KNOXVILLE, Iowa — The 61st running of the Knoxville Nationals proved to be quite interesting.
There were a lot of great storylines and plenty of takeaways from the prestigious four-night affair.
• The Donny Schatz era is far from over. The 45-year-old, 10-time World of Outlaws champion proved he still has the talent and desire it takes to win big races. Schatz won the Nationals for the 11th time. He has 11 victories and nine runner-up finishes during a 24-year span at the Nationals, but hadn’t won the big event since 2017.
• Kyle Larson’s Mojo has changed. After an 18-month period where everything Kyle Larson touched turned to gold, some of the luck has begun to run out of the horseshoe. With a car capable of winning the Knoxville Nationals, Larson suffered a flat tire in the familiar No. 57. He’s had similar luck throughout his season — both on dirt and in NASCAR Cup Series competition.
• Dirt Sharks. Bobby Allen’s Shark Racing team enjoyed its best single week on record. Drivers Logan Schuchart and Jacob Allen combined to win three features during a seven-day span and both placed in the top five in the Knoxville Nationals. Schuchart won the B main and charged from 17th to third during the 50-lap main event, while Allen finished fifth.
Schuchart won the Capitani Classic and the pair each won a preliminary feature.
• Another hurdle for PPM. After surviving a battle with lymphoma during the offseason, 24-year-old sprint car driver Parker Price-Miller suffered a pair of broken vertebrae in a crash on the opening lap of Saturday’s main event. Price-Miller will not need surgery but will be out of action for some time. He’s a tough kid and he’ll be back.
• The happy farmer. Tasker Phillips is a farmer by day and a racer by the occasional weekend night. After 11 years of trying, he finally qualified for the Knoxville Nationals main event. Phillips pure joy at simply participating in the finale was a reminder as to why we all love racing so much. Phillips’ brothers Sawyer and Rager are also farmers and sprint car drivers.
• The future is bright. The veterans may have had the upper hand during the Knoxville Nationals but clearly the future of sprint car racing is bright as multiple youngsters had strong showings during the Nationals. While Buddy Kofoid, the reigning USAC midget champion, was named rookie of the Nationals, Justin Sanders, Cole Macedo, Josh Wise, Anthony Macri and Tyler Courtney showed they’ll be contenders in the coming years.
• Is it compassion or respect? Well, in the case of Knoxville Nationals fans and Donny Schatz, it may be a little bit of both. Booed heartily for years at Knoxville Raceway, the roar was deafening when Schatz took the lead from David Gravel. Perhaps folks have softened to Schatz thanks to what he has endured in recent seasons, or maybe they’re simply respecting what he’s accomplished on the track for nearly three decades.
• Brown’s legacy? Will Brian Brown go down in history as the best Knoxville Nationals racer to never win the event? After a struggle on qualifying night this year, Brown charged his way into Saturday night’s field, but did not have the speed to contend for the victory. Brown has now made 12 Knoxville main events with no victories and three second-place finishes.
• Money, money, money. Saturday night of the Knoxville Nationals was sold out in advance of the event and large crowds were on hand throughout the week as racers competed for the largest purse in sprint car racing history. More than $1 million was available over four days, with $175,000 going to winner Donny Schatz. Long lines at merchandise vendors and concession stands were also the norm as fans proved once again they would buy just about anything with their favorite driver’s name on it.