By Bill Wright
Knoxville, IA – As sprint car drivers continue to make their racing plans for 2023 known, it’s evident that the Knoxville Raceway will again see an influx of newcomers to its weekly cast.
In the 410 class, the rookies include Kade Higday, Lachlan McHugh, Gage Pulkrabek and Christopher Thram.
Higday is no stranger to Knoxville, having grown up there following his father and Knoxville track champion, Josh. Kade has five 305/Pro Sprint feature wins to his credit at Knoxville.
Lachlan McHugh is the new driver of Brandon Ikenberry’s Deuce5 Motorsports team. A native of Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, “Lockie” was the 2022 Grand Annual Classic winner at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Victoria, has several championships, and is one of the up and coming drivers “Down Under.”
Gage Pulkrabek of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, is in his second full season of sprint car racing. After racing Outlaw Karts at English Creek where he was named most improved driver in 2021, he raced with the Northern Outlaw Sprint Association (NOSA) in 2022, earning Rookie of the Year honors and placing eleventh in the point standings.
Christopher Thram of Sanborn, Minnesota, won Rookie of the Year honors in the 360 class at Knoxville in 2021. Last season, he mixed starts closer to home in both a 360 and 410. He was a victor with the 360 Midwest Power Series at Jackson, and finished 10th and 11th in two 410 starts at Jackson.
Saybrook, Illnois’ Blake Feese has won three 410 features at Knoxville, but hasn’t raced at the “Sprint Car Capital of the World” in over ten years. Blake will pair with Bill Vielhauer and the Beaver Drill & Tool #12x team. It will be a “blast from the past” to see the 12x each Saturday night, and also to see Feese, who raced in several NASCAR series over the years.
Brooke Tatnell is a familiar face that will be returning on a regular basis in 2023. Brooke pairs with car owner Mike Sandvig and the #7 team. Justin Henderson will rekindle a driver/owner relationship with Bryan Sundby and the BDS Motorsports #1 team. Carson McCarl will partner with the Jeremy Scadden #6 team as well.
Rookies in the 360 class include Jack Anderson and Garet Williamson. Jack is the son of long-time Knoxville competitor Johnny Anderson, and will be in the family #7a. Jack had a tremendous career in outlaw karts and go karts that included several local and national championships.
Williamson is from Columbia, Missouri and registered three wins last season. He also will spend some time in a 410 in 2023. Garet qualified for two dashes with the World of Outlaws last fall. He has partnered with crew chief Dennis Moore Jr. this season.
Sedalia’s Gunner Ramey will also be a frequent participant. Gunner was the 2021 ASCS Warrior and Lake Ozark Speedway track champion. He picked up his first ASCS National Series win at US36 Raceway near Osborn, Missouri last summer.
Tyler Groenendyk, who won the 2021 track championship with the Pro Series will be a new face in the 360 lineup this year. Josh Higday will also return to the 360’s. The 2007 track champion will definitely be a factor.
Team DGRD, led by Dennis and Betty Gainey will field two new teams in the 360 class. The #6A will see 18 year old Alex Vande Voort behind the wheel. Alex was the 2021 Pro Sprint Rookie of the Year and finished in the top ten in 360 points in 2022. Kelby Watt will return to weekly racing in Team DGRD’s #6K. The 2017 Pro Sprint Rookie of the Year holds four wins in that class, and finished sixth in the 360 class in his last full year at Knoxville (2020).
Knoxville Raceway kicks off the season on April 15 with its 70th Season Opener on Pella Motors/Kraig Ford Night.