Knoxville Nationals: Inside the Numbers

Knoxville Nationals: Inside the Numbers
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
by Eric Arnold – Track Historian

The 54th Annual FVP Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store is over. Every year adds another chapter into the history of sprint car racing. We saw everything from a driver winning his eighth Nationals, some of the usual suspects finishing in the top ten, to Cinderella stories of drivers making the Championship A-Main that we didn’t expect.

105 cars entered this year, up 3 cars from a year ago and the most since 107 cars in 2009. Breakdown by state is 15 from Iowa, 13 Pennsylvania, 11 Ohio, 10 California, 8 Indiana, 6 Australia, 6 Oklahoma, 5 Minnesota, 4 from Missouri, South Dakota, and Tennessee, 3 from Illinois, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Washington, 2 from New Mexico, and 1 from Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Donny Schatz won his 8th Knoxville Nationals. That is 3 more than Doug Wolfgang, yet 4 less than Steve Kinser. Donny’s 14 top five finishes ranks fourth most all-time. He has finished first or second 13 times in the past 15 Nationals. His off years were a 12th in 2004, and 23rd in 2001 when he crashed on the first corner after starting on the pole. Steve Kinser won 8 of 10 Nationals from 1986-1995. Schatz has now done one better winning 8 of the last 9.

Donny Schatz has won $1,566,975 in his career (1995-2014) on Saturday night alone at the Knoxville Nationals, the most all time. To compare, Steve Kinser has won $807,850 in his career. Kinser's 1980 Nationals win paid $6,000.

Schatz has now led 226 laps in the Championship A-Main, second most all time behind Steve Kinser with 301. Schatz has the longest active streak of consecutive Championship A-Main starts at 17. Schatz won this year from the pole position, the 3rd time he has done that (2006, 2007, 2014). The pole sitter has won the Nationals 21 times. No one had done it since Schatz in 2007.

When you look at Schatz’ Nationals preliminary nights the past 5 years they are steady, but not super impressive. Average time trials finish is 6.2. Average heat race finish is 2.2. Average Prelim Feature finish is 9.2. He hasn’t won a preliminary night feature since he won three in a row in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Donny won his 7th career Nationals heat race this year, which ties him for the 5th most all time with Johnny Herrera. Sammy Swindell holds the record with 18 heat wins.

Bridesmaids Stats: Brian Brown has finished second three years in a row. That is a new record. Joey Saldana finished second three out of four years (2006, 2007, and 2009). Jan Opperman and Sammy Swindell are the only other drivers to finish runner-up three times. Steve Kinser has finished second 2 times (1978 and 1984). Schatz has been the runner-up a record five times, including four of six years (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005).

Brian Brown has won his preliminary night feature two years in a row and now has 3 top fives, 4 top ten’s, and made the A-Main 7 of 12 entries. He is also the only driver to lead a lap in the championship A-Main the past two years, not named Schatz. His 41 laps led ranks 13th all time.

Kerry Madsen had his best career finish at the Knoxville Nationals this year with a third, which also breaks his record for best finish by an Australian (although he was born in New Zealand and just recently became a US citizen) when he finished fifth in 2010. Before 2010 the highest finish by an Australian driver was Garry Rush who finished seventh in 1979. Madsen now has 2 top fives, 3 top ten’s, and made the championship race 8 of 16 Nationals entries.

Craig Dollansky has a very impressive Nationals resume. His fourth place finish this year is his 8th top five finish which ranks 8th most all time. He has 14 top ten finishes, one less than Schatz, and tied with Stevie Smith for 6th most all time. Dollansky has made the championship A-Main 18 times in 22 entries.

Justin Henderson finished 5th this year, placing in the top five for the second consecutive year and earning his third career top ten finish. He has made the A-Main 4 times in 14 entries.

Paul McMahan finished sixth this year and extended his streak of Championship A-Main appearances to 9. His career Nationals numbers are 2 top fives, 7 top ten’s, 16 A-Main starts in 22 entries. He set quick time on his qualifying night this year for the fourth time in his career, tying Joey Saldana with 4 quick times which ranks 5th most all time. (Mark Kinser holds the record with 10.) Paul’s lap of 14.633 is the quickest time trial lap in the past five years since Darrah set the event record in 2009 with a lap of 14.547.

Terry McCarl finished 7th this year, his 6th career top ten finish in the Knoxville Nationals and his first top ten finish since 2008. T-Mac has made the A-Main 18 of 28 attempts.

Mark Dobmeier finished 8th this year, his 2nd career top ten finish. Dobs has now made the A-Main 3 of the past 4 years with a total of 10 entries.

Joey Saldana finished 9th. For his Nationals career Joey has 4 top fives, 9 top ten’s, 4 quick times, and made the A-Main 17 times in 21 attempts.

Kraig Kinser finish 10th, his 4th career top ten finish. He has made the A-Main 7 times in 12 entries. Hard to believe it has been 9 years since he won it all in 2005.

Donny Schatz gave car owner Tony Stewart his 9th win (3 with Lasoski and 6 with Schatz) which ranks second most all time for car owners. Karl Kinser won 14 times with 3 different drivers (Dick Gaines, Steve Kinser, Mark Kinser). Bob Weikert won 4, and tied with 3 wins are Taylor “Pappy” Weld and Steve Kinser.

Drivers with their best career finish at the Knoxville Nationals this year: Cody Darrah 12th and David Gravel 15th.

4 drivers started in their first Knoxville Nationals Championship A-Main this year: Bryan Clauson who finished 17th, Clint Garner 18th, Lee Jacobs 21st, and Ryan Bunton 23rd.

Bryan Clauson is the first USAC National Champion to qualify for the A-Main since Steve Butler in 1987 who finished 16th that year. Clauson is also the 19th driver to compete in the Nationals and the Indy 500. He makes the 16th driver out of those 19 that made the A-Main. This was Clauson’s second Nationals entry.

Clint Garner made it to the Championship A-Main this year for the first time in his 7th attempt. Lee Jacobs made it in his second entry. His first entry was in 2008.

Ryan Bunton had never qualified for the B-Main before and he skips over the B and into the big dance this year. His motor went sour at halfway but it was quite the accomplishment for his small team. Bunton had missed the previous two Knoxville Championship Cup Series weekly shows due to no engine. The best part of all is Bunton’s tribute paint scheme to all of our military that he proudly displays the signatures of on his car.

Sammy Swindell qualified for his 32nd career championship A-Main.

Shane Stewart extended his streak of consecutive A-Main starts to 14 this year. He also won his 3rd career preliminary night feature.

Daryn Pittman made his 12th career start in the Championship A-Main in 17 attempts. He won his third career World Challenge (2004, 2005, 2014) and this was his second career feature win at Knoxville Raceway. His 2004 win in the World Challenge was only a 12 lap “dash” and the minimum criteria for a “Feature” is 15 laps with at least 15 cars to be considered a feature win by Knoxville Raceway Historian’s.

Milestones: Sammy Swindell competed in his record 40th Knoxville Nationals this year. Danny Smith competed in his 36th Knoxville Nationals this year, while Jac Haudenschild made his 32nd appearance, Lasoski was his 31st , and Steve Kinser his 38th. Stevie Smith, Jeff Swindell, Johnny Herrera, and Don Droud Jr. all competed in their 25th Knoxville Nationals this year.

Jac Haudenschild won his 6th career Nationals heat race this year. Wayne Johnson won his 4th heat race, Greg Wilson won his 3rd, Jack Dover won his 3rd, and Jon Agan won his 2nd.

Andy Gregg won the Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year Award, the seventh driver from California to do so. The other six California drivers are Duane Feduska, Chuck Gurney, Randy Hannagan, Tyler Walker, Jason Meyers, and Kyle Larson.

Ohio’s Paige Polyak made her first appearance at the Knoxville Nationals, making her the 12th female driver to enter the Nationals. Paige is the only female driver to win a sprint car feature at Eldora Speedway, winning a 305 feature.

Morgan Kemenah of Burgoon, Ohio won the 40th Knoxville Nationals Queen Contest this year. She is only the second Queen from the state of Ohio. The other, Kendra Jacobs.

Kody Kinser (son of Kelly Kinser) is the 8th member of the “Kinser Klan” to compete in the Knoxville Nationals. The others Bob, Sheldon, Steve, Randy, Mark, Kelly, and Kraig.

The Knoxville Nationals paid $150,000 to win for the 7th consecutive year. The event paid $3,000 to win 8 consecutive years from 1968-1975.

Knoxville Championship Cup Drivers took 5 of the top 10 finishing positions in the Championship A-Main. Brown, Dollansky, Henderson, McCarl, and Dobmeier. Garner, Tatnell, and Bunton made it 8 total in the A-Main. In 2013 there were 3 that finished in the top 10, and 7 total in the field.

Qualifying night point totals: Donny Schatz scored 492 points which is the highest score since 2003 when Schatz had 493. No one has scored a perfect 500 since Steve Kinser in 1992. Only five drivers have joined the 500 Club: Mike Brooks 1980, Sammy Swindell 1984, Doug Wolfgang, 1985, Mark Kinser 1990, and Steve Kinser who has done it 4 times in 1981, 1989, 1990, and 1992.

The Dunkin’s did a great job with track prep all week. The water truck wasn’t used at all on Wednesday or Thursday this year during the Nationals thanks to Mother Nature. Chris Dunkin said Thursday night was only the second time he could remember that we raced on a track that he never put a drop of water on. The Saturday afternoon race was terrific, the best day show track I have ever seen.

The Dunkin Mountain Range of black Iowa zook clay that was surrounding the infield was a cool sight, but let’s hope we don’t see those again anytime soon.

Kudos to our push truck crew. Thumbs up!

Kudos to the safety and fire crews as well. They had a busy night on Saturday.

BOOM! The pyrotechnics show was the biggest and loudest I can remember this year.

When Brian Brown took the lead on lap 44 Saturday night, it was the loudest roar I have ever heard in my 37 years of seeing racing at Knoxville Raceway.

I never thought I would see anyone rival Steve Kinser’s record of 12 Knoxville Nationals victories, but Donny Schatz is doing it. He has 8 wins at age 37. Steve Kinser at age 37 had 7 wins, and he won his 12th at age 48.

The crowd on Saturday night was a near sellout! Take a bow sprint car fans!

Thank you to all the staff in the office, press room, the security people, clean up crews, and the Marion County Fair Board. It's a long week, and I still saw a lot of smiling faces when it was over on Saturday night.

Thank you to all of you who stopped by to buy our book Knoxville Nationals: The First 50 Years written by myself and Bob Wilson. I met so many great people, and loved talking to all of you. You can still find the book on our website, It makes for a great Christmas present!