It all starts tomorrow. This coming Wednesday through Saturday in a small Iowa town, the biggest race and event in all of dirt track racing takes place, the Knoxville Nationals. Iconic moments are sure to happen, and I’m here to break down the contenders for you.
Donny Schatz – Is there any other driver who deserves to be the favorite to win more than this guy? Honestly? Schatz has the track record to prove himself in this one. Since his run began in 2006, the only year that Schatz hasn’t won this race was 2010 when Tim Shaffer broke through and took the victory, but Schatz is the one he passed for the lead. The last time I was out there in 2013, Schatz won the B-main which gave him the 21st starting position in the feature. He took the lead from Brian Brown that night and never looked back for the win. The only driver to come close to the level of domination that Schatz has in this event was Steve Kinser in the late 80s and early 90s when he had a similar win streak that was only broken twice. The smart money is definitely on Schatz to win the event. Schatz rolls into Knoxville with 22 World of Outlaws wins this season, and with his track record in the event, there is no reason to not make him the favorite.
Favorites to knock Schatz off the top of the podium
The question of who can knock Schatz out of victory lane is a tough one when you look at some of the season that some of the competitors have had. Narrowing it down to 4 is tough but here goes.
Shane Stewart – Make no mistake about it Stewart has had an excellent season in his first full season on the World of Outlaws tour with Larson Marks Racing. Stewart has 7 World of Outlaws wins this season and is second in points. If it wasn’t for Schatz, Stewart would be having a stellar season. Stewart took home the win in the Kings Royal at Eldora. This past weekend really cemented him as a legitimate contender for the win though as he won the Ironman 55 at I-55, and the Capitani Classic at Knoxville this past Sunday against an 80 car field. Stewart has a great shot at taking home the win Saturday night.
Danny Lasoski – Lasoski has had an excellent season. He is currently the points leader of the National Sprint League and also the point leader at Knoxville, and has been close to unstoppable at Knoxville. Lasoski knows how to win the Nationals as he has done so 4 times in the past. With his 4 victories in the Nationals in the past and the fact that he is faster then he has been in years this year, Lasoski has a legitimate shot at winning the Nationals this season.
Brian Brown – I feel like this one could be both clear cut and need to be explained at the same time. Brown has finished as the runner-up two years in a row in the Knoxville Nationals and looked to be the driver with the most likelihood of winning the Nationals in the future. Much like Schatz when he had numerous podium finishes without picking up the elusive win at the beginning of his career, Brown looks to be getting closer and closer, but at the same time Brown hasn’t had a great season. He has been very fast at times, but bad luck and some bad runs have led to a season that Brown would like to get turned around. And there are always drivers who may not be quite running the way they want to rolling into Knoxville that have great runs. Brown could be that guy.
Stevie Smith – Smith has been very fast recently. He races a limited schedule for car owner Fred Rahmer, but after winning 5 Pennsylvania Speedweek races and picking up the big paycheck in the Summer Nationals at Williams Grove against the World of Outlaws I think it warrants putting him in the favorites. But it is really the track record of Smith at Knoxville that puts him here along with the combination of him being faster right now then he has been in quite some time. He has been a pole sitter at Knoxville in recent years and he has many good runs in the Nationals A-main in the past. With his current speed, and the knowledge that both he and Rahmer possess it could lead to a special Nationals for Smith.
The guys that should make the show and could have great runs
Darkhorse picks that could make the A-main and also could surprise people
So there you have it. I would venture to say that one of the five drivers I picked as a favorite or contender will bring home the big check on Saturday night. Donny Schatz is far and away the favorite, but there are numerous drivers that could also challenge that notion. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting. Knoxville Raceway is an excellent race track, and the Knoxville Nationals is the biggest event in dirt track racing. Legends will be made, and one driver will stand tall with the big check on Saturday night.