What Is The 56th Annual Knoxville Nationals?
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What Is The 56th Annual Knoxville Nationals?

Who had the best week at the nationals?

What Is The 56th Annual Knoxville Nationals?
Knoxville Raceway

The Knoxville Nationals is synonymous with the best of the best in dirt track racing. Just last week, Knoxville, Iowa welcomed 107 sprint car teams and thousands of dirt track racing fans to the greatest sprint car track in the world, Knoxville Raceway. On Wednesday and Thursday, half of the cars qualify each night based on a points system. The more points you have, the better you start in the 24 car feature event on Saturday night. Each night starts with each sprint car taking two timed laps. The fastest car is awarded 200 points and the amount decreases by two points by each position. Then, five heat races take place to qualify for the nights A feature event. Based on how many points the driver has after the first two nights, they are placed into races on Saturday night. The goal is to qualify for the biggest sprint car race of the year, the 24 car Saturday night Knoxville Nationals A-Main. On Friday night, one of the most unique nights of racing takes place. If a driver is not happy with their starting spots for the races on Saturday night, they can choose to try again on Friday night with the top four finishers of that night's A-main locking into spots 17-20 in the Saturday A-main. So, with the 56th Annual Knoxville Nationals completed, what five drivers had the best week?

5. Greg Hodnett

Pennsylvania Posse driver Greg Hodnett from Spring Grove, PA was the metaphorical hard charger of the nationals. On his qualifying night, Hodnett turned a 15.519-second lap in his number 27 sprint car and qualified 40th out of the 47 car field. This put Hodnett on the pole of the fifth heat and he went flag to flag to win the heat. His low qualifying time combined with his heat win put him outside row 10(20th) for the main event, but that wouldn't stop him. Hodnett drove the 27 sprinter to a sixth place finish in the 25 laps main event. Unfortunately, it would not give him enough points to lock him into Saturday night's A-main. With a total of 412 points, Hodnett sat 35th in points after both qualifying nights. Greg decided to try again on Friday night. This time, qualifying was split into two groups, and it was no longer about points. Hodnett qualified 2nd in group B and came from fourth to second in his heat. This put him outside of the front row for the night's feature where the top four finishers would lock themselves into the back of Saturday's A-main. He finished right where he started which locked him into the 18th starting position on Saturday. Once again, starting at the back of the pack would not stop him from earning a top 10 finish. Hodnett drove the car to an 8th place finish in the main event.

4. Kyle Larson

After taking some time off from sprint car racing to race with the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kyle Larson had a week off from racing the Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet number 42 sprint cup car, and he took that opportunity to race the Knoxville Nationals for the third time. He drove the number 57 sprint car owned by Paul Silva. Larson qualified on Thursday night and after 20 cars had qualified, Kyle took his two timed laps. After turning a 15.654, he ended up timing in 6th. In the second heat of the night, Larson started 7th and finished right there. Not enough to lock him into the A-main of the night, Kyle Larson started 5th in the nights B-main. With four transfer spots up for grabs, Larson drove from 5th to 3rd and got into the night's A-main. After a rough night, Larson finally found a small amount of luck in the feature. He started 22nd and ended up finishing 14th. With a points total of 444, Larson sat 19th in points, three spots away from the cutoff for Saturday's A-main. Larson declined the offer to retry on Friday night because he was set to start in the third position of the B-main on Saturday with four transfer spots to be had. After winning the B-main on Saturday, Larson earned the 21st starting spot in the feature. Greg Hodnett may have been the metaphorical hard charger of the nationals, but on Saturday, Kyle Larson was the literal hard charger. Larson drove the wheels off the 57 sprinter and ended the weekend with a solid 5th place finish. After a rough qualifying night, Larson was able to salvage his third run at the nationals with a top 5.

3. Donny Schatz

Donny Schatz came into the weekend with high hopes. Donny won four straight nationals starting in 2006 until Tim Shaffer beat him for the top spot in 2010. After his second place finish in 2010, he won 5 straight leading up to this year. Donny qualified 9th in time trials on Wednesday night, which put him in the 7th starting position in heat 4. He charged to finish third in the heat and locked himself into the feature event of the night. He would start 6th, and it did not take long for him to get to the front of the pack, where he and Shane Stewart battled for the win. Ultimately, Shane Stewart would win the event with Donny coming in second. After the night's events, Donny had 476 points and locked himself into Saturday night's A-main. 476 would be enough to start on the inside of row three(5th) of the feature. On Saturday, it took him just 13 laps to take the lead. He was in perfect position to take his 6th straight Knoxville Nationals Win. After a great race, Donny was dethroned and came home with second place by just .168 seconds at the finish line. After the second place finish, Donny Schatz remains just three wins short of the King of The Outlaws Steve Kinser's record of twelve nationals wins.

2. Jason Johnson

On Thursday night, Jason Johnson rolled out 54th in the Priority Aviation 41 car for time trials and timed in 5th for the night with a lap time of 15.595 seconds. His impressive lap time put him 8th on the grid for the fifth and final heat of the night. Johnson worked his way to 4th, the final transfer spot to the A-main. Thanks to his good qualifying time, he would start 7th for the feature event. In a tribute to Bryan Clauson who passed away after a nasty sprint car wreck the week before, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the field as the pace car in Clauson's 17W sprint car before the race. As the field took the green, Johnson was on the move right away. He battled Terry McCarl for the fourth spot on the first lap, and near the end of the feature, the two still battled, but this time for the second spot. Tim Kaeding ended up beating out Johnson for the win on Thursday night, but Johnson ended up with a point total of 481, putting him on the front row of the feature for Saturday night. Johnson took the lead from Daryn Pittman on lap 11 but Pittman took it back on lap 12. After the fuel stop on lap 25, Schatz was in the lead with Johnson in Second. In the last five laps, the two bumped and banged through the corners, but at the checkered flags, it was Jason Johnson who dethroned defending champion Donny Schatz and took the win in the main event of the 56th annual Knoxville Nationals!

1. Shane Stewart

Shane Stewart, driving the Larson-Marks car number 2S sponsored by Jeff Gordon's Children's Foundation, had his turn to qualify on Wednesday night. 12th quick in time trials for the night with a time of 15.143 seconds around the half-mile track, Stewart would start 6th in the second heat of the night. Shane drove his way to a third-place finish and picked up a position in the Wednesday night A-main. He would start outside of row two(4th) in the A-main and on lap 11, took the lead with Donny Schatz right behind him. Stewart would lead the rest of the 25 lap race. Shane's 12th place in time trials combined with his feature win put him at 472 points, and after Thursday's events were done, Stewart had the 8th most points putting him as the 8th starter for the Nationals feature event. On Saturday, Stewart had made his way into the top 5 before the mandatory fuel stop on lap 25. Around lap 40, Stewart was running in the 4th position when 3rd place driver Kerry Madsen pulled into the infield ending his night. This gave Stewart clear space to catch up to the top two cars, Donny Schatz and Jason Johnson. Although Shane Stewart could not pick up a win, he was able to come from the 8th starting position to a podium finish and was not far behind the top two drivers.

All in all, the 56th annual Knoxville Nationals was one for the history books. Jason Johnson became the 24th winner of the race by just .168 seconds and Donny Schatz was dethroned after nine wins in ten years. For the full results of the week's races, click here. The countdown to the 57th annual Knoxville Nationals has already begun, and the world of sprint car racing has already started preparing for their favorite week of the year. So until then, as the World of Outlaws season goes on, Watch for Donny Schatz to continue his dominance, and although he didn't pull off a Knoxville Nationals win this year, he is well on his way to his eighth World of Outlaws season championship. So sprint car fans, the World of Outlaws has a lot of talented young drivers, and the future of sprint car racing looks very bright.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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