KNOXVILLE, Iowa — It’s time for the night of racing every competitor in the Knoxville Nationals hopes to avoid — Hard Knox night.
Following the two prelims, the top-16 in points have been locked into Saturday’s feature while 17th through 26th will make up the first five rows of the B main. Tim Kaeding secured the final guaranteed B-main position.
Occupying spots 27th through 30th and just missing the cut were Chris Windom, Corey Day, Roger Crockett and Colby Copeland.
Those drivers and the many behind them who weren’t so fortunate on their preliminary nights and couldn’t crack the top 26 in points at the famous Knoxville Raceway. As a result, they have the chance to regroup with four golden tickets to Saturday’s big dance on the line for tonight’s top-four finishers in the Hard Knox feature.
The ones who make it will start 21st-24th tomorrow night. The event will feature a full slate of racing with qualifying, heats and the mains. Provided that all drivers below the cutline sign in, the field will feature 75 entries.
Per usual with the Nationals, a handful of very talented drivers encountered trouble during their prelim and are on the roster for tonight looking to lock in.
From Wednesday’s crop of drivers, the name that perhaps stands above all is Sheldon Haudenschild, who sits 37th in points.
The 30-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car feature winner qualified eighth but struggled in his heat race before missing the transfer to the prelim feature by two spots.
History suggests the Wooster, Ohio, native has a strong shot at claiming one of the four spots as he’s notched four top-four finishes in Outlaw competition at the half-mile. He’s looking to make his fourth career Nationals finale.
Visalia, Calif.’s Cory Eliason will look to rebound after a subpar Wednesday left him 62nd in points.
Eliason is still getting acquainted with the Indy Race Parts No. 71 having been in the seat just over a month at this point, but the new pairing has had success, and they’ll look for more tonight.
Since climbing into the Bernie Stuebgen-prepared ride, Eliason has finished seventh in the Kings Royal and picked up a pair of Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions top-10s.
World of Outlaws full-timer Brock Zearfoss got buried in points (82nd) during opening night.
After just missing the qualifying invert, Zearfoss was unable to move forward in his heat which left him in the C main. He made the B main but couldn’t advance any further than 15th in the B.
Zearfoss aims to make his third Saturday main event in four tries.
Much like Wednesday, Thursday saw a handful of high-quality drivers put themselves in difficult spots who will compete tonight.
Rico Abreu had a forgettable evening that ultimately saw him unable to transfer out of the B main and wind up 55th in points. Fortunately for Abreu, he’s the defending Hard Knox winner and looks to claim another to earn his sixth career Nationals start.
Misfortune struck Lebanon, Indiana’s Spencer Bayston as the Hoosier was in a battle to transfer from last night’s B main until an issue slowed him coming to the white flag, dropping him to 21st and 65th in points.
On the bright side, the CJB Motorsports pilot showed early speed by going sixth fastest in qualifying and looks to put a complete night together at the Hard Knox.
Other notable drivers will be vying for one of those coveted four spots, including 1983 Nationals winner Sammy Swindell, Anthony Macri, Bill Balog, Brady Bacon, Terry McCarl, Kerry Madsen and many more.