By T.J. Buffenbarger
(August 9, 2019) — While most of the attention for the weekly competitors was focused on well known names Matt Juhl managed to put in a solid performance to lock himself into the Knoxville Nationals A-Main for the second time in his career.
Last year Juhl had to fight through the “Hard-Knox” program on Friday to secure one of the four positions into Saturday’s A-Main available in that program. This year Juhl was able to qualify through his preliminary night. Being able to avoid Friday’s program was a huge relief for the 29-year-old from Tea, South Dakota.
“It’s going to be an awesome feeling tomorrow waking up for sure,” said Juhl. “Last year we had to work our way through the Friday show and had a good battle with Haudenschild to make it in. Tonight, I get to go home, do maintenance on the car tomorrow, and don’t have to worry about racing tomorrow. It’s going to be an awesome feeling.
Juhl was extremely consistent on Thursday night parlaying his 10th fastest qualifying effort into transferring through the heat race and a 9th place finish in the feature. That performance put Juhl 12th overall in Nationals points and the only one of two drivers in the top-10 in the Knoxville Raceway point standings to qualify for the Nationals A-Main through their preliminary night.
“I knew the invert is deep, so I was a little worried about the heat race, its obviously not easy,” Juhl said about his preliminary night. “I got lucky in the heat race with some cars dropping out and was able to move forward but had to work my way through there too. Just got a good starting spot in the feature there and held my own. I had kind of a rough restart but once I got rolling it felt really good.”
While many of us were surprised at the performance, Juhl was not based on some of the things they have been working on during the abbreviated season at Knoxville Raceway due to the number of rain outs. Juhl is currently 6th in the Knoxville Raceway point standings with one podium finish, two top five finishes, and five top-tens and no victories to his credit coming into the biggest event in sprint car racing.
“We showed a lot of speed here during the weekly shows,” said Juhl. “We just had a lot of rain outs, we were trying different things, so we had some off nights. Overall, we have had the speed its just been putting together a good night and having some luck, especially during Nationals.”
Juhl was a youngster that would come to Knoxville Raceway to watch while running karts. After a five-year layoff between his karting and the start of his eight-year sprint car career, the past four in 410 sprint cars, making the Nationals A-Main is dream come true.
“When I was a little kid, I was always in the stands watching and always wanted to do this,” said Juhl. “Last year was the biggest thing making the Nationals. To be able to do it again this year is unbelievable.”