NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey's General Stores
Knoxville Raceway | Knoxville, IA
Saturday, August 10, 2019
Race Recap  

DID IT: David Gravel wins first Knoxville Nationals

Jason Johnson just wanted to win.

“And we F’ing did it,” said a jubilant David Gravel, standing in Victory Lane with his Jason Johnson Racing team as the Knoxville Nationals champion for the first time in his career Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway.

“It just feels amazing,” Gravel said. “I don’t know what else to say. It feels really surreal. It doesn’t feel real at all.”

Frank Smith photo

The Watertown, Conn.-native won the 59th annual NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store in his first year with Jason Johnson Racing. And the pair did it in dominating fashion.

They started off their week in Knoxville, Iowa by winning Knoxville’s Capitani Classic. Four days later, debuting a new blue and fluorescent color painted car with Axalta on the side of it for the first time, Gravel won his preliminary race for the Nationals – earning a second-place starting position for Saturday’s Feature.

The Jason Johnson Racing team then started their Saturday evening by winning best appearing car and best dressed crew with the entire JJR team looking like rainbow warriors in their red, yellow, orange and blue Axalta gear.

A few hours later, after holding an E-Main, D-Main, C-Main and Last Chance Showdown – which saw Gio Scelzi, Donny Schatz, James McFadden and Rico Abreu transfer to the Feature – it was race time.

The field of 24 cars was set. More than 20,000 people – triple the town’s population – filled the grandstands. The crackling of fireworks echoed around the half-mile raceway.

Once the cars filed in two by two, flagman Doug Clark waved the green flag in front of the field for the final time at the Knoxville Nationals. Polesitter Aaron Reutzel launched to the lead past Gravel with Joey Saldana in his tire tracks. Saldana slid to the cushion in turn one in front of Gravel to take second.

Exiting turn four Reutzel hit the inside berm, got out of shape and allowed Saldana to get a run on him from the high side. Saldana stuck to the cushion in turns one and turn two, finding enough grip and momentum to charge around Reutzel for the lead.

Hugging to the bottom, Reutzel got back in his groove and ran Saldana down two laps later to retake the lead. Their battle wasn’t over yet.

After two cautions – including one for Donny Schatz having throttle linkage issues – Saldana found himself back on Reutzel’s bumper. The “Brownsburg Bullet” continued to run the cushion, while Reutzel remained low. However, with Saldana closing, Reutzel changed lines in turns three and four, moving to the side high. The lane switch blocked Saldana’s run and helped Reutzel extend his lead.

While the two battled, Gravel watched. Waited. He knew there was plenty of time to make a move in the 50-lap Feature.

“I didn’t get too excited,” Gravel said. “I knew if we fell back to fourth or fifth it would be kind of hard to battle back up there and contend for the win. Just kind of fell into third there.”

Once the lead was back in striking distance, Gravel pounced. Running the bottom, he drove past Saldana for second on Lap 10 and then methodically inched his way to the leader. Three laps later, with his front bumper close to Reutzel’s tail tank, Gravel threw a slide job at the Texan in turn three and made it stick off four.

When the score board clicked off another lap, Gravel was officially the new leader on Lap 14. From there, he set his Axalta No. 41 on cruise control until the scheduled caution on Lap 25.

“I just let the race come to me,” Gravel said. “Just, luckily, I was able to maintain third there early. I think that was huge and kind of see what lines worked where and what was the best place to be.”

Before the scheduled caution, Daryn Pittman was on a charge. From his 10th starting spot, Pittman worked his way to third-place, having to fight hard for it with Saldana and Tim Kaeding.

Once the race hit Lap 25, Gravel’s lead evaporated. All 24 cars were brought to the infield and teams were given three minutes to make any adjustments. Despite their speed, the Jason Johnson Racing did take the time to make a few tweaks. However, Gravel said with a chuckle, if he told you what they were he “might have to kill you.”

Whatever they were, they worked.

Gravel shot to the lead on the restart, immediately putting about a half a straightaway lead between he and Reutzel. A new contender emerged, though. Pittman, continuing his earlier charge, worked his way around Reutzel for second and began to track down Gravel.

The difference in speed was apparent. Pittman was making the high side work better than Gravel, inching closer every lap.

Two years ago, Gravel had a motor blow while leading the Knoxville Nationals. This year, it looked like Pittman might spoil his shot at a win once again.

But Pittman wasn’t always consistent against the cushion. At times he would hit it wrong, upset his car and lose time to Gravel. It only took a couple of bobbles by Pittman for Gravel to pull away.

Gravel was back on cruise control. He just wanted to win.

Frank Smith photo

Behind the top-two, Logan Schuchart was in a league of his own. From his 22nd starting position, he made his way to ninth by the halfway point. Then found himself in the top-five four laps later. With less than 10 laps to go, he was in third and closing on Pittman. With lapped traffic becoming a factor, Schuchart was able to steal second from Pittman on the last lap.

“To start 22nd and run second at the Knoxville Nationals is pretty awesome,” Schuchart said. “There’s good and bad second-places. The Kings Royal was a tough one. I wasn’t smiling a whole lot on that one. But tonight, I’m smiling.”

Pittman admitted there are also good and bad third-place finishes. His falls somewhere in between.

“Pretty frustrated that we lost second on that last lap,” Pittman said. “A lapped car just made a mistake in front of me.

“On one hand I’m really happy and really proud of this Roth Motorsports team and the effort we’ve put into Knoxville Raceway all season long, especially tonight. On the other hand, I’m pretty disappointed that I feel like that’s the best car I’ve ever had here and the best chance I’ve ever had to win this race.”

Gravel had his own issues with lapped cars in the closing laps. One bounced off the wall in front of him and others blocked his line. They slowed his pace, but not enough to put him in any danger.

He sped by the duel waving checkered flags with a more than 4.5 second lead over Schuchart.

“I’ve put myself in position a lot of times after prelim nights and never had anything to show for it,” Gravel said. “You know, my best finish is 10th. I feel like I’ve always been pretty good here, but no results Saturday night. Obviously, the JJR 41 gets around here good and it shows. It’s just a dream week. I’m numb right now. I don’t even know what is going on.”

The win was joyous and emotional for the entire team, especially team owner Bobbi Johnson, Jason Johnson’s wife, who made the decision to keep the team going after Jason’s death last year.

“I’m still trying the fathom it,” Bobbi Johnson said about the win. “You dream of this stuff.”

In the back of the JJR trailer is a list of goals. Johnson said the team usually sets goals every year. They weren’t going to this year, but then decided to do so. One was to win the Kings Royal. That didn’t happen. But there was still one goal on the list – win the Knoxville Nationals.

“It’s just phenomenal, unreal,” said Johnson, slowing her sentences to hold back the emotion. “Words can’t say what goes into all of the behind the scenes of something like this. I’m just thankful Jason was a great teacher and leader to me.

“If I wouldn’t have known the ins and outs and a lot of the other stuff and have (crew chief) Philip Dietz and these two (crew member) boys that stuck with us after the passing of Jason, there’s no way this team could’ve did it. And it took a whole ‘nother army of sponsors to even be here to compete. So, I have to thank everybody that’s out there, and all of the fans. There’d be some down nights and I’d read some of the messages, and they’re very touching. I don’t know if words could every describe it.”

They just wanted to see them win.

Frank Smith photo

UP NEXT:

The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series on Aug. 16 will return to River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D. Get tickets and more information. And on Aug. 17 the Series be at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, N.D. Get tickets and more information.

As always you can catch all of the action LIVE on DIRTVision.com.

RESULTS:

NOS Energy Feature (50 Laps): 1. David Gravel (2); 2. Logan Schuchart (22); 3. Daryn Pittman (10); 4. Tim Kaeding (7); 5. Aaron Reutzel (1); 6. Brad Sweet (6); 7. Sheldon Haudenschild (15); 8. James McFadden (19); 9. Donny Schatz (18); 10. Gio Scelzi (17); 11. Kerry Madsen (21); 12. Shane Stewart (23); 13. Cory Eliason (13); 14. Joey Saldana (3); 15. Ian Madsen (14); 16. Parker Price-Miller (5); 17. Brent Marks (9); 18. Matt Juhl (12); 19. Trey Starks (11); 20. Paul McMahan (8); 21. Tim Shaffer (4); 22. Rico Abreu (20); 23. Lance Dewease (16); 24. Dominic Scelzi (24)

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Results  
DIRTVision Highlights  
Event Info  

NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey's General Stores
August 7, 2019 to August 10, 2019
Knoxville Raceway
1000 North Lincoln Street
Knoxville, IA 

Event Description
The race that made Knoxville Raceway the "Sprint Car Capital of the World!" The NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey's General Store is a four-day event that draws nearly 25,000 fans to Knoxville, Iowa (population 7,000) each August. With more than 100 cars vying for a spot in Saturday's 50-lap, $10,000-to-start and $150,000-to-win championship, the preliminary events on Wednesday through Friday are intense. The event is also a family reunion for the dirt track racing community, with camping, food vendors, concerts, charity events, live radio shows and endless options for your racing t-shirt collection. Don't miss the greatest week in all of racing!

Series Racing
World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series

Sprint Car Track Record
14.351 seconds by Brian Brown on 5/22/21

To Win Amount
$150,000.00

Feature Laps Length
50

Event Schedule
Wednesday - Saturday:
8am – Knoxville Raceway Ticket Office Opens
8am - National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum Opens
9am – 16th Annual Mini Nationals at Slideways Karting Center
10am – Trade Show in Grand Show Barn at Knoxville Raceway Opens
10am – Driver Apparel + Merchandise Village Opens
2pm – Pit Gates Open
5:30pm – Grandstand Gates Open
7:15pm – Hot Laps

Monday:
7pm – Front Row Challenge at Southern Iowa Speedway
7pm – Outlaw Dirt Kart Nationals at English Creek Speedway

Tuesday:
4pm – KRCO Bus Ride “Bar Crawl” Departs Outside Ticket Office
7pm –Ultimate Challenge at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa
7pm – Knoxville Nationals Queen’s Contest in Dyer Hudson Hall
7pm – Outlaw Dirt Kart Nationals at English Creek Speedway

Wednesday, BRANDT Professional Agriculture Qualifying Night:
9am – Rooftop Yoga at Bryan Clauson Suite Tower
10am – 5pm – Tony Stewart Foundation Event at Slideways
3pm – Great Southern Bank Kid Zone Opens featuring a Casey’s General Store Pizza Party
5:45pm – Brad Sweet Champion Pole Unveil on Midway
6pm –Winged Nation presented by Sage Fruit on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage
Post-Race: "The Boys" live music on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage

Thursday, Qualifying Night:
9am – Rooftop Yoga at Bryan Clauson Suite Tower
11am – National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum Members Only VIP Reception
3pm – Great Southern Bank Kid Zone Opens featuring a Kone Korner Ice Cream Party
6pm –Winged Nation presented by Sage Fruit on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage
Post – Races: CTRL+C live music on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage
Post – Races: 51st Annual Chicken Feed at West End of Grandstands

Friday, FVP Preliminary Night:
9am –National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Golf Classic- Pella, IA
9am -- Rooftop Yoga at Bryan Clauson Suite Tower
11am – Steve King Foundation Cornhole Tournament in (big barn behind Turns 3&4)
3pm – Great Southern Bank Kid Zone Opens in Fan Zone Area
4pm – Driver Autograph Session in tent by ticket office
6pm –Winged Nation presented by Sage Fruit on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage
Post – Races: After Shock Rock Tribute Band on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage

Saturday Finale:
8am – 4.10 Dash – Turn 4 Pit Gate
11am – Parade – Downtown Knoxville
Noon – National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum Charity Auction
1pm – Great Southern Bank Kid Zone Opens
3pm – Driver’s Meeting – Tent by Ticket Office
6pm –Winged Nation presented by Sage Fruit on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage
Approx. 11pm – NOS Energy Drink Fan Finale Party with Tim Dugger Live on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage
*All times Central

Event Hashtag
#NOSvilleNationals

Sponsors
NOS Energy Drink, Casey's General Store

Entertainment/Additional Events
Great Southern Bank Kid Zone open at 3PM daily
Winged Nation on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage at 6PM daily
Live music on the Hercules Tires Entertainment Stage after racing daily
• Wednesday: The Boys
• Thursday: CTRL+C
• Friday: After Shock Rock Tribute Band
• Saturday: NOS Energy Drink Fan Finale Party with Tim Dugger

Driver Autograph Session in tent by ticket office Friday at 4PM


Frequently Asked Questions  
To Win Amount
$150,000.00

Type of Grandstand
Bleachers/ Chairbacks

Stadium Seating
No outside seating allowed

Handicapped Seating
Section D, row 1, and sections AA and BB, row 40. Companion seating is available.

Pit Age Limit
Aged 17 and under require parent waivers - Aged 12 and under must remain in vehicle or the fenced in area between turns 1 and 2. All pit fees apply. All ages same price

Personal Coolers
No coolers or outside Food/Beverages allowed

ATMs
1

Credit Card Use
Concessions, Pit Gate, Ticket Window

Alcohol Sales
Alcohol is available at the track

Smoking Policy
All grandstands are no-smoking. Smoking areas are available underneath stands.

Family Section
Sections I & J

Parking Cost
$10.00

Camping Availability
electric hookup, non-electric, onsite, sanitary facility, showers, waste services

Camping Cost
camping at the North Campground for $160 for 4 days. Water and electric hookups are available.

Closest Airport
Des Moines International Airport

Track Info  

Knoxville Raceway
1000 North Lincoln Street
Knoxville, IA 

Track Phone
(641) 842-5431

Ticket Phone
(641) 842-5431

Track Size & Type
0.500; Semi-banked

Sprint Car Track Record
14.351 seconds by Brian Brown on 5/22/21

Competitor Info  

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