Seeding the Nationals: 2023 Results

Donny Schatz (#15) racing with David Gravel (#2) during Saturday's Knoxville Nationals finale. (Mark Funderburk photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(August 14, 2023) — The 2023 Knoxville Nationals are complete and that means Monday was the time to compare how my Knoxville Nationals seeding fared against the results.

I posted the original seeding on Wednesday morning due to some of the craziness we have seen with driver changes throughout the season. Entries that showed up for the Nationals that were not on the entry list by Tuesday morning were not included in the seeding, therefore will not show up in the results.


Seed Driver Sat. Result
1 David Gravel 2
2 Kyle Larson 1
3 Rico Abreu 7
4 Brian Brown 14
5 Brad Sweet 6
6 Carson Macedo 5
7 Logan Schuchart 23
8 Donny Schatz 3
9 Brent Marks 25
10 James McFadden 43
David Gravel made a run for the ages Saturday at Knoxville Raceway to salvage his Knoxville Nationals after a crash on his preliminary night.  (Serena Dalhamer photo)

If you had asked me after Wednesday’s preliminary night was completed how I thought these seeds would turn out on Saturday, my response would be “terrible”. By Saturday I ended up closer with the top 10 than I had originally thought.

David Gravel’s run from 22nd to 2nd was one spot away from making history to break Donny Schatz’s record for winning the Nationals from the furthest starting spot back in the field. Gravel’s run saved the day for my seedings this this tremendous run through the field.

Kyle Larson is Kyle Larson, and there isn’t much more I can add to that. I still think seeding him second was appropriate with the speed Gravel had shown coming into the Nationals.

Rico Abreu was likely seeded appropriately before a flat tire derailed him in the finale. Running from the back to seventh shows how strong Abreu’s car was as well. The same could be said for Logan Schuchart, who was probably undervalued a bit in the seeding before his mechanical issues on Saturday.

I also undervalued Donny Schatz, which I should know better than to do at Knoxville Raceway until the day he does not have an entry to drive at the Nationals.

On the other side I took too much stock in the previous year and overvalued Brent Marks coming into the Nationals, putting too much stock in his Eldora performances where he typically performs slightly better than at Knoxville.

James McFadden was hot coming into the Nationals, and I put him in front of his teammate Buddy Kofoid when I had them in reverse for most of the process. McFadden’s B-Main crash derailed what could have been a save for this seeding.


Seed Driver Sat. Result
11 Aaron Reutzel 16
12 Buddy Kofoid 8
13 Gio Scelzi 4
14 Austin McCarl 36
15 Justin Peck 19
16 Cory Eliason 32
17 Spencer Bayston 11
18 Justin Sanders 37
19 Zeb Wise 29
20 Parker Price-Miller 18
21 Anthony Macri 20
22 Sheldon Haudenschild 10
23 Justin Henderson 44
24 Sam Hafertepe DNS
25 Corey Day 12
Giovanni Scelzi outperformed his seeding by a wide margin this year at the Knoxville Nationals.  (Serena Dalhamer photo)

I ended up closer on some of these than I thought I would, but I was off on most of these. The biggest oversight in this segment is the number of drivers I undervalued.

I was bullish on Corey Day needing more laps on a half-mile before he would make the Knoxville Nationals A-Main. Day went from missing the show with the All Stars to solidly making the feature for the Nationals. This is just another sign of how good Day is at driving and how bad I can be at seeding.

I undervalued Giovanni Scelzi by a large margin. I had Scelzi around my nine and ten seeds but dropped him based on the performance of others right before the Nationals. Scelzi seems to have a knack for performing well at Knoxville and I should have taken that into account.

Sheldon Haudenschild and Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing improved their half-mile program considerably and it showed at Knoxville.

Some of the other drivers I overvalued included Justin Henderson, who I put too much stock into some improvement right before the Nationals. I did not expect Cory Eliason to show up with a Ford engine, otherwise I would have dropped their seed down slightly as they worked out their new package.

A tire issue for Austin McCarl and Justin Sanders crashing into a slower car in hot laps derailed my seedings for both drivers in this group.


26 Shane Stewart 28
27 Daryn Pittman DNS
28 Lachlan McHugh 55
29 Kerry Madsen 9
30 Davey Heskin 21
31 Brock Zearfoss 54
32 Lynton Jeffrey 18
33 Jamie Veal DNS
34 Tim Kaeding 33
35 Hunter Schuerenberg 24
36 Chase Randall 13
37 Ian Madsen 15
38 Ryan Timms 31
39 Kyle Reinhardt DNS
40 Cole Macedo 66
41 Robbie Price 46
42 Tim Shaffer DNS
43 Kasey Kahne 27
44 Chris Windom 48
45 Tasker Phillips 42
46 Blake Hahn 50
47 Brady Bacon 35
48 Sye Lynch 62
49 Colby Copeland DNS
50 McKenna Haase 74
Kerry Madsen (Serena Dalhamer photo)

Even though this section of seeding was not too far off, the best place to start the discussion about them are the big misses.

I didn’t know if Kerry Madsen could avoid problems on his preliminary night. I undervalued Madsen’s knack for running well at Knoxville and Clinton Boyles having a stellar setup on the car.

I thought Chase Randall would do well at Knoxville, but not making Saturday’s A-Main. Combining that with TKS Motorsports not making the final since 2017 I thought seeding was appropriate but ended up missing this one by a mile.

The same could be said for Ian Madsen. This was a huge oversight on my part for the same reason his brother Kerry, they both run well at Knoxville. I should have put more stock in recent performances by Ian to seed higher.

Lynton Jeffrey is another driver who always runs well at Knoxville that I should have seeded much higher just based on history.

Break out Kasey Kahne, who was another driver I undervalued by a wide margin. Kahne has had some abysmal luck since returning full time to sprint car racing. I was glad to see him have a Nationals where nothing crazy happened to him on the racetrack.

Drivers that were overvalued were plentifully in this section.

Brock Zearfoss has not had the best of 2023 seasons, but I had a better feeling than the 51st overall coming into Knoxville. I put a lot of stock in Cole Macedo based on last year, but the younger Macedo had a rough Nationals in year two.

I also thought Sye Lynch and McKenna Haase’s qualifying ability would have them higher up in the order.


Seed Driver Sat. Result
51 Terry McCarl 71
52 Shane Golobic 45
53 Cap Henry 65
54 Sawyer Phillips 57
55 Ayrton Gennetten 52
56 Garet Williamson 26
57 Kraig Kinser 20
58 Brenham Crouch 61
59 Mark Dobmeier 64
60 Brooke Tatnell 68
61 Noah Gass 83
62 Chase Dietz 76
63 Riley Goodno DNS
64 Carson McCarl DNS
65 Bill Balog 34
66 Dylan Cisney 53
67 J.J. Hickle 81
68 Scott Bogucki 22
69 Clint Garner 56
70 Dustin Selvage 30
71 Jamie Ball 40
72 Tanner Carrick DNS
73 Chris Martin DNS
74 Tanner Holmes 47
Bill Balog had strong moments during the 2023 Knoxville Nationals. (Mark Funderburk photo)

This section of the seeding was a train wreck. From large missed on undervaluing drivers such as Scott Bogucki, Dusin Selvage, Garet Williamson (losing his ride was the reason I dropped him down late in the standings), Bill Balog, and Tanner Holmes were huge misses for me.

On the other side Terry McCarl, Noah Gass, and J.J. Hickle were huge misses on the other side.

I did have some luck with getting Ayrton Genetten, Brenham Crouch, Mark Dobmeier, and a few others close, but largely this section was a dumpster fire for me.


Seed Driver Sat. Result
75 Kaleb Johnson 39
76 Don Droud Jr. 69
77 Dusty Zomer 17
78 Jake Bubak 51
79 Jordon Goldesberry 82
80 Kade Higday 59
81 Brandon Wimmer 41
82 Greg Wilson DNS
83 Kalib Henry 67
84 Zach Hampton 58
85 Bill Rose 88
86 Matt Covington 79
87 Harli White 77
88 RJ Johnson 85
89 Cody Ihlen 92
90 Bill Wagner 89
91 Joe Simbro DNS
92 Christopher Thram 63
93 Rusty Hickman 70
94 Ayden Gatewood DNS
95 Landon Hansen 86
96 Gage Pulkrabek 91
97 AJ Moeller 80
98 Trent Pigdon DNS
99 Matt Wasmund 87
100 Austin Bishop 78
101 Kevin Ingle 75
102 Frank Rogers 90
103 Ryan Roberts DNS
104 Cole Mincer 84
105 Henry Edward DNS
Dusty Zomer had a tremendous performance this week at Knoxville putting his car in the A-Main through his preliminary night.

Based on other people having mechanical problems and running into other pitfalls there are bound to be misses in this group. None of those misses were bigger than Dusty Zomer.

I spoke to some very plugged-in people about the happenings at Knoxville Raceway and they were even surprised at Dusty Zomer’s performance at the Knoxville Nationals. Nothing leading into the event led me to believe Zomer would make the Nationals A-Main after a significant layoff from sprint car racing before this season.

Others that outperformed their seeds by a wide margin included Jake Bubak, Brandon Wimmer, Kalb Henry, Zach Hampton, Christopher Thram, Rusty Hickman, Austin Bishop, Kevin Ingle, and Cole Mincer.

In conclusion…

After Thursday I felt there was no way I would ever go through this process again. Now that the Nationals are over, I plan on this becoming part of our regular coverage. It turned out to be enjoyable, albeit a stressful and frustrating one due to the instability among some of the race teams.

Just like with the Kings Royal I learned a lot by doing this and have already made notes on how to improve upon it in the future.

Before anyone gets it in their head, there is no way I’m doing this is happening for Chili Bowl Nationals.

Right now the plan is to do this just for Knoxville and would add an additional event that has a reliable pre-entry list and a large field of cars down the road.