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DONNY SCHATZ WINS 10TH KNOXVILLE NATIONALS

Knoxville Nationals Final - Photo: Knoxville Raceway

Knoxville Nationals Final – Photo: Knoxville Raceway

Sprintcar Superstar Donny Schatz has won his 10th Knoxville Nationals in 12 years with a stirring drive holding off a close Kyle Larson at the Knoxville Raceway, Iowa.

By GEOFF ROUNDS

The North Dakota driver saluted for the eighth time aboard the Tony Stewart Racing #15 and pocketed $150,000 first prize, from Kyle Larson and Australian Kerry Madsen.

Schatz was second last year to Jason Johnson and went one better this year, his record in the last 12 years in National finishes is: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2,1. He’s actually finished second or better in 15 of the last 17 years.

“You can’t get flustered (in lapped traffic). You have to figure out what to do. I was off the pace for so long I knew someone was going to be coming. After the stoppage (halfway pit stops), Kyle was second,” Schatz said.

“He normally finds everything in a race car, so you have to stay on your toes with him. He’s an awesome sprint driver. It sucks that he has a different career to do. I’m just glad he’s a part of this sport and comes back because he loves it like the rest of us do.”

Polesitter David Gravel led fellow front row starter Schatz early until the 22nd lap of the 50-lap race when Gravel’s chance at an historic victory came to a grinding halt when he did a motor.

Schatz inherited the lead and the disappointment for the Connecticut driver (Gravel) gave the lead to Schatz. Kyle Larson also inherited a top five spot, and drove by Brown and Brad Sweet for third on the restart. A caution for Terry McCarl, who slowed after getting into the turn three wall, slowed things again.

At that point, the mandatory stop was implemented. After the pause, Schatz led Madsen, Larson, Sweet and Shane Stewart back to green. Madsen took a shot at the leader, but a slider in turn two fell short, allowing Larson to cruise by into second. While Schatz led Larson, Madsen and Stewart, Sweet and Brown exchanged the fifth spot several times.

A final yellow flag flew with 12 laps to go for Greg Hodnett, who stopped in turn four. It erased a 2.2 second lead for Schatz. Back in clean air, Schatz was strong up front. With five laps to go, he entered lapped traffic again. With several cars side by side in front of him, Larson would close.

On the white flag lap, Larson would make a last-ditch slide attempt in turn three that would fall short. Schatz would win his 10th Nationals ahead of Larson, Madsen, Stewart and Sweet. Brian Brown, Aaron Reutzel, Rico Abreu, Daryn Pittman and Ian Madsen rounded out the top 10.

For Larson, who won his qualifier to transfer into the A-Main, his career-best second-place finish came in just his third start in the Knoxville Nationals.

“That was a fun, tough race. We had some good restarts there, got to second and was kind of maintaining pace with him,” Larson said of Schatz.

“Was just trying to wait until we got through traffic. I knew he would be good in traffic, but I figured there would be a couple of times where he wouldn’t clear someone and get tight and maybe I could get a run. But the times he got tight, I got tight on the cushion.”

Larson was grateful to his NASCAR team-owner Chip Ganassi who gave Larson permission to run the race. Larson has a deal with Ganassi to run no more than 25 sprintcar races a year, was pleased to be on the podium.

Rager Phillips won the E main, Australians Jamie Veal won the D and James McFadden claimed the C while popular American Jason Sides emerged victorious in a highly competitive B main.

Australians overall finish on the final night: A-Main; Kerry Madsen 3rd, Ian Madsen 10th, Brooke Tatnell 14th B-Main; James McFadden 23rd, B-Main; Scott Bogucki 6th, C-Main; Jamie Veal 12th, Lynton Jeffrey 13th, Jordyn Brazier 20th, D-Main; Jason Kendrick 18th.

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