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Brian Brown (21) works his way around Anthony Macri. (Mark Funderburk Photo)

Resilient Brown Charges Into Nationals

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — The week of the Knoxville Nationals is typically one of promise for Brian Brown, but he’s had trouble keeping his head up over the past five days, until Friday night.

Sunday resulted in Brown’s primary car being crashed at the Capitani Classic. Thursday’s prelim saw him only able to muster a 15th-place result in the feature after qualifying 39th.

Then Brown found out that his uncle and crew chief, Danny Lasoski, would be arriving to Knoxville Raceway for Friday’s Hard Knox night late after a minor incident left his wife in the hospital.

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Brown (21), passes Spencer Bayston for the final transfer spot in Saturday’s Knoxville Nationals. (Ken Simon Photo)

“It’s been a very long week for our team,” Brown said after transferring. “This time last night I was ready to just go back to Missouri, just very disappointed… It just seemed like whatever could happen to us this week has happened to us.”

During Friday’s racing, though, Brown’s fortune took a turn for the better. “Blackjack” powered from his 12th starting spot in the main event up to fourth when the checkered flag flew, claiming the final golden ticket to tomorrow’s $175,000-to-win finale.

The performance secured Brown a spot in the Knoxville Nationals for the 12th time as the Grain Valley, Mo., native, continues to hunt the Nationals victory that’s eluded him for so long.

“I’m just proud of our team for not giving up,” Brown said. “It would’ve been very easy to give up and point fingers and things like that, but we didn’t do it and here we are.”

The route to transferring was a chaotic one. The Hard Knox feature always produces some of the most intense racing as the difference between nabbing the fourth and final spot and finishing fifth is locking into sprint car racing’s biggest race versus starting 11th in tonight’s B-main.

Early in the race Brown methodically worked his way forward, picking his spots as he picked off cars. By the time a late caution flag waved with less than 10 laps remaining, Brown had worked his way to fifth, just below the cut line.

On the restart the duo of Spencer Bayston and Sheldon Haudenschild had trouble getting going, and Brown saw the opportunity to throw a haymaker. The four-time Knoxville track champion threw his No. 21 to the bottom of turn one, clearing both of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars full-timers before drifting up the track in front of them.

An all-out slider, crossover war ensued for the next couple laps as the trio battled to punch their tickets to Saturday.

Finally, Brown took the spot once Bayston got into the fence, dropping him back a few positions.

“When we got to the flag man, it was like Bayston almost bottled Sheldon up a little bit,” Brown reflected on the pivotal restart. “Then Sheldon couldn’t get back to the left, so I had such a good run I’m like, ‘Well, let’s just send it across here and try to get two for one.’

“It’s so hard when you get across to get stopped and turned,” Brown continued. “Obviously, at that point you’re trying to block. You’re trying to block as many lines as you can as quick as you can. Sheldon got by, and then Bayston got to my inside, just put me in a real bad spot because he was going across, and I was heading to the cushion and going to have to lift and was able to get it turned. He kind of cheated the cushion into (turn) one and slid up and left me enough room. Once I got into fourth, I just tried to make some nice smooth laps.”

And make good laps is exactly what Brown did, taking the checkered flag comfortably in fourth.

Today, Brown has a long road ahead, but with his Knoxville experience, strong dynamic with Danny Lasoski, and momentum from last night, he just might find himself toward the front as the laps wind down in the feature. 

The three-time Nationals runner-up is as hungry as ever for the win and thankful to have another opportunity to take a swing.

“I’m just proud of our team for never giving up,” Brown said. “And here we are still with an opportunity to chase a Knoxville Nationals title.”

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