KNOXVILLE, Iowa (August 14, 2021) — Kyle Larson fulfilled a lifelong dream by winning the 60th edition of the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals Saturday at Knoxville Raceway. Larson driving Paul Silva’s #57 entry took the lead from Donny Schatz just before the halfway point and held off a last lap surge by Schatz. With prize and lap money Larson took home $176,000 for the victory.
“I’ve always dreamed of winning this race,” said Larson. “This atmosphere, this week was unbelievable. I think a year off made this place made the roof explode. I felt the energy all week, it kept me excited and pumped up.”
Giovanni Scelzi took the lead from the pole position with Schatz in his tire track while Larson settled into third on the opening lap. All the front running cars were running on the bottom until the leaders starting to approach lapped traffic.
On lap eight things heated up as Larson and Schatz caught Scelzi to create a three car race for the lead. Scelzi held the lead though until Schatz made his move to take the lead on lap 11. Schatz drifted up the track in turns three and four while trying to overtake a slower car and allowed Scelzi to close in.
On lap 14 Larson disposed of Scelzi for the second spot and began his pursuit of Schatz. Larson went to the top of the race track on lap 25 and took the lead from Schatz off of turn four. Schatz went to counter one lap later just as the caution flag appeared for the halfway break.
After the halfway break Larson was able to pull away from the field to a sizeable lead. On lap 27 the caution flag appeared for Rico Abreu slowing into turn one followed by a red flag two laps later for Brian Brown, Tyler Courtney, and Cory Eliason flipping in turn one with Brock Zearfoss also catching damage from the incident. All three drivers were able to exit their cars under their own power.
Larson maintained a sizeable lead until five laps to go when the track began to lay rubber. Schatz quickly closed in right on Larson’s back bumper.
“I was watching the big screen and I think I had a big lead, said Larson. “Then the track took rubber and I got behind Shane (Stewart) and I was going to settle in and I could see the (Schatz) was taking huge chunks out of my lead lap after lap. I knew it was going to be a time down to where he was right on my rear bumper and I told myself ‘I know he’s here, I know he’s on my back bumper, just don’t miss it.”
Larson didn’t miss it, driving away to a $176,00 payday. Larson indicated getting the lead just before the halfway point in the event was one of his keys to winning the feature.
“I wanted to get the lead before the halfway break,” said Larson. “I was looking at the board and I knew we were getting to the end of it. Rico (Abreu) had maintained ground in front of us and I decided to blitz it for a lap and it paid off. (Schatz) was actually getting back by me before that caution came out.”
Larson was also quick to credit his car owner and crew chief, Paul Silva, for the victory.
“We’re just a little California team. Paul Sliva, he is the best there is,” said Larson. “I’m just very fortunate to be with him.
60th NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s
Saturday, August 14, 2021
A-Main (50 Laps)
1. 57-Kyle Larson
2. 15-Donny Schatz
3. 49-Brad Sweet
4. 18-Giovanni Scelzi
5. 1S-Logan Schuchart
6. 19-Brent Marks
7. 9-James McFadden
8. 83-Kasey Kahne
9. 41-Carson Macedo
10. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild
11. 14-Kerry Madsen
12. 0-Brooke Tatnell
13. 73-Justin Peck
14. 71-Shane Stewart
15. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss
16. 49X-Ian Madsen
17. 39M-Anthony Macri
18. 2-David Gravel
19. 21-Brian Brown
20. 7BC-Tyler Courtney
21. 26-Cory Eliason
22. 7-Justin Henderson
23. 24R-Rico Abreu
24. 48-Danny Dietrich