Take a bow, Knoxville Raceway. You did it again.
Thursday’s preliminary program of the 61st NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s was one of the most remarkable in recent memory. The storylines were plentiful from top-to-bottom, but one team earned the right to dominate the headlines.
Thirty-two years removed from Bobby Allen’s emotional, dramatic, and stunning triumph at the 1990 Knoxville Nationals, his beloved operation – Shark Racing – has swept the preliminary programs of the 2022 edition with his grandson, Logan Schuchart, winning Wednesday and his son, Jacob Allen, topping Thursday.
It was a rag-tag group of characters and cars when the Hanover, PA team joined the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series full-time in 2014. Flash forward eight years and this dream has turned into a reality with Shark Racing evolving into one of the top teams in the country, and they proved it this week.
After Logan Schuchart led all 25 laps of Wednesday’s opener, his uncle Jacob Allen had to follow him up on Thursday and most certainly felt the pressure. That’s not to say he didn’t thrive under the heat of the microscope, though. Piloting the Pells Tire Service, Low-E Insulation #1A, a replica design of Bobby’s 1990 car, Jacob brought his dad’s ride back to Victory Lane and he beat the best of the best to do it.
Earning his first-career Knoxville Raceway win with a superb effort, Allen was forced to fend off three-time World of Outlaws champion and 2018 Knoxville Nationals winner, Brad Sweet, to get the job done. It was a heated battle down the stretch, but one that this lovable son of “Scruffy” was willing to face head-on.
“This is so amazing,” Allen told an ecstatic crowd in Knoxville. “To bring my dad’s #1A car back to Victory Lane at Knoxville is so badass. What else can you say? Wow. I had to hold off Brad Sweet, who’s a champion here. Knoxville Raceway tops it all.
I was telling Logan that I could throw up before the Feature with how much pressure he put on me. I thought what it would be like for Shark Racing to sweep the prelims, and we freaking did it. I can’t believe it. When Shark Racing first came on the road, they never would’ve thought we were capable of doing this. This shows you that no matter how hard you work if you believe in it and you truly want it, you can make it happen.”
It was a matter of 0.754-seconds for Brad Sweet as fell just short of claiming his second Knoxville Nationals preliminary win. He was all over Allen’s bumper throughout the final five laps but struggled to make the right move with traffic and Allen’s improved savvy standing in his way. The Big Cat will start ninth in Saturday’s big dance aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49.
“I’m happy for Jacob,” Sweet said on his friend. “That’s pretty awesome to see the #1A back in Victory Lane here. Knoxville is a tricky place to win at, so seeing him get his first win on this kind of stage is special. I’m definitely disappointed for my guys, though. We had a good car, but I don’t think I made the right moves. We’ve got some work to do, and 50 laps is a long time for things to play out.”
Completing the podium behind Allen and Sweet was another fellow World of Outlaws star Carson Macedo. The Jason Johnson Racing, Albaugh #41 found speed late in the going and tracked down the front two to make it a three-way battle for the win on Thursday. The Lemoore, CA native fell short by 1.161-seconds at the checkered flag, but his third-place effort was enough to slot him starting fifth in Saturday’s main event.
“I got a bad start and had to reel it all back in,” Macedo said on his night. “Once I got my momentum going and found a rhythm I felt really good and could see Brad and Jacob ahead of me. I faded at the end, though, I don’t think it was my car or anything, maybe just the dirty air. It’s a nice points night for us, though, and I know we’re locked in for Saturday. I think we can get a little better for the big dance, but I believe in Phil [Dietz], Clyde [Knipp], and Nate [Reptez] completely.
Austin McCarl, of Altoona, IA, was the story away from the story as he earned high point man honors and put his Country Builders #88 on the pole position of Saturday’s $175,00o-to-win grand finale. The son of “T-Mac” Terry McCarl, Austin locked-in to his third Knoxville Nationals A-Main by timing in fifth, running fourth-from-eighth in his Heat and finishing fourth in the Feature.
Kyle Larson, the defending Knoxville Nationals champion, earned his fair share of headlines as well on Thursday. He timed in seventh-quick, but a poor Heat Race sent him to the B-Main and a 22nd-place starting position in the Feature. The Elk Grove, CA native then did what he does best, advancing +17 spots in a caution-free race to finish fifth and earn KSE Hard Charger honors. He’ll start from sixth in Saturday’s 50-lap finale as he hopes to repeat his 2021 triumph.
Rounding out the top-10 on Thursday night was Zeb Wise, Tyler Courtney, Kasey Kahne, Lynton Jeffrey, and JJ Hickle.
NOS Energy Drink Feature Results (25 Laps) – 1. 1A-Jacob Allen ; 2. 49-Brad Sweet ; 3. 41-Carson Macedo ; 4. 88-Austin McCarl ; 5. 57-Kyle Larson ; 6. 26-Zeb Wise ; 7. 7BC-Tyler Courtney ; 8. 9-Kasey Kahne ; 9. 2K-Lynton Jeffrey ; 10. 25-J.J. Hickle ; 11. 3TK-Tim Kaeding ; 12. 27H-Daryn Pittman ; 13. 19W-Chris Windom ; 14. 5C-Dylan Cisney ; 15. 21-Brian Brown ; 16. 11X-Michael Kofoid ; 17. 20G-Noah Gass ; 18. 7TAZ-Tasker Phillips ; 19. 17B-Bill Balog ; 20. 49X-Cale Thomas ; 21. 35-Zach Hampton ; 22. 1-Logan Wagner ; 23. 15H-Sam Hafertepe ; 24. 53-Jack Dover . Lap Leader(s): Jacob Allen 1-25. KSE Hard Charger Award: 57-Kyle Larson[+17]
Final Points (1-16 A-Main; 17-26 B-Main):
- 88-Austin McCarl (477)
- 7BC-Tyler Courtney (473)
- 15-Donny Schatz (469)
- 2-David Gravel (469)
- 41-Carson Macedo (467)
- 57-Kyle Larson (462)
- 19-Brent Marks (462)
- 27H-Daryn Pittman (459)
- 49-Brad Sweet (458)
- 25-JJ Hickle (458)
- 1A-Jacob Allen (457)
- 11M-Parker Price-Miller (457)
- 39-Justin Sanders (456)
- 11X-Buddy Kofoid (453)
- 7TAZ-Tasker Phillips (451)
- 8-Aaron Reutzel (447)
- 18-Giovanni Scelzi (445)
- 1S-Logan Schuchart (444)
- 2K-Lynton Jeffrey (443)
- 26-Zeb Wise (442)
- 83-James McFadden (441)
- 13-Justin Peck (441)
- 14J-Cole Macedo (435)
- 2KS-Ian Madsen (434)
- 9-Kasey Kahne (431)
- 3TK-Tim Kaeding (431)