Knoxville Nationals - Terry McCarl in the spotlight

Knoxville Raceway Champion McCarl Breaks Track Record Knoxville, IA -- August 11, 2005 -- Terry McCarl has been coming to Knoxville Raceway for nearly all of his 40 years. As a kid, he used to sneak into the barns during the Nationals and watch...

Knoxville Raceway Champion McCarl Breaks Track Record

Knoxville, IA -- August 11, 2005 -- Terry McCarl has been coming to Knoxville Raceway for nearly all of his 40 years. As a kid, he used to sneak into the barns during the Nationals and watch from the lofts as the car owners gambled the nights away.

McCarl, who hails from nearby Altoona, grew up to become one of Knoxville's most intense competitors, winning the track's 410-sprint car championship the past six years. In the 2004 Knoxville Nationals, he started on the pole in the main event and led the first 15 laps.

As a touring member of the World of Outlaws Sprint Series this season, McCarl has been the fastest qualifier seven times, tied with Steve Kinser and Chad Kemenah for the lead in that category. He also is 10th in points with nine top-five runs, including three fourth-places finishes with the Outlaws earlier this season at Knoxville, two in A-features and one in a preliminary.

So it's not hard to understand why McCarl was a little choked up after he broke the Knoxville Raceway speed record in time trials Thursday night, a mark that will stand despite heavy rain forcing the entire program to be re-run Friday night after it was canceled Thursday during heat races. McCarl turned a lap around the half-mile oval in 14.907 seconds at 120.769 mph. His time was one-thousandth of a second faster than Joey Saldana's record-breaking run on the second night of a two-day show in April when McCarl was locked into the feature and did not have to qualify. Joey Saldana's father, Joe, was the 1970 Knoxville Nationals champion and for a long time held the track's single-lap record.

"When I was a little boy sitting up -- Joe Saldana was my hero," an emotional McCarl told the frontstretch grandstands, backing away from the microphone several times to compose himself. "He always had the track record. It meant a lot to me. 20.37 when I was growing up. That was the track record forever. Then Joe got beat, then he came back the next week after he got beat and broke it again.

"A couple of times ago when we were here, I knew it was going to be track-record material. We had all the lightweight stuff on our car but the track wasn't ready. Then we got locked in and on the second night they broke the track record and I didn't get a chance to do it because I was locked in. I told my wife I wanted to give up being locked in to break that record and she thought I was pretty stupid. Track records to me might last a lifetime, being locked in only lasts for that night. This place is special. To do it at the Nationals is a pretty big deal to me."

After the second qualifying night was pushed back to Friday because of the rain, McCarl couldn't believe how difficult it was to face the crowd and talk about breaking the record.

"I swallowed a fly or something," he said. "I'm a little embarrassed about it now. I didn't feel that way at all, it came out of nowhere. It just shows you what this place means to me."

He does believe he had the car that night in April to break the record, and was serious when he told the fans he was ready to give up his spot in the Stacker 2® Dash just to take a shot at the mark.

"I wanted to give it up and everybody thought I was an idiot, but track records last and I think we had a shot at it," he said. "I didn't think that shot would ever come again for me. Joe Saldana was my favorite driver as a kid. He had it for 12 years. It was always a big deal. They had it in the program all the time and as a kid that was a really big deal. I'm a bit of a historian and to me track records and things like that mean a lot. I know I'm not going to be around forever and those things might last for a long time.

"It's what makes Knoxville, Knoxville. It's the historic value of it. I'm just lucky I only live 30 minutes from the best track in the world."

McCarl will have another chance to better his record Friday when time trials will be re-run to kick off the second qualifying night, which also will include heats, the C, B and A features as well as the Clean-O World Challenge Dash.

-woo-

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Steve Kinser , Joey Saldana , Chad Kemenah