With the 59th running of the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores in the books here are my last takeaways from the event:
• While much of the credit will go to David Gravel and Bobbi Johnson for the driver and keeping Jason Johnson Racing together respectively, I cannot say enough about the job Phillip Dietz has done over the past three years as well. From winning the Nationals, losing his boss and one of the best friends, coming back to Knoxville that same year to run well with Carson Macedo, and back it up with his second Knoxville Nationals title in three years is remarkable.
One of my takeaways following the World of Outlaws event at Hartford, Michigan was that Gravel and Dietz were fast and still had more speed to find. That proved to be true on Saturday.
• There are always plenty of “what if’s” for multiple drivers and teams after the Knoxville Nationals are completed. The one looming in my mind is if Shark Racing had opted to go with the same car they ran at Kings Royal and used to run well on Friday and Saturday at Knoxville rather than the newer car they ran on their preliminary night. The way Schuchart drove through the field on Saturday after a Nationals where passing was a premium, I can’t help but wonder if they hadn’t been so far behind the eight ball after their preliminary night what might have happened? Schuchart is on the verge of winning one of the “Crown Jewel” races sooner than later.
• Knoxville Raceway is typically not one of Daryn Pittman’s better race tracks. After a test in June and a strong performance with the World of Outlaws earlier in the year at Knoxville Raceway along with his podium finish at the Nationals Pittman may have figured out something at the Marion County oval. Saturday was Pittman’s first podium finish at the Nationals finale. Maybe in his 40’s Pittman has managed to put things together to be competitive at Knoxville.
• The combination of Joey Saldana and the Fishers, Charlie and James, seems to have great chemistry. The Ed Neumiester owned team ran well at the Kings Royal and at the Knoxville Nationals. While the finish on Saturday will likely not please Saldana, considering the limited number of starts I’ve found their performances in the big races remarkable.
• There is no race in the country that is more of a “downer” to leave than the Knoxville Nationals. After multiple days of living in sprint car utopia packing up to leave after the Nationals is never fun. While I can’t wait to see my family on Sunday I’m already thinking about the 60th edition of the Knoxville Nationals next season.