Sunday, June 3, 2012

Stock Car Feature The Highlight of Knoxville's Shootout

Knoxville Raceway's First Annual Shootout for Modifieds, Stock Cars, Sport Mods and Hobby Stocks originally scheduled for April 22nd and rained out a couple of times finally took the green Sunday night and it will be the battle in the Stock Car feature that will be remembered in this one.

With the most passing points following the heat races Damon Murty earned the pole position for the twenty-lap main event and Shay Curtin lined up to his outside. Those two drivers would run the first three laps side-by-side with Murty holding the edge each time as the lap was scored while Jeff Mueller and Nebraska driver Kyle Vanover ran door-to-door behind them in third and fourth. On lap four as Murty and Curtin exited turn two they drifted up the speedway a bit giving Mueller the opening that he was looking for. Murty had to hit the brakes entering turn three or be pinched off and it was Curtin who would be credited with leading the fourth trip around the historic half-mile.

Mueller hugged the bottom in one and two and eased ahead of Curtin down the back stretch while Vanover followed him into second. As Mueller protected the preferred groove on the track that had been dried out from a late afternoon start under an early June sun, a south wind and 134 total race cars, Keith Knop was finding a bite one line further up the track and was making his way forward after starting ninth. On the ninth lap Knop eased past Vanover for second and then pulled even with Mueller off of turn two and on lap eleven Knop was scored as the leader by a nose at the stripe. Mueller was up to the challenge though and picked up the pace never letting Knop clear him and shut the door on the bottom.

Mueller would lead lap twelve while the two drivers crossed in front of flagman Doug Clark in a virtual dead heat each of the next two laps. It was a thrilling battle of give and take on the slick surface as Knop seemed to be faster exiting turn two while Mueller had the advantage in three and four as Mueller regained the lead on lap fifteen. And, while these two battled side-by-side, Kyle Vanover was tucked in right behind them just waiting for some racing room just as Mueller had found much earlier in the race. As the white flag waved Mueller cleared Knop exiting turn two and with Vanover now making his bid for second that was exactly what Mueller needed as he again negotiated turns three and four flawlessly and drove to the checkers. Knop fought off Vanover to finish in the second spot while Curtin and Murty completed the top five.

The Sport Mod feature was the first of the four to be run and on the first lap there was a multi-car tangle in turn two, but everybody kept moving and the green flag stayed out spreading the field out immediately. Clarinda's Jeff Jones was the leader although the car now in last place, Dylan Book that was just a couple of car lengths ahead of him, started to pull away from the leader. Still Jones appeared to have the race well in hand until the caution waved with five laps remaining for Jack Housley who had spun in turn two. Tyler Droste and Scott Davis restarted side-by-side behind Jones and Droste appeared to have second until Davis found the higher groove to his liking. Davis drove around Droste and then past Jones to take the lead on lap seventeen and he then cruised the final three circuits to take the win. Jones would have to settle for the runner-up honors, Droste took third, Bill Wears was steady in fourth and Jim Gillenwater completed the top five. Racer Hulin who won the second heat race, but was disqualified for not having his rear panel on, started in row ten and finished eighth. Austin Kaplan was involved in that opening lap skirmish and impressively raced his way back up to ninth at the finish.

Matt Webb would lead the first of fifteen laps for the Hobby Stocks in their main event before hometown driver Kevin Fee took over on lap two. Andy Boeckman who had started just behind Fee in fifth, followed him to the front and on lap seven he drove by the leader on the outside. Fee was not about to give up though and he kept the pressure on Boeckman over the final half of the race, but the five-time Supernationals champion Boeckman was not to be stopped as he earned the checkers in his first-ever appearance at Knoxville. Fee and another hometown driver Bill Bonnett were next in line, Webb finished fourth and Nebraska's Robby Marsh ended up in fifth.

The Modifieds would close out the night with their 25-lap headliner with former National champion Dylan Smith starting on the pole position. Mike Van Genderen stayed with Smith early before yielding to Richie Gustin who picked up the chase. Smith's lead though grew just a bit with each lap and on lap ten Gustin slowed and pulled to the infield with mechanical issues. Todd Shute was now in second and he was able to cut into Smith's lead as the laps wound down, but could not mount a challenge as Dylan Smith would climb to the top of the podium for the final photo session on this night. He would be joined by Shute in second and the Southern Iowa Speedway promoter VanGenderen in third. Josh Most used the outer line to come from tenth to fourth while Mark Elliott completed the top five.

The caution on lap fifteen of the Sport Mod finale was the only one to wave during the four feature races and the final checkered flag flew at 9:05 p.m. Hopefully this event can be run in April if it is again scheduled in 2013 although I have no idea where they would have been able to fit another sixty-six cars in the infield! Full results can be found on Knoxville's great website.

Double features in the Hobby Stocks, Stock Cars and Modifieds this Wednesday night at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. Hope to see you there!

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