By Bill W
August 17, 2010 – Sprint car driver Brandon Wimmer made one big step in his career by qualifying for his first Knoxville Nationals finale last weekend. A number of hurdles had kept him from the goal in the past, but a solid qualifying night effort on Wednesday gave him enough points…make that point, to slide into the 20th and final lockdown spot in Saturday night’s main event. He would finish a respectable 17th in the 24-car field.
The Fairmount, Indiana driver timed in 22nd quick in the Alan Barton Motorsports #7TW. “For where we went out (33rd) we were pretty happy with where we qualified,” says Brandon. I didn’t think that would be great point-wise, but the way the track worked out on Wednesday, it was o.k. for us.”
Starting fourth in the heat, Brandon finished third, and in a transfer spot to the preliminary feature. “The heat is always big and that went well,” he says. “A lot of it was track position on Wednesday, because the track was so good. To be honest, we were lucky to miss the Bob Weuve crash. I thought his car may come down the track on us.”
So many of the quick qualifiers missed the feature, that Brandon actually started outside row one for a feature that inverted the top eight qualifiers who transferred through their heat. “Our Knoxville luck came in a bit there, and the invert put us on the front row,” he says. “You have to have a little luck at Knoxville, and we did on that night.”
Brandon shot out to the lead, and rode most of the race in the top five. “We were able to lead the first few laps,” he says. “I knew the bottom was a little faster, but I had a hard time hitting the bottom, and keeping it down there. We rode in fourth a lot of the way.”
Fourth became sixth at the checkers. “I missed the bottom of the track on the last lap, and (Jason) Sides and Davey Heskin were able to get by me,” says Brandon. “We were happy with sixth. There were a lot of good cars in that feature.”
Brandon’s point total put him 11th among the Wednesday qualifiers. He felt he was destined for Saturday’s B. “I really thought we’d be in the B Scramble range,” he admits. “Usually, if you’re not in the top ten on your qualifying night, it’s tough to get locked in. I was walking through the pits Thursday, and someone told me they thought we were 20th. I called the press box and they said I was 20th, but I had to see it on paper to be sure.”
When he showed up on Saturday, officials pointed him towards the parking spot reserved for Saturday’s pole-sitter. “It was kind of funny actually,” says Brandon. “It was where they told us to park. Later they came and told us to move, which was fine. It would have been better if one of the officials didn’t get nasty about it with us. Everyone else was cool though. I told Brian Brown’s crew that we just wanted to feel what it was like to park in the pole-sitter’s spot. We got a good laugh out of it.”
The 50-lap main event for the 50th was really like two features. At the halfway point, crews were allowed to work on the cars for five minutes with no limitations. “We didn’t have the best car set-up wise for the first feature,” says Brandon. “We got a lap down, and that really hurt us later. We knew the key before the race was finishing, so we focused on that too. We knew there would be several dropping out. They told us during the four-wide that the caution would come on lap 26, so we were prepared for the stop.”
Most of the worry about the stop concerned fuel and tires. “Actually, our tires were pretty good,” says Brandon. “We knew we had five minutes, but by the time our tires were on and the fuel was in, we hardly had any time to mess with the car. I think it was nice and quick, and the 50 laps worked as well as it could. The track sure was in great shape.”
Knoxville’s rule now dictates if you are down a lap to the leader, you are down a lap to everyone on the lead lap. That hurt Brandon, as he passed several cars on the lead lap, but did not get credit for it. “We were actually much better the second half, but losing that lap hurt us,” he says. “We were able to get by Chad Kemenah and a couple of other guys; but being a lap down to the leader, we couldn’t gain any spots. If we had it to do over again, we’d probably make some changes to stay on the lead lap.”
The week was a good one for the team. It was just the second and third night out for the #7TW in 2010. “All in all, the whole week just worked out for us,” says Brandon. “We made the feature by one point. It was a special week for us. It was a first for not only me, but also the car owner, Alan Barton. That made it special.”
Brandon will be back in Ohio in Rick Ferkel’s #0 car at Attica Raceway Park on Friday and Fremont Speedway on Saturday.
Brandon has realized that a driver not only needs good equipment on the racetrack, but needs to also be in the best physical shape to be a success. That’s why Brandon has added a wellness program to his daily routine, which includes adding a line of scientifically validated nutritional products from Mannatech. Mannatech, Incorporation is a leading developer and provider of proprietary nutritional supplements, weight management products and skin care solutions. Athletes around the world rely on Mannatech products because they are formulated from high quality, natural plant sources and are formulated without any substances banned by major worldwide anti-doping agencies.
Brandon has been invited to serve on an elite team of athletes called Team Mannatech because of the results he has had with the products and will be working to share his experience with drivers, crews and fans. With more than 200 athletes representing countries around the globe, Team Mannatech members have been drawn from the exclusive ranks of sports legends, the everyday athlete and young enthusiasts destined to become superstars. They inspire action and attract passionate wellness champions and are all role models for their sport, committed to helping people of all ages lead a healthy, active lifestyle.