Knoxville Nationals Thursday report

Joey Saldana Leads World of Outlaws Drivers On Second Night of Knoxville Nationals Knoxville, IA -- Aug. 10, 2006 -- World of Outlaws Sprint Series drivers swept the top three positions in qualifying points for the 46th Annual Super Clean ...

Joey Saldana Leads World of Outlaws Drivers On Second Night of Knoxville Nationals

Knoxville, IA -- Aug. 10, 2006 -- World of Outlaws Sprint Series drivers swept the top three positions in qualifying points for the 46th Annual Super Clean Knoxville Nationals.

With Donny Schatz and Craig Dollansky already sitting first and second after the opening night of action on Wednesday, Joey Saldana and the Kasey Kahne Racing team turned the second quickest lap on Thursday night in time trials and posted a seventh-place run in the A- main to earn the third highest point total after the two opening nights of qualifying. Daryn Pittman, who finished third on Wednesday night, also earned enough points to be locked into the A-main on Saturday for a shot at the $140,000 top prize.

In all, there were eight World of Outlaws Sprint Series drivers competing on Thursday. In addition to Saldana and his Mopar-powered Dodge JEI featuring new country band Bomshel, Terry McCarl also picked up a Top 10 in his specially painted Big Game Treestands Eagle with Brooke Tatnell earning a Top 15 in a retro Race Outfitters Eagle that featured whitewall Hoosiers early in the program. Jason Johnson, who has dominated this season in a 360-sprint car, took the checkered flag Thursday night for his first 410-sprint car victory of 2006.

To complete his run on a night featuring 66 cars in action, Saldana had to transfer from a B-main that also included Randy Hannagan's Penthouse Maxim, Jac Haudenschild's Wright One Contstruction Maxim, Dion Hindi's RealTruck.com/Sniper Tuning J&J and Jason Martin's NOS Energy Drink Maxim.

Hindi reached the B-main by grabbing the final transfer spot in the C- main by 0.006 over Brock Mayes. Brian Carlson powered his Lincoln Electric/Triple XXX Root Beer Maxim to victory in the last chance heat to reach the C-main.

With the Knoxville Nationals full inversion program, Saldana's quick lap put him at the tail of his heat race, where an incident in the first corner sent his crew to work replacing a front end. A quick change sent Saldana back out, and with a damaged front wing he still nearly made the transfer to the feature after making a charge with two laps to go. Saldana wound up having to drive his way out of the B- main and then come from 22nd in the A-main for a remarkable seventh- place run.

"I think I probably should have waited until the last lap in the heat and I would have made the transfer," said Saldana, a native of Brownsburg, Ind., who won the Kings Royal last month at Eldora Speedway. "I was just frustrated. You can't really blame anybody because the heats are tough with everybody trying to make it.

"Donny Schatz I'm sure is frustrated he didn't win the race on Wednesday, but he's looking at the big picture and that's Saturday night. We very easily could have been in the C-main after that heat race and then been in the B-main and not as good as we are now."

Drawing a tough qualifying pill put McCarl deep in the field after time trials. Still, he and his crew continued to work on his car throughout the night with the ultimate payoff being a Top 10 finish in the A-main.

"We should have qualified a lot better," said McCarl, a six-time Knoxville Raceway champion from Altoona, Iowa. "We had a good car the rest of the night. We won a heat and we were pretty competitive in the feature until the last restart. On the normal World of Outlaws deal I pay attention to track conditions everywhere we go, but I did my normal deal here and as late as we went out here it didn't work out for us."

Tatnell, the Knoxville Raceway track record holder, also struggled in qualifying but still pulled out a strong finish in the A-main.

"There were cars that went out around us that turned better laps than us," said Tatnell, a native of San Souci, New South Wales, Australia. "You had to be perfect to turn a good lap as late as we went out, but we were sub par tonight. We still should have been better than what we qualified. The biggest thing is, this is the Nationals and you have to be perfect. Maybe we're all over thinking. As critical as qualifying is, if you go out early you can screw your lap up and still turn a good lap."

Five of the World of Outlaws drivers found themselves racing against each other in the fourth heat race, with only McCarl and Tatnell transferring. Hannagan was seventh in that heat with Haudenschild eighth and Dion Hindi finishing 10th. Hannagan then tried everything he could to transfer from the B-main, but wound up one position short of the feature.

"Other guys made it and we should have made it, too," said Hannagan, a native of San Jose, Calif. "It's a combination of everything. I'm going to need to go see a psychologist after this race just to get my head straight. It's the biggest race of the year and there's so much emphasis on it, it's just one small thing that can turn your whole night around. We were one spot out all night long. We're good, I feel good about the car and everything, we just missed it where everybody else got it. I knew on the start of the B-main that we were in trouble and there wasn't anything I could do but ride it out and try to make the best 12 laps I could."

Haudenschild has seen the level of competition rise to the point where transferring from a heat is no longer a given.

"It's a challenge," said Haudenschild, of Wooster, Ohio. "Everything has to go right for you. We got a good qualifying time tonight and didn't make it through our heat race. The B-main was like an A-main. Every time out you have to do good and we had a bad night. We didn't get through the heat race and didn't get through the B-main. We're going to have to start over and go through everything on the final night. It's hard to do these days."

Once Hindi was dialed in he was tough, but the five laps it took for him lock into the track in his heat race were too many on a night where the competition was so strong. Still, he thrilled the huge crowd with his pass for the final transfer spot in the C-main.

"We drew a good number," said Hindi, of Albuquerque. "The motor didn't run quite as well as we needed to. In the heat race it took me five laps to figure out how to drive the racetrack. In the C-main, I just laid back until we got to traffic and then I got Brock there. Starting so far back in the B-main, there's not much you can do. Like a lot of tracks we go to, this is so much different from Eldora and so much different from Red River Valley Speedway that the guys who run here all the time get really good at it. We only got to run here once this year. It's quite a bit disappointing, but we'll learn from it and keep going. Bottom line, it's fun to do it. We passed a couple of cars in the C-main and we passed a couple of cars in the B-main and that made up for it."

Martin, who was racing in his first Knoxville Nationals, was competing with a heavy heart on Thursday night. During the drivers meeting, the teams were informed that Steve King had passed away Thursday afternoon from injuries he suffered in a crash during the A- main on Wednesday night. Kansas natives, King had helped Martin get a start in sprint car racing.

"I grew up racing with Steve," said Martin, a native of Liberal, Kan. "His dad and his family are super nice people. It's a bad deal that happened. He's a really nice guy. He was always real helpful to me when I was starting. He kind of took me under his wing and said do this or do that. I wish his family the best."

Martin was warned his nerves could be easily frayed under the pressure of competition during the Knoxville Nationals, but he was competitive throughout the night.

"I went out and qualified 15th quick the first time here," Martin said. "We raced real well in the heat race but had some bad luck because they called the starts back. I wish we could have kept one of the first two starts. When you start so far back, it's just so hard to pass. I'm having a lot of fun. It's a lot of pressure, but it seems like I'm handling the pressure well. They say you get sick to your stomach. It didn't seem to bother me. You just step up and go."

With his two sons looking on, Carlson was determined to win a race during the Knoxville Nationals, and he accomplished that task on Thursday night.

"Knoxville is special any time you come here," said Carlson, of Linden, Ind. "You can't miss the Knoxville Nationals. Everybody is going to be here. It's the biggest race of the year, but it would be a whole lot more fun if we were about two hundredths of a second quicker, but that's part of it."

Friday's action includes five heats for non-qualifiers with a C-main, B-main and A-main, plus the scrambles for the drivers already locked into the C-main, B-main and A-main on Saturday. In addition, the Factory Value Parts World Challenge will feature some of the best drivers from around the world in a special event that won't affect Saturday's line-ups.

-credit: woo

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Donny Schatz , Craig Dollansky , Brian Carlson , Brooke Tatnell , Daryn Pittman , Joey Saldana , Randy Hannagan , Jac Haudenschild , Jason Johnson