in points and locked into the Saturday A-Main dash.
Saturday night saw Larson lead flag-to-flag, holding off Gravel and Schuchart to earn the win.
As for the event itself, though successful and exciting, it was commonly described as “weird.” There was no way to not compare the event to the Nationals.
Despite the level of talent on-hand, 67 cars rolled in on Thursday, much lower than the usual Nationals count. An intentionally sparsely-filled grandstands and an uncrowded midway could not help but feel eerie at Knoxville Raceway in August.
Though the event was a good idea that went off well, hopefully, this is the one and only running of The One & Only, and once again the small city of Knoxville, Iowa, will be hustling and bustling in August of 2021.