KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Friday night’s World of Outlaws Invitational at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway featured both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at the Marion County Fairgrounds.
While David Gravel ended the night in the throes of jubilation after winning the 30-lap feature on the black-dirt half mile, Australian Ian Madsen was on the flip side of the coin after a heartbreaking runner-up finish.
Madsen appeared to be well on his way to his fifth career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series win, taking the lead from Daryn Pittman on lap nine and working traffic effortlessly through the middle stages of the feature.
But as the laps wound down toward conclusion, mistakes became Madsen’s undoing.
As good as the KCP Racing No. 18 was in traffic, Madsen slipped over the cushion and “into the fluff” twice inside the final five laps.
The first time, with four to go, Madsen got away with the miscue and regrouped. The second time, coming to the white flag, he wasn’t as lucky.
Once Madsen lost his momentum again, Gravel ripped past on the bottom side of the track and never looked back after that, leading laps 29 and 30 for his 52nd career World of Outlaws win.
Meanwhile, Madsen ended up second, and was visibly frustrated after climbing from his race car.
“I’m pretty devastated to be honest,” said Madsen of his second-place run. “I gave it my all. I made a little error at the end. I got my wing too far back and I couldn’t get around the top of three and four. I really buried myself a couple of times and that allowed David to get by. I can’t make that kind of mistake around him. I feel like we did 99 percent of everything right all night, and we just came up a little short.
“This shows great progress for this KCP team this year, but we wanted that last spot, for sure.”
Friday night was the first race back for the World of Outlaws since the COVID-19 pandemic brought professional sports to a halt in mid-March, and Madsen noted he’s struggled with being stuck at home and out of the seat.
“It has really been tough with the coronavirus, not being able to be out here racing and knowing what we’re capable of. We’ve been basically just sitting at home for three months,” Madsen noted. “My heart goes out to everyone affected by it, but hopefully this is a step back toward normality and we can go out and snag a couple of wins here coming up.”
Though racers try to have short memories, Madsen admitted that the sting of his Knoxville defeat will likely linger, at least for a little while.
“I’d like to say I could forget about this one pretty easily, but I’ll probably stew on it for a few weeks, at least until the next one,” Madsen said. “It’s nothing to hang your head about, but it sucks to come that close and not get the win.
“We had a good DIRTcar Nationals, so that’s why it has been frustrating to sit here and spend all this time idle, but we’ll be back at it in two weeks and hopefully get it back to victory lane then.”