Sam Hafertepe Jr. won the opening round of the 360 Knoxville Nationals. (Paul Arch Photo)
Sam Hafertepe Jr. won the opening round of the 360 Knoxville Nationals. (Paul Arch Photo)

Hafertepe Claims 360 Knoxville Nationals Opener

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Sam Hafertepe Jr. couldn’t have picked a better time to earn his first Knoxville Raceway victory.

The Sunnyvale, Texas, native won the 20-lap main event on Night No. 1 of the 31st annual My Place Hotels 360 Knoxville Nationals Presented by Great Southern Bank in track record time, earning $3,000 for he and his Hill’s Racing No. 15 team. Shane Golobic was the night’s top point earner heading into Saturday’s championship finale. 

Garet Williamson led the feature early on, ahead of Matt Juhl, Hafertepe, Lynton Jeffrey and Blake Hahn. Juhl was all over Williamson and passed him to lead lap two, while Golobic entered the top five from his eight place starting spot. 

Hafertepe was in hot pursuit and drove under Williamson for second on lap five. He reeled in Juhl and shot by him low in turn two to lead lap seven. 

Jeffrey found his way by Williamson on lap nine for third, and the leaders entered lapped traffic on lap 11.  Golobic was gaining speed in the closing laps, grabbing fourth on lap 15. 

Juhl slid sideways in turn one on lap 16, saving it but losing three positions.  Golobic used a lapped car to pass Jeffrey for second, but Hafertepe was slicing through traffic.  His 20-lap run of 5:52.2 broke Justin Henderson’s July 18, 2020 track standard by a full five seconds. 

Hafertepe Jr. and Golobic were followed by Jeffrey, Williamson and Juhl.  Hahn, Brady Bacon, Jamie Ball, Cory Eliason and Justin Henderson rounded out the top ten.  Golobic set quick time over the 43-car field, and Brian Brown, Josh Baughman, Derek Hagar, Ryan Leavitt and Jack Dover were heat race winners.  Sammy Swindell claimed the B. 

Golobic led the point total with 489, followed by Hafertepe Jr. (480), Henderson (470), Jeffrey (469), Juhl (463), Hahn (462), Williamson (460), Jamie Ball (459) and Bacon (453) (full points below). 

“I’ve really got to thank Daryl (Turford) on that one,” said Hafertepe in victory lane. “He said this race has been won in the middle, and you might want to try it.  We were good, and I tried the middle of one and two one time and ‘Oh my!’ I knew we were going to win this thing.  We’ve been close to winning here, and to finally win one…it’s awesome!  We’ll be starting (Saturday) a little closer to the front than usual.  We just don’t race here enough.  We race quite a bit compared to some of the other guys.  The (locals) know where they need to be, and we’re playing catchup when we come here.  It’s awesome to get a hold on it.” 

“It’s all about getting yourself situated for Saturday,” said Golobic, who topped the points. “I think we did our job tonight.  It’s a cool little family team out here racing with the big dogs, and we had a lot of speed tonight.  I’m really excited to come from eighth to second there on a non-stop deal.  It’s something we should be proud of.” 

“It’s a good old car,” said Jeffrey of his third place mount. “This is the one we won here last year with.  We hadn’t got it out until essentially the last week.  I think we were a second place car.  We just got hung up on a lapped car, and he didn’t know where he was going.  It’s just part of it.  You have to choose the right lane, and (Golobic) chose the right lane.  We actually made contact, so we were lucky to get here.” 

The finish:

1. Sam Hafertepe Jr. (6); 2. Shane Golobic (8); 3. Lynton Jeffrey (3); 4. Garet Williamson (1); 5. Matt Juhl (2); 6. Blake Hahn (4); 7. Brady Bacon (10); 8. Jamie Ball (5); 9. Cory Eliason (9); 10. Justin Henderson (7); 11. Jack Dover (18); 12. Roger Crockett (11); 13. Brian Brown (14); 14. JJ Hickle (13); 15. Derek Hagar (16); 16. Matt Moro (12); 17. Austin McCarl (23); 18. Kaleb Johnson (24); 19. Ryan Giles (22); 20. Sammy Swindell (21); 21. Josh Baughman (20); 22. Calvin Landis (15); 23. Ryan Leavitt (17); 24. Kyle Reinhardt (19).

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