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Aaron Reutzel (8) leads Sam Hafertepe Jr. Thursday at Knoxville Raceway. (Paul Arch photo)

Reutzel Rolls In 360 Nationals Opener

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Aaron Reutzel began where he ended last year’s event on night one of the Xtream Powered by Mediacom 360 Knoxville Nationals Presented by Great Southern Bank Thursday at Knoxville Raceway.

The Clute, Texas, driver wrestled the lead away with five laps to go and went on to win his ninth career 360 feature here.  

The defending race winner also topped the point standings after night one, followed by Kelby Watt. 

Colby Copeland led early over Reutzel, Jamie Ball, Jason Martin and Watt. Sam Hafertepe Jr. entered the top five by lap four, and Scott Bogucki had traveled from 15th to sixth at the same time. Timothy Smith spun, bringing out the caution.

Hafertepe surged from fifth to third on the restart, and Bogucki entered the top five before Tasker Phillips tipped over in turn four.  Phillips restarted at the tail. The restart saw Copeland leading Reutzel, Hafertepe, Ball and Bogucki back to green.

Bogucki continued his charge by passing Ball for fourth on lap nine. Up front, Copeland was stuck to the bottom with Reutzel in tow.  On lap 14, he approached lapped traffic and struggled to get by Smith. On lap 15, Reutzel took advantage and Hafertepe followed him, as both bested Copeland at the line. A lap later, Bogucki moved into third.

Reutzel stayed out front to claim the $3,000 prize and 200 valuable points in the RSR No. 8, ahead of Hafertepe, hard-charger Bogucki, Randall and Copeland. Bogucki was later disqualified

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Aaron Reutzel in victory lane at Knoxville Raceway. (Paul Arch photo)

Kaleb Johnson set quick time over the 50-car field.

“I needed (no yellows) and some lapped traffic,” said Reutzel. “The bottom was too easy to hit.  My car was great, he was just running a good race. It seemed like every time I got there and made a mistake, he’d slide up in front of me where I had to move a little. We got some lapped traffic, and I was finally able to seal the deal there. I can’t thank this team enough.”

“We had a really good race car,” said Hafertepe.  “Aaron runs here all the time and he knows where put his car in those situations. He did exactly what he needed to do. We had the better racecar, but he drove a really good race putting himself in the right place at the right time. We made a little charge on him the last couple laps, but couldn’t get it done. We salvaged a night going out as late as we did (for qualifying).”

“We’ve started on the front row of this before and run fourth,” said Bogucki.  “I buried us after qualifying. I guess I just got pissed off and got up on the wheel. We made whatever we needed to happen happen. We got this thing rolling.”

The finish:

Feature (20 laps): 1. Aaron Reutzel (4); 2. Sam Hafertepe Jr. (10);  3. Chase Randall (12); 4. Colby Copeland (1); 5. Jamie Ball (3); 6. Jason Martin (2); 7. Austin McCarl (14); 8. Kelby Watt (5); 9. Justin Peck (16); 10. Ryan Timms (6); 11. Tanner Holmes (7); 12. Kaleb Johnson (8); 13. Chris Martin (20); 14. Tasker Phillips (17); 15. Brenham Crouch (11); 16. Ryan Leavitt (21); 17. Rico Abreu (23); 18. Justin Henderson (22); 19. Tanner Carrick (13); 20. Kade Higday (9); 21. Tony Rost (19); 22. Kade Morton (24); 23. Timothy Smith (18). Disqualified: Scott Bogucki (15) initially finished third.

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