KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- The supporting cast stepped up big during Thursday's qualifying night at Knoxville Raceway for Saturday's 46th annual Super Clean Knoxville Nationals. A night after National Sprint Tour points leader Danny Lasoski...
KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- The supporting cast stepped up big during Thursday's qualifying night at Knoxville Raceway for Saturday's 46th annual Super Clean Knoxville Nationals.
A night after National Sprint Tour points leader Danny Lasoski and 12-time Nationals champion Steve Kinser struggled, it was the next generation of NST stars putting on strong shows Thursday.
Tim Kaeding finished second in the 25-lap feature, with Jason Meyers third. Brian Paulus made it three in the top-five with his fifth place effort. Paul McMahan battled up front in the first half of the race before finishing 9th, one spot behind Kerry Madsen.
After the two qualifying nights at Knoxville , Meyers is in fourth position. Jason Solwold is 9th, Kaeding 12th, Paulus 14th, McMahan 17th, and Steve Kinser 19th. The top-20 are locked into Saturday's $140,000-to-win 30-lap main event.
Kaeding finished second to Jason Johnson on Thursday. Kaeding started second, fell back to fourth early, then came on strong in the middle part of the race to reclaim second.
"We had a little bit of a motor problem at the start," said Kaeding, driving for the Steve Kinser Racing team that won last year's Knoxville Nationals with Kraig Kinser. "It stumbled when we got up high, then it cleared up. We had a second or third place car."
As he has the whole season, Kaeding gave credit to his crew.
"I've got a great crew," he said. "Everyone on the team is great. I just try to make sure I don't hit the wall."
By the end, Kaeding was willing to accept second.
"We were good," he said. "We were too loose there at the end. I just tried to keep it in one piece. This makes me ecstatic."
Meyers gave credit to both his crew and also the track crew, which made the racing surface wider and more useable than on Wednesday.
"I give those guys all the credit in the world," Meyers said of the track crew. "It was wide up on the fence, and there was the bottom. That's what Knoxville is known for."
On a lap 16 restart, Meyers fell to sixth, then gained two spots a lap later. With six laps to go, Meyers got by Paulus for third.
"I tried going on the bottom on the restart and missed it, then the next lap they missed the bottom so I got the spot back," Meyers said.
Much of the race looked like an NST race with NST drivers swapping positions.
"The NST guys did a great job," Meyers said. "It shows what they're made of. They're a great group of guys. You're only as good as the guys you race against, and we race against the best."
Paulus also likes the guys he races against on a regular basis.
"We all race each other clean, which makes it easy to race with them," Paulus said. "We look out for each other."
Paulus was happy with his first top-five in a Knoxville qualifying feature, and said being locked into the top-20 met the team's goal.
"I thought we had it won there for a while," Paulus said. "If I could have kept it on the bottom, I would have had it."
Despite falling at the end, McMahan held on for a solid 9th place finish.
"We'll take a top-10," he said. "The track was the way it should have been for all of qualifying. I was so tight there at the end I couldn't do nothing. Guys would pass me, and I couldn't turn back under them."
Other NST drivers have their work cut out for them. Shane Stewart is 27th in points, Madsen is 38th and four-time Nationals champion Lasoski is 40th. Jason Sides and Dean Jacobs are 47th and 76th, respectively.
Kraig Kinser made contact with another car and damaged his front wing during his heat race, then finished 10th in the B-main. The defending event champion, driving a third Kinser Racing car, is mired in 54th in points. He is also practicing and racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series the next two nights.
"I don't know what we're going to do now," he said. "I wish we had run better. It's tough to just come out cold like that. I've got to be with the truck (Friday)."
Friday's racing at Knoxville , set to kick off at 7:15 p.m., starts with five heat races for non-qualified drivers. There are then three features for those drivers, followed by three scrambles contested by drivers already qualified for Saturday's C-main, B-main and A-main. Twenty cars are locked into each of those mains, with the top-10 in each main participating in scrambles that will determine starting line-ups for Saturday.
Friday's racing also includes the Factory Value Parts World Challenge, an invitational event that has no bearing on Saturday's races.