By: World of Outlaws on August 10, 2017 | 1:07 A.M. EST
Larson celebrates in Victory Lane. (Photo: Paul Arch)
KNOXVILLE, IA – August 9, 2017 – Kyle Larson continued his dominance in the racing world, convincingly winning the opening night of the 57th Annual 5-Hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store. Nine-time Nationals champion and current World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series points leader, Donny Schatz finished second, but ended the night as the high point man and will be in prime starting position come Saturday night.
Larson’s third career Knoxville Raceway win leaves the dirt racing world waiting for the results of a phone call with his NASCAR car owner, Chip Ganassi. Larson, who currently sits third in the Monster Energy NASCAR point standings, has a contract built in that he cannot race the day before a NASCAR event. The Knoxville Nationals finale is Saturday, with NASCAR racing at Michigan the following day.
“I hope he understands how big this event is to me. I think I know what his answer will be,” Larson said about his upcoming phone call.
As for the race, Larson started on the pole and won it with a masterful drive through lapped traffic. Knoxville regular Austin McCarl got a good start and led the field down the backstretch before giving way to Larson shortly after.
“I could run the bottom decent and once I got up top, I felt like I had a lot of speed,” Larson said.
Pennsylvania Posse member, Greg Hodnett, closed in on McCarl for the runner-up position but was overtaken by Schatz before he could do so. Schatz got by McCarl with ease and set his eyes on the California driver as the two raced through lapped traffic. Schatz never closed in enough to make a serious attempt for the lead.
“Kyle did a phenomenal job. He moved around when he needed to. We had a very decent night,” Schatz said in the post-race press conference.
Hodnett settled for third.
Brad Sweet was strong all night and ended the night second in points.
“You have to put yourself in position and I think we did a great job of that all night,” Sweet said. “Coming to the biggest race of the year, we had high expectations. There’s still room for improvement, but I feel like we are really close right now.”
World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series drivers Shane Stewart and Paul McMahan sit sixth and eighth in points, respectively. Sheldon Haudenschild battled motor woes in the Last Chance Showdown, as did Logan Schuchart, who scratched for the evening following hot laps.
The action continues at the Knoxville Raceway Thursday for Night Two of the 57th Annual 5-Hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals. Defending Nationals champion, Jason Johnson, and 12-time feature winner with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series this season, David Gravel, headline the field. 2016 Knoxville Nationals polesitter Daryn Pittman and 2005 Nationals winner Kraig Kinser will be in action along with Jacob Allen, Greg Wilson, Brent Marks, Clyde Knipp and Jason Sides from the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series.