By DDR Motorsports PR
WATERTOWN, Conn. — Aug. 5, 2013— David Gravel got his first taste of qualifying for the main event of the Knoxville Nationals last year — and it left him wanting more. He will take to the track at the famed Knoxville Raceway in Iowa this week for the 53rd Annual FVP Knoxville Nationals, which again this year will be sanctioned by the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series.
The 53rd Annual FVP Knoxville Nationals are set for Aug. 7–10 at the legendary half-mile located at the Marion County Fairgrounds. The field will be split into two, with half of the drivers qualifying on Wednesday, Aug. 7 and the rest on Thursday, Aug. 8. Gravel will hit the track on Wednesday night in the FMR Racing/JRC Transportation/Musco Fuel/Model Craft J&J. He will also compete in the SPEED SPORT Knoxville World Challenge on Friday, Aug. 9. The 50-lap, $150,000-to-win finale of the FVP Knoxville Nationals is set for Saturday, Aug. 10.
“Having qualified for the main event last year helps me go back with a little more confidence this year,” Gravel said. “You have to be smart each time you are on the track and try to avoid mistakes and keep your car going forward. We were able to do that last year and really had a good Friday night portion of the event, which locked us in for Saturday. We’re hoping to start off on a strong note on Wednesday night.”
Last season in the FVP Knoxville Nationals, Gravel finished second in the then-new Friday-portion of the event, which earned him a spot in the A-Feature on the following night. In the Friday race, he led a handful of laps early, after starting on the pole. In the finale of the FVP Knoxville Nationals, the native of Watertown, Conn., started 18th and finished 22nd. On his qualifying night, Gravel finished 6th in the B-main, coming up just two spots shy of earning a spot in the preliminary feature that night.
“Qualifying well is the key at the Nationals and that starts with a good pill draw,” he shared. “You have to get in the preliminary feature and have a good run in that. Every single time you are on the track is important, as you are earning event points and that’s what ultimately sets the lineups for Saturday night.”
During the 2011 Nationals, Gravel started ninth in the preliminary feature that night, and ran as high as sixth in the early going. He was running eighth when he got caught up in a four-car accident on lap-18, which ended his night. On the final night, he found himself starting 18th in the B-main. The East Coast racer worked his way up to an eighth-place finish in that 22-lap contest, coming up just four spots shy of making the main event.
Gravel made his debut at the Knoxville Nationals in 2010, earning Rookie of the Year honors, following a run to the B-main. He opened the event as the 21st-fastest qualifier of the 50 entries on the first of two preliminary nights. He started fourth in the first heat race, and finished in that same position, which earned him a spot in the preliminary feature. He lined up third for that 25-lapper and was running up front when an early race spin relegated him to the rear of the field. He would finish that night in 20th. On Saturday, he started 12th and finished 11th in the B-main, which earned him the “Rookie” honors.
This season, Gravel has raced twice at Knoxville with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series, finishing seventh and 11th. On June 15, Gravel started 11th and steadily worked his way forward to finish seventh. He opened that night as the third-fastest driver in time trials, with a stout 42-car field in attendance. In his first start of 2013 at the half-mile on May 11, Gravel charged from the 25th starting spot to finish 11th. He was running up front in the B-main when the power steering line came off, sending him to the pit area and forcing him to use a provisional to start the 25-lap race.
“We definitely passed a lot of cars with the Outlaws in June,” he noted. “You never want to start that far back, but we showed that we were capable of working our way forward and that was just a 25-lap race, the Nationals is 50 laps. The key is starting toward the front and making sure you take of your car for the entire 50 laps.”
To gear up for the FVP Knoxville Nationals, Gravel competed in the second annual Capitani Classic on Sunday, Aug. 4. With a stacked field of 81 cars in attendance, he qualified 16th-fastest, which put him on the inside of the second row in the first heat race. Gravel finished third in the heat race to earn a spot in the 25-lap main event, where he started ninth and finished 19th.
“It was definitely a plus to get laps right before the Nationals,” said Gravel. “As many laps as you can get at Knoxville is always a plus. Our goal Sunday night was to have a smooth night, bring the car home in one piece and learn some things. We have some work to do before Wednesday, but we’ll be ready when we unload for the Nationals.”
Prior to heading to Knoxville, the East Coast racer took part in the Ironman 55 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., on Saturday, Aug. 3. Gravel finished 13th in the long feature event of the season, after making a couple of trips to the work area to fix significant front end damage sustained just past the halfway point of the 55-lap feature. Gravel began the night as the fifth-fastest qualifier and ran fourth in the first heat race to earn a spot in the main event. The opener of the Ironman 55 weekend was rained out on Friday, Aug. 2 and was not rescheduled.
Entering this week’s action, Gravel is seventh in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championship standings. He was victorious in May at I-94 Speedway in Minnesota, and has 24 top-10 finishes, with seven of those being top-five showings.