Knoxville Nationals: Daryn Pittman preview

Pittman, Sherdon Motorsports team arrive in Iowa with confidence soaring. Knoxville, IA (August 11) - Before Saturday night's thrilling $100,000 Historical Big One victory, Daryn Pittman and his Sherdon Motorsports team were very optimistic...

Pittman, Sherdon Motorsports team arrive in Iowa with confidence soaring.

Knoxville, IA (August 11) - Before Saturday night's thrilling $100,000 Historical Big One victory, Daryn Pittman and his Sherdon Motorsports team were very optimistic about their chances in the 42nd Ford Dealers of Iowa Knoxville Nationals. Now that Pittman and the team have Saturday's major victory under their belt, their confidence is "awfully high" as the focus now shifts to the biggest week in sprint car racing.

"Honestly, we've got a lot of work to do to have the kind of week that we are hoping for," said Pittman. "I mean yes, Saturdays win has all of us sky high, but that won't mean a thing when we hit the racetrack again. My crew was back in Rochester (IN) Sunday building our new car and making sure all of the details are taken care of. We have a lot of momentum, but if we don't take advantage of it, someone else probably will."

Momentum is just what this 24 year-old needed three weeks ago. After a disappointing run in the King's Royal and a forgettable three nights at Williams Grove Speedway, Pittman and the crew (Joe Gaerte, Glenno Inglis and Bingo Jenkins) stuck together and regrouped. He raced from ninth to fifth at New Egypt on July 28th, and the next night he passed Lance Dewease on the final lap to win a $5000-to-win Open competition show. Two nights later, he won the Freedom 40 at K-C Raceway and completed the week with a thrilling last lap pass to claim the World of Outlaws victory at Beaver Dam Raceway for his second consecutive WoO victory. Just six nights later he won the biggest race of his young career.

Saturday's victory came in dominant fashion as Pittman led 36 of the 40-lap race driving the #21 Sherdon Motorsports Hop & Sack / Gaerte/Mopar/ J&J and should provide a perfect lead into sprint car racing's premiere event. This week, Pittman will try to become the fourth driver to win the Historical Big One and Knoxville Nationals in consecutive weekends as he hopes to join Steve Kinser (1995) Mark Kinser (1996) and Dave Blaney (1997).

"Everything worked out for us and we just want to keep rolling with it," said Pittman, the 1998 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year. "Winning a major race was a goal of ours coming into the season and now we can just concentrate on putting ourselves in a position to win $50,000 on Monday night."

Pittman, who raced from the back of field in last year's Front Row Challenge, will debut his new silver #21 at Oskaloosa in this year's race tonight and his hoping his recent success continues.

"I always wanted to do a special Knoxville car and never have been able to do it," explained Pittman "The car is nothing extravagant, but we reversed some of our regular colors and came up with a really good looking race car. We thought brining it out tonight would help us shake it down."

"Terry does a great job and it's a good race for the fans and a good race for us. We go there with the intention of trying to go to the back and put on a show. I'd say if we didn't have the chance to race from the back for $50,000 we probably wouldn't race it. That's what makes it fun and hopefully, we'll end up on the front row and can take the challenge again."

The pressure of the Knoxville Nationals will be different for Pittman and the team following their Big One success. There will be added pressure for Pittman as he'll have an extra day to think. For the first time in six starts, the 2001 World of Outlaws Gumout champion will qualify for the Nationals on Thursday night, and he knows it will be really difficult to wait until Thursday night before he gets his chance on the famous half-mile dirt oval.

"I've never qualified on Thursday, and I've always been able to get the jitters out of the way before everybody else, so this will be a new experience," said Pittman, who has three Knoxville Nationals "A" main starts. "To be honest, I'm not really looking forward to watching a whole night and thinking about everything before I can even get on the track."

Pittman will have to be on his game Thursday to match his qualifying night success of a year ago when he qualified second and ended up second high in qualifying points through one night. He admits the time between hot laps and the completion of the heat races is the most stressful time of the season.

"The qualifying laps are by far the most important two laps you make all season," continued Pittman. "I think I talk to myself more before qualifying at the Nationals than I do all year. You have to qualify in the top five -- that's a must. Then you've got to get through your heat race to set yourself up for a good Nationals Really if you can make it from the back of a heat race after qualifying good, you are normally sitting pretty solid and that takes a lot of pressure off."

Pittman and the team hope to have a strong qualifying night and lock themselves into Saturday's A-Feature and Friday's "A" Scramble. He will be in action on Friday as the reigning World Series Sprintcar champion and race in his second Kele World Challenge. The 16-lap race will offer $10,000 to win and Pittman will try to become only the second driver to win the international event while holding the WSS champion title.

"We're just going to try and not look to far ahead at anything this week," said Pittman. "We'll take Monday's race first and then worry about Thursday. We won't even think about Friday night until the feature is finished Thursday. Once things finish up on Friday, the butterfly's will begin for Saturday. I just hope we start somewhere close to the front on Saturday because this is the toughest race in sprint car racing to win. To have a chance you've got to start within the first couple of rows."

Saturday's $125,000 payday and big trophy are high on Pitman's wish list for the week, but he knows it will be a difficult test.

"We're awfully confident right now, but we've got to back it up this week," concluded Pittman. "I've never finished in the top ten on Saturday Night (11th in 2000 was his career best) and not to many guys have won the Nationals without finishing inside the top five at least one. We found out last weekend that we were capable of winning a major race, and if everything goes right, I think we can win this one too."

The Sprint Car Network will provide live coverage via beginning on Wednesday and Speed will air Saturday's program live beginning at 10 PM (ET).

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Mark Kinser , Steve Kinser , Daryn Pittman , Dave Blaney
Teams Williams