KNOXVILLE, Iowa — The Knoxville Raceway résumé continues to grow for Brian Brown.
In his more than two decades of driving a sprint car, Brown has mastered the historic half-mile dirt track at the Marion County Fairgrounds.
That mastery was on full display Friday night with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars. Brown took the lead from Austin McCarl on lap two of the Premier Chevy Dealers Clash and never looked back, leading all 25 laps.
“That’s why I go to the gym three or four days a week because I ran my last lap as hard as I did my first lap,” Brown said.
The win was the seventh of Brown’s career with The Greatest Show on Dirt. A trio of those triumphs have come at Knoxville, including another last June. The 44-year-old now owns 63 Knoxville victories, good enough for second all-time as he continues to chip away at his uncle, Danny Lasoski’s, record of 112.
But the most important fact from Friday night’s glory had nothing to do with numbers for Brown. It was about pride. It was about being a Knoxville regular beating the best competition in the nation.
“I came into this weekend, and I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself to make you guys (the fans) proud,” Brown admitted. “I can come up here and win on the weekends sometimes. Then the Outlaws come and sometimes I lay an egg. I was so proud to see Austin (McCarl) on the pole and me being third. I’ve said all along that in order to have a rivalry, you’ve got to beat these guys. The PA Posse beats them. I feel like we don’t do it enough, but I feel like I did my part tonight.”
As Brown said, he began the main event third on the grid. When the green flag waved, he wasted no time roaring by outside polesitter – James McFadden – heading into turn one. “Blackjack” slid ahead of the Roth Motorsports No. 83 and quickly got to work chasing down McCarl.
McCarl held on to lead the opening circuit, but Brown blasted around his outside coming off turn two on the second circuit. Once he put the Casey’s General Store No. 21 out front, Brown immediately began to flex his muscle.
Brown pulled away from McCarl as he clicked off the early laps, growing his advantage to more than two seconds as he approached traffic. Even lapped cars stood no chance of slowing down Brown. He put his machine anywhere necessary thanks in large part to some fine tuning by crew chief – Chad Morgan – ahead of the feature.
“Chad made some good changes before the A-Main,” Brown said. “He came back this year, and we’re really clicking on all cylinders. Everything we’re doing, we’re doing it good.”
With the level of competition on the grounds, Brown knew maneuverability behind the wheel would be key to coming out on top. He’s felt comfortable this season moving wherever he needs to be, and it showed.
“I feel like I’ve been known to run the top probably more than I should,” Brown explained. “I think I’ve run the bottom this year just as good as I have in the past. I just felt like when I went down there (the bottom) and passed a lapped car, I felt like, ‘Man, that was pretty good.’ And I knew Brad (Sweet) normally runs the bottom, and he runs it as good as anybody in the whole world. I knew, if nothing else, maybe we’d mess up his timing a little bit.”
But Brown didn’t need to worry about messing up anyone’s timing as the battle for second raged on far behind him. Sweet, McCarl, and Rico Abreu all traded blows for the runner-up spot as the laps faded.
Brown went on to claim the checkered flag with nearly a five-second advantage much to the delight of the Knoxville crowd.
“Most importantly, tonight’s about us,” Brown said. “I’m proud of our whole team. Proud to win a World of Outlaws race again. Proud to be a Knoxville regular and come back tomorrow and see if we can do it again.”
Rico Abreu came out on top of the scramble for second as he slipped by Sweet late. The St. Helena, Calif., native continued his recent hot streak with his 14th consecutive top five in sprint car competition.
“The last 10 laps or so I could hit my marks a whole lot better,” Abreu noted. “Thank you to my team. They do an incredible job. Ricky (Warner) and his critical thinking and just the way he adapts to my driving style and my race cars. Hats off to them. They work really good together, and it’s quite a sight to see on my end as a team owner and driver.”
Completing the podium was four-time and defending champion Brad Sweet.
“I felt really good in the middle part of the race,” Sweet said. “I kept looking up because I felt like I was making really good time and good laps. I could see Brian was pretty far out front. I just kind of got hung up in lapped cars at the end. I had a really good rhythm and had my lines working and felt like when I had to move off that I wasn’t as good as I needed to be to get by the lapped cars. I struggled the last four or five laps to kind of link it all together. But I think we made progress all night long, and there were parts of that A-Main where I felt like we were probably as good as anybody.”
Austin McCarl and Carson Macedo rounded out the top five.
Chase Young won the Pro Sprint feature.
Feature (25 Laps): 1. 21-Brian Brown; 2. 24-Rico Abreu; 3. 49-Brad Sweet; 4. 88-Austin McCarl; 5. 41-Carson Macedo; 6. 83-James McFadden; 7. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 8. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 9. 15-Donny Schatz; 10. 2-David Gravel; 11. 11-Cory Eliason; 12. 14-Corey Day; 13. 39M-Anthony Macri; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 15. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 16. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr; 17. 5-Spencer Bayston; 18. 2M-Davey Heskin; 19. 19-Ayrton Gennetten; 20. 1A-Jacob Allen; 21. 9-Kasey Kahne; 22. 3J-Dusty Zomer; 23. 7S-Robbie Price; 24. 8-Aaron Reutzel; 25. 2J-Lynton Jeffrey