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Local Sports

Schatz nearly perfect in eighth Knoxville Nationals title win

KNOXVILLE — For the eighth time, Donny Schatz leaves the Knoxville Raceway with the title of champion. Schatz captured Saturday’s $150,000 win in the 54th annual FVP Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores.

Taking off from the pole, Schatz led Shane Stewart into the first turns. On Lap 3, Brian Brown took advantage of the restart to begin his chase for second, gaining that spot nine laps later.

Leading by  2.874 seconds at the Lap 25 break for fuel, the restart saw Schatz stalked by Brown as the green flew. Working the cushion, Brown kept pace, finally taking his shot at the lead on Lap 44. 

Taking the lead with a high-side pass exiting the second turn, Brown brought the entire crowd of the Knoxville Raceway to its feet with resounding cheers that quickly drowned out the sounds of engines.

Pulling to the bottom groove in turns three and four, Brown swapped his line the following lap, giving Schatz the chance to shoot the berm and retake the lead on Lap 45. 

“Racing is all about making decisions, and I was just getting so slow around the bottom of one and two. I thought ‘well, I could just keep the tires under me maybe no one’s going to get that run,’” Schatz said of Brown’s pass to the lead.

“I just couldn’t get the top going that well then it cleaned off and Brian (Brown) got by...went to the bottom...I tried to stay with him, and when he went to the top at the other end, I was able to get back by him. I know he’s going to beat me one of these days. I hope it’s no time soon, but he’s a hell of a racer.”

Finishing runner-up for the third consecutive year, Brown crossed 1.243 seconds behind Schatz’s STP No. 15.

“I figured I had to go when I could. I kind of rode along as long as I could there and made my move,” said Brown. “Once I made my move, I took his line away in the corner and thought okay, that was pretty good but I didn’t want togo down there and miss it and went back to the top and gave him another shot but I’ll tell you what, at least this year, we kept him honest.”

Kerry Madsen ran third and took the podium in his eighth A-Feature appearance, posting his best finish in the FVP Knoxville Nationals. Craig Dollansky grabbed the fourth spot with Justin Henderson taking fifth after starting eighth. 

Paul McMahan was sixth followed by Terry McCarl in seventh, Mark Dobmeier eighth, Joey Saldana ninth, and Kraig Kinser was 10th. 

Brad Sweet was the night’s Hard Charger from 23rd to 13th. Brian Brown’s runner up finish clenched the Mr. Sprint Car Title. 

Jimmy Light grabbed the win in the E-F eature. D-Feature honors went to Brad Loyet. The night’s C-Feature was won by Dale Blaney after a very rough start that saw 11 drivers receiving damage. All drivers were unharmed. 

Saturday night’s B-Feature was won by Brooke Tatnell with Clint Garner making his first A-Feature in the FVP Knoxville Nationals. Brad Sweet from eleventh was third with Lee Jacobs taking the final transfer to the A-Feature. 

Rookie of the Year honors went to Andy Gregg. Best Appearing Crew went to Wayne Johnson Racing and Best Appearing Car was given to the No. 1d driven by JustinHenderson.

Brown’s second place finish clinched the Jesse Hockett “Mr. Sprint Car Title”, and cemented his strong run during Cox Design.

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