Aaron Reutzel in action Saturday at Knoxville Raceway. (Ken Berry Photo)
Aaron Reutzel in action Saturday at Knoxville Raceway. (Ken Berry Photo)

Reutzel Collects First Knoxville Checkers

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Two-time and defending Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions champion Aaron Reutzel picked up his first win at Knoxville Raceway Saturday night.

The native of Texas who now calls Knoxville his home used a week off from the All Star schedule to hone his skills on the famous half-mile and it paid off to the tune of $4,000 aboard the Baughman/Reutzel Motorsports No. 87.

Jamie Ball sealed his sixth career win in the 360 class, while Devin Kline returned after a two-year absence to win in the Pace Performance Pro Sprints.

Sawyer Phillips took off from his pole position starting spot to pace the 20-lap 410 feature early ahead of Austin McCarl and Reutzel, who started sixth. Phillips was in lapped traffic by the fifth circuit, and a minor hesitation in turns three and four cost him the lead.

Reutzel shot by both McCarl and Phillips to lead lap five. In turns one and two, McCarl made contact with Phillips while trying to avoid a lapper. The result was moves by McCarl and Brian Brown into second and third, respectively.

While Reutzel had no peer in traffic, Brown stalked McCarl until tehe twelfth lap, when he found his way by for second in heavy lapped traffic. At that point, Reutzel had built a six second lead on his nearest competitors.

Reutzel cruised home in the non-stop affair, followed by Brown, McCarl, Phillips and Matt Juhl.

“We’ve just never put a whole race together here,” said Reutzel in victory lane. “Luckily, our schedule worked out where we could come out and test. We tried a few things in qualifying and the heat race. We definitely wanted to try and win it. It was a little bit of a handful, but they said we were plenty gone. Maybe that’s what it takes to get around this place is to have a handful. Hats off to my guys. We were glad to have a weekend off to be here.”

Carson McCarl, who won the 360 opener here two weeks ago, led early in the 18-lap 360 feature. Jamie Ball took second from Joe Beaver on lap two before a caution came out for Stu Snyder three laps in. McCarl led Ball, Beaver, Matt Moro and Clint Garner back to green.

A pair of South Dakotans, Garner and Matt Juhl, moved into fourth and fifth on the restart, and put on a battle of their own. Juhl slid on the low side of Garner entering turn three on lap five and took the third spot before Tom Lenz stopped on the high side of turn two to bring out a second caution.

McCarl took off on the cushion, but Ball’s car was working well on the low side of the racy surface. He shot to the lead when the green fell again, as Juhl picked off third, getting by Beaver. Lap seven saw Juhl use the low side himself to get by McCarl for second and set his sights on Ball.

Juhl, who won at the Jackson Motorplex in Minnesota Friday night, tried to run down the leader, who entered lapped traffic on the thirteenth circuit. The chase was to no avail.

Ball did have some unneeded excitement in the late going. Coming out of turn four for the checkers, the red flag would fly instead. Sixth running Kelby Watt got sideways, collecting Matt Moro. The two took a nasty ride in turn two that saw necessary fence repair.  Fortunately, both walked away.

The green-white-checkered finish didn’t phase Ball, who pulled away for his sixth 360 win here.  Juhl was second, ahead of Garner, McCarl and Beaver.

“Our Charlie Fisher absolutely rip,” said Ball. “I’ve never felt this good at Knoxville. I could go anywhere.  Matt Juhl has been on a roll lately, and he’s a really good race car driver. I knew I had to get off of turn two, and if I got off of two, I had a decent enough line in three and four to hold him off. My hat goes off to these guys. I’m just the lucky one who gets to drive it. I give it all up to God.  I’m lucky for all the opportunities I have. This year I said we’re getting back to fun. That was fun.”

Two years off for former track champion Kline was no problem with the Pace Performance Pro Sprints.  Kline, who was the career leader in feature wins in the class until being passed last season by Matthew Stelzer, led from start to finish in the 15-lap main event aboard Rookie Matt Allen’s No. 17.

Ironically, Kline and Stelzer started side by side in row one. While Kline led Stelzer the distance and recorded his 12th feature win in the class, tying Stelzer atop the list, Russ Hall was working his way from his fifth starting spot up to third. Mike Mayberry was fourth, and Evan Epperson finished fifth.

“I’m tired,” said Kline in victory lane. “It’s just like riding a bike. I have to thank Matt Allen.  He’s going to run the car the rest of the year, but he let me hop in for a night. I really appreciate that. The guys at White Lightning Motorsports help Matt, so it was the same old car I was used to. I lost my brakes there on the end, and that was a little tricky for me. I got up on some lapped traffic, but we pulled through.”

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