RISING SON: Kraig Kinser Captures His First Knoxville Nationals Championship Knoxville, IA -- August 14, 2005 -- Many racers believe luck plays an important role in winning the Knoxville Nationals, the most prestigious sprint car race in the ...
RISING SON: Kraig Kinser Captures His First Knoxville Nationals Championship
Knoxville, IA -- August 14, 2005 -- Many racers believe luck plays an important role in winning the Knoxville Nationals, the most prestigious sprint car race in the world.
In the 45th running of the event on Sunday, Kraig Kinser took luck out of the equation. The schedule shuffled and delayed by two days of rain, Kinser raced his way to the pole position in the afternoon and then patiently waited until the evening to dominate the A-main. He charged away from the field to lead all 30 laps and capture the checkered flag worth $140,000, then climbed to the top of the frontstretch fence to celebrate with many of the 30,000 fans who hung around the extra day.
The field was stacked with 13 World of Outlaws Sprint Series competitors. It included Kraig's father Steve Kinser, a 12-time Knoxville Nationals champion who leads the Outlaws standings, and Danny Lasoski, a four-time Knoxville Nationals title holder who has a record 86 victories at the half-mile oval in central Iowa.
Kraig Kinser, 20, jumped to the lead in his Steve Kinser Racing Remy Maxim as soon as the green flag waved, with Donny Schatz sliding to the inside of Brian Paulus to grab second. Four laps into the race Lasoski cut under Chad Kemenah for third and those three pulled away, each running different lines as the track continued to widen under an 18-lap green-flag run.
The leaders caught the rear of the field only 10 laps into the event. Kraig Kinser darted high and low through the traffic when a caution waved with 12 laps to go. It bunched the field with Schatz, Lasoski, Shane Stewart and Kemenah all ready to pounce on Kinser, who had Jac Haudenschild's lapped car directly behind him.
On the restart, Kinser shot to the top of the track, Schatz tried the bottom, and Lasoski went up and down. The three quickly pulled away once again before another caution waved, setting up a seven-lap shootout to the big money.
Kinser set the pace coming to the green flag and pulled away in the high groove. Schatz and Lasoski raced each other. First Schatz and Lasoski went to the top, then Lasoski cut back to the low groove but Schatz fought him off.
Kinser, meanwhile, was pushing his machine as hard as he could, not able to see he had opened a bit of an advantage coming to the checkered flag for the biggest victory in his young career.
Schatz finished second for the fourth time in the Knoxville Nationals. Lasoski, who accumulated the most points after the opening two qualifying rounds, wound up third followed by second-qualifying night winner Stewart, Kemenah and Kerry Madsen, who was the highest finishing Australia native since 1978.
"We were joking, 'Well, now we just need 30 good laps around the front,'" said Kraig Kinser, the 2004 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year from Bloomington, Ind. "I was joking around in the pit area about that, but then you step back and look at the lineup and see 23 of the best sprint car drivers in the world behind you. You know you've got to go, and you know you have to have perfect laps, but even if you have perfect laps sometimes it doesn't work out for you.
"I knew we had to have a lot of luck this weekend and be strong every time we hit the track. I think we definitely accomplished that. We were a threat every time we went on the track."
Emotions were high afterward. Steve Kinser grabbed the microphone in Victory Lane, shouting to the crowd, "Not too bad for a 20-year-old." Off to the side taking it all in was Steve's father, Bob, who also was at Eldora to see his son capture the Kings Royal last month. Steve joined Bob in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame this season.
"He's great," Bob Kinser said of his grandson. "He's done a hell of a job. He drove a perfect race. He put it right where he needed to put it and left it there. Once or twice he drove down, but he was trying to pass cars. You can't follow a car and pass it. He did a heck of a job.
"I'm so happy I just can't explain how good it feels."
Neither could Kraig, who still is racing with a bandaged left hand to protect it from infection after it was burned last month at Williams Grove Speedway when the fuel nozzle broke off on the final lap of a heat race, igniting a fire that injured not only his hand but also his left leg.
"The cautions helped me a little bit, I opened up a lead," he said. "I didn't hear anyone back there so I knew I was pretty good. I was getting around the track really good the whole race so I knew we were going. On that first long run, I got spinning a little bit on the end of it and I was worried about blistering my left rear, which it ended up doing but it worked out fine. Every time a flag came out, the tires got cool and we were able to go again real good for about five or six laps and then we'd fall off a little bit. But it was just racing. Your tires are going to fall off a little bit."
For Schatz, another second-place run with his ParkerStores machine in the Nationals, this one worth $70,000, is an accomplishment in itself even if he sees otherwise.
"The thrill of second is really gone, I guess," said Schatz, who returns home on Tuesday with the Outlaws to race at Red River Valley Speedway near Fargo, N.D. "We really need to get that one extra spot. I drove as hard as I could. I can't feel bad, I can't be upset. I did everything I could, Kraig was just better. He did 30 great laps. If the race would have been a little different, it may have been a different outcome. If we had lapped traffic or not as many yellows, we may have been there, or Danny may have been there.
"We definitely needed to not have the yellows and we needed lapped traffic. We did have the lapped car of Jac Haudenschild in there the one time. He actually told me on the yellow he was going to go to the bottom and he went to the top. Maybe his computer is backwards tonight. That's just the way it goes. It's not his fault. We pushed as hard as we could and couldn't get it done."
Lasoski, a long-time competitor at Knoxville Raceway and the 2001 Outlaws champion, was focused on winning this race for much of the season.
"I want to thank all of Tony Stewart Motorsports for putting out the effort they did," said Lasoski, of Dover, Mo. "Paul Kistler and all the Mopar engineers worked a lot of overtime for this Bass Pro Shops team. We think we're gaining on it. We ran third tonight, but we were a third-place car. I tried a couple of dumb moves to try to get something with Donny and we just hurt ourselves by trying to race and Kraig got away from us. Our hat is off to Kraig Kinser. He's a hell of a racecar driver and he needs to hold his head high."
No doubt the title would begin to sink in later in the night, but immediately afterward Kraig Kinser was swarmed by hoards of media and fans.
"I'm not feeling it right now," he said. "Probably when I wake up in the morning I'll feel it more. Twenty years down the road I'll probably appreciate what I've accomplished, but I can't explain it right now. It's just unbelievable.
"I hope to be around sprint cars in some way until the end of my days. I hope I never leave this great sport."
Still, for an athlete who has excelled in every sport he has competed in, ascending to the top of sprint car racing at such a young age is not lost on him, thanks to years of watching his father dominate.
"When I played basketball, wrestled or raced, it was always against good people," he said. "It feels good to say I'm a Knoxville Nationals champion. Every day that goes by I'll appreciate it more and more, just how hard these things are to win. It took me five years and to come from barely making the shows to running up front here, it's just and unbelievable feeling."
Just like when he won the first World of Outlaws race a year ago, celebrating the victory won't be too easy. The series competes Tuesday in Fargo before heading to the West Coast for a couple of weeks.
"We have to get ready to go to Fargo," he said. "There will be a little bit of a celebration I'm sure when I get back home to Bloomington, maybe the boys back home will give me a good celebration, a pretty big celebration."
A much deserved celebration, no doubt.
* Through the first two nights of qualifying, Danny Lasoski had earned the most points. In the Knoxville Nationals format, Kraig Kinser earned the pole position for the A-main after a fourth-place finish in a scramble. Lasoski finished ninth in the scramble and started the main event on the outside of Row 3.
* The 2005 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year was 17-year-old Kaley Gharst. Geoff Dodge was the highest finishing rookie eligible to win the Fast Track to Indy program, winning a test session in a Menard Infiniti Pro Series car in October. If Dodge passes the test, the Indy Racing League and Knoxville Raceway will work together to secure sponsorship for the 2006 season for a minimum of six races.
* Rush Racing's TRU FIRE No. 8 Eagle driven by Brooke Tatnell was declared by fans to be the Best Appearing car during the Nationals in the XR Best Appearing competition presented by HyVee. In addition, the Rush Racing team was declared the Best Appearing crew to complete a sweep, which netted the group $10,000 in cash and awards. The team spent about $20,000 in paint and apparel that drove fans to www.sprintcarxr.com to vote for it.
* The weather that knocked out two nights of racing during caused the event to miss its Saturday date for the first time in more than 15 years. By running the race on Sunday, it was not able to be televised. A statement from the track said senior management at Knoxville Raceway and Speed Channel worked throughout Saturday to keep the four-hour live broadcast, even extending the start time to 11 p.m. Eastern. When it was determined the races would be rescheduled to Sunday, Speed Channel -- worked with Knoxville Raceway to find a mutually acceptable prime-time slot for a highlights show." That allowed the racing program to run Sunday rather than postponing the event to the fall.
* The final program began with an E-main. Greg Jones and Tyler Houseman advanced from that race into the D-main. Danny Smith and Mike Kertscher moved from the D-main to the C-main. Clint Garner and Ed Lynch Jr. dominated the C and moved into the B-main, where Jason Solwold, Daryn Pittman, Tim Shaffer and Jac Haudenschild worked their way into the A-main.
* Kraig Kinser's victory at Knoxville Raceway was his third this season on a half-mile oval.
* Fred Rahmer and Shane Stewart captured the A-mains on the two qualifying nights. Sammy Swindell won the non-qualifier A-main Sunday afternoon. Daryn Pittman captured the Clean-O World Challenge for the second consecutive year.
* All teams competing in the event earned 75 points in the World of Outlaws Sprint Series championship standings, therefore there is no change in the positions from before the Knoxville Nationals. Steve Kinser leads Jason Meyers by 420 points in his quest for a 20th series championship.
* There's no rest for the Outlaws after completing the Nationals. The series begins a swing to the West Coast Aug. 16 with a one-night show at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, N.D., before invading Billings Motorsports Park on Aug.19-20 in Billings, Mont.; Grays Harbor Speedway Aug. 26-27 in Elma, Wash.; and Cottage Grove Speedway Aug. 30 in Cottage Grove, Ore.
* The Outdoor Channel will air the Cleveland Brothers Summer Nationals from Williams Grove at 8 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 17 and the Polydome Princeton National from Princeton Speedway on Aug. 24.