MEMPHIS, TN - With the height of the sprint car racing season just ahead, a selected number of drivers will have a one-race opportunity to claim the title of World's best. At the upcoming 41st annual Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals, Friday ...
MEMPHIS, TN - With the height of the sprint car racing season just ahead, a selected number of drivers will have a one-race opportunity to claim the title of World's best. At the upcoming 41st annual Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals, Friday night's program will be highlighted by the Eighth Annual Kele World Challenge, a race that will showcase some of the best sprint car drivers in the world. In this international event, competitors from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada will vie for the $10,000 prize.
Current Pennzoil World of Outlaws star Danny Lasoski is the defending champion, and he will be trying to repeat his efforts from last year, while three-time winner Skip Jackson will try to make it four wins in eight tries. The two drivers have been outstanding ambassadors of their countries while racing in both America and Australia.
While Danny Lasoski is in the middle of one of tightest Pennzoil World of Outlaws title chases, he couldn't be happier. This season, he and NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart joined forces to build a topnotch WoO team. Their success has led them to a solid first half of the season, but a win in the Kele World Challenge would also mean a great deal.
"It feels great to be a part of this Kele World Challenge," said Lasoski, who is a native Dover, MO. "All of the drivers owe a lot to the people that made the race happen. Roger Johnson with Kele & Associates has been a big key in helping sprint car racing become more and more a worldwide sport. We were lucky enough to win last year's race and our goal is to make it two in a row this year."
Last year, "the Dude" won Australia's biggest sprint car race "the Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic" at Premier Speedway in January (2000) and then won the Kele World Challenge at Knoxville. He started the race at the back because of his high points total and he's hoping to start at the rear again this year.
"We knew starting in the back was going to make it tough," recalled Lasoski. "Danny Smith took off and really had us covered, but we just kept racing our way towards him, and we're able to make it by him. Hopefully, this year we'll be in the "A" Scramble and know what the track conditions are first hand. With more cars and more laps, it certainly will be tough, and that's great thing about racing because you always have to give it your best effort to win."
The way Lasoski took the checkered flag may have been even more memorable than his victory. A fireworks celebration started once he hit turn four and followed him to the finish line. "This year, we've got to make sure that they wait to set off the fireworks until the last guy takes the checkered instead of the leader," said Lasoski. "When I came off of the fourth turn and heard the boom, I thought I blew up my motor."
Anthony "Skip" Jackson has made a name for himself in the world of sprint cars. As a champion in Australia and two-time track champion at Knoxville Raceway, Jackson has joined the list of elite sprint car drivers. After spending the 2000 season racing in the tough Central Pennsylvania circuit, Jackson and his family returned to Knoxville, Iowa for their summer in America. Jackson won two track championships in the #55 car and two Kele World Challenge races.
"The Kele World Challenge is a big deal for us every year," said Jackson. "They've got great people behind the event with a good perspective of what our sport is all about both in America and Australia, which really makes it a good deal."
Jackson admits the biggest change since 1994 with the event is the number of competitors. From only a handful in 1994 to at least 17 this year means more and more drivers are competing in the Warrnambool Classic.
"The amount of cars entered really tells you a lot about what people think of the Classic," said Jackson. "The Warrnambool Classic is basically Australia's biggest international race and combining that event with the Knoxville Nationals, the Williams Grove National Open and the Gold Cup at Chico really speaks volumes for our sport."
After winning his the feature at Knoxville Raceway on July 15, Jackson is more optimistic about his chances in the Kele World Challenge. "For this year's race, we just hope to be close to the back. That will mean that we've qualified well for the Nationals, but it will also mean that we've got a good car. When you have a good car most of the time you can drive forward in a race. We'd really like to win it again and be the World Champion for another year."
The Kele World Challenge is a joint effort between Knoxville Raceway and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, and Kele O.E.M. of Memphis, Tennessee.
RACE FACTS: Seventeen drivers have entered this year's Kele World Challenge and the lineup will be determined by qualifying points for the Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals. In order to qualify for the 16-lap race, an eligible driver (one of the 17 entered) must compete in the Nationals and earn points on either the Wednesday or Thursday qualification nights. Those eligible drivers in the top 106 in points will then be fully inverted for the start of the Kele World Challenge Dash, with the drivers outside of the top 106 tagging the dash line-up in order by points.
THE FIELD: 17 drivers have entered the race including: Terry McCarl (USA), Jason Meyers (USA), Danny Lasoski (USA), Brooke Tatnell (AUS), Christi Passmore (USA), Donny Schatz (USA), Danny Smith (USA), Brent Antill (USA), Rick Wilson (CAN), Skip Jackson (AUS), Tommy Tarlton (USA), Chad Kemenah (USA), Max Dumesny (AUS), Peter Murphy (AUS), Kerry Madsen (AUS), Kerry Jones (New Zealand), and Fred Rahmer (USA).
EVENT HISTORY: Since 1994, drivers that have competed in both the Knoxville Nationals and Warrambool Classic have been challenging to be the best "world" sprint car driver. In 1994, points from both events were totaled and the driver with the most points was named the winner of the Australian/American Challenge.
In 1994, Max Dumesny of Nelson, New South Wales, Australia, accumulated 693 points from both events and was crowned champion and collected the $1000 bonus. Australians Brooke Tatnell, Skip Jackson, and Garry Brazier claimed second, third and fifth, while American Danny Smith finished fourth.
The 1995 Australian/American Challenge had six competitors that were eligible for the title. Australians claimed the top three positions as Skip Jackson from Riverwood, New South Wales, Australia, easily beat Brooke Tatnell and Max Dumnesy, and Americans Brent Antill, Greg Hodnett and Danny Smith.