KNOXVILLE, Iowa (Sept. 25) — Chad Simpson of Mount Vernon, Iowa, never felt an emotional rush quite like he did after winning the second 25-lap preliminary feature of the 12th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store Friday night at Knoxville Raceway.
The memorable moment at his home state’s most famous track simply overtook the 36-year-old Simpson, who captured his first-ever Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory after pulling off a dramatic move to grab the lead from race-long pacesetter Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., with two laps remaining.
“This is amazing right here,” Simpson said of his $7,000 triumph that helped lock him into the pole position starting spot for Saturday night’s 100-lap Knoxville Nationals finale. “I’ve had a lot of big wins, a lot of championships, but this is something else right here.”
Simpson worked hard for his breakthrough triumph, climbing forward from the sixth starting spot, passing Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., for second on lap 18 and surviving contact with Marlar while making his winning pass. The five-time Corn Belt Clash Late Model Series champion ultimately pulled away on the final circuit to beat Marlar by 1.227 seconds.
Bloomquist settled for a third-place finish — the same position that he started — while seventh-starter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., placed fourth and Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., finished fifth after starting from the outside of the second row.
After finishing a quiet eighth in Thursday’s opening-night preliminary feature, Simpson took the green flag in Friday’s A-Main with “a little bit more confidence.” His run to a heat-race victory from the eighth starting spot had buoyed his spirits.
“I kind of felt something in the heat race tonight about how to drive that cushion,” said Simpson, who steered a Jay Dickens-powered Victory Circle Race Car fielded by his longtime team owners Bud and Denise Brinkman of Marion, Iowa. “I kind of changed my style a little bit and figured out how I needed to roll it.
“When the feature started and everybody was kind of jockeying back-and-forth, I took it easy. Then I got in that rhythm again like I did in the heat race and I could just feel it coming forward.”
Simpson reached third place on lap six with a pass of Robinson and soon ran down Bloomquist.
“I got up to third and I really wasn’t gaining on Scott and I wasn’t losing,” Simpson said. “Then I finally got where I could see I was starting to gain on him and I was like, ‘Man, we’re gonna catch him.’ I knew I was better, but I didn’t know if I was good enough to catch him and then catch Marlar (who started from the pole and led from the initial green flag).”
Overtaking Bloomquist, 51, wasn’t easy for Simpson, who lost ground when he slid high in turn one on lap 11 and when he ran out of racing room on the backstretch shortly thereafter.
“I caught him the one time and we got together on the backstretch,” Simpson recalled. “I knew he was gonna come up but I thought he would leave just enough space, so I tried to squeeze in there and then I chickened out about halfway through it and got into his quarter-panel and got him turned I lost so much momentum there. I’m 10, 12 car lengths back after that, so I had to gain all that back.”
Simpson sailed around the outside of Bloomquist rounding turns three and four on lap 18. He proceeded to tear after Marlar, who had his Ronnie Delk-owned Capital Race Car about six car lengths ahead.
“Once I got around (Bloomquist) I could see Mikey was struggling in lapped traffic,” Simpson said. “When I got to Mikey (on lap 21) I said, ‘It don’t matter what I do, I’m not lifting, I’m not getting out of the fuel … I’m just shooting to the bottom, shooting to the top, whatever it takes.’”
Exiting turn four to score lap 23 Simpson stuck low and vaulted ahead of Marlar at the start-finish line. The two cars made contact moments later and Marlar was able to pull inside of the new leader between turns one and two, but Simpson powered off the top of the track in turn two and kept Marlar at bay over the remaining circuits.
“I got around him coming around the bottom (in turn four) and I knew he was gonna get a run on the top, but I knew I needed to get back to the top of (turn) one because I was alright on the bottom but just didn’t feel like I had any speed,” Simpson said. “So I squeezed back up to the top, and by the time we got to the flagstand he got into the back of me. I knew it was coming — I was just gripping the steering wheel, just waiting for it — but he got out of the fuel. I would’ve done the same thing if I was in his position.
“He actually said he thought I was driving back to the bottom and he was gonna drive around the outside, but I stayed there (on the top) … and he didn’t expect that. I kind of caught him off guard.”
The move propelled Simpson to the most satisfying victory of his decade-old Dirt Late Model career.
“I’m speechless, really,” Simpson said. “I’ve never won a Lucas race, I’ve never won a World of Outlaws race … we finally got one.
“I knew we came with the right engine package. When we were at Davenport (Iowa) two weeks ago the car was phenomenal too, and I knew everything was coming together. The car’s about where I want it, the engine’s spot-on. All the pieces just were in place for us.
“Just to run with these guys and win a Lucas race … it’s just awesome,” he added. “It’s such a great honor to run with the guys.”
Marlar, 37, made a valiant attempt to turn back Simpson’s challenge but couldn’t hold off the Iowan’s charge.
“He just had a little better car than I did,” Marlar said. “I really didn’t put the right tires on the front, I feel like. I think I was harder on the right-front than him and softer on the left-front than him, and he just was steering better at the end.
“He got in front of me there (on the homestretch on lap 23) and I drifted out. I thought he was going to the middle (in turn one) and I was gonna go to the high side … and we touched. My left-front got into his right-rear quarter-panel and got him really loose getting in. I got off of him so he could get it gathered up, and then my only option was to go to the bottom. I almost got him back there (through turns one and two) but he cleared me back and that was it.
“Congratulations to him though,” he added. “He’s a real good guy. I’ve got to know him a little bit from coming up here and racing and he seems like a class act. I hate to lose ‘em, but he’s a pretty nice guy and I’m glad to see him win here in his home area.”
The run also was much needed by Marlar, who failed to qualify for Thursday night’s feature.
“Last night we had an ignition problem and didn’t finish the heat and then we won the C-Main but didn’t make it out for the B (Main) because we were making some changes,” said Marlar, who will start eighth in Saturday night’s 100-lapper. “After that last night we were really in bad shape points-wise, so we needed this really solid night.”
Bloomquist, meanwhile, had his eyes on Saturday’s bigger $40,000 prize during the preliminary A-Main.
“We elected not to really run the cushion that hard and just work on getting our setup for the (100-lap) feature right,” said Bloomquist, who will start third in the Nationals headliner. “The race is gonna be won in the middle of the racetrack I think tomorrow and our car feels really good there. We didn’t have to really depend on the cushion to keep up.
“The car feels good. We might do a few little adjustments, but I think we’re pretty ready for tomorrow. We’re happy with where we’re at.”
Notes: Simpson became just the second driver from the state of Iowa to win a Lucas Oil Series A-Main, joining 17-time victor Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine. … The lone caution flag in the feature flew on lap three for Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., who slowed with a bent nosepiece and retired from further action. … Twenty-two of the race’s 24 starters were running at the finish with 20 on the lead lap when the checkered flag flew. … Thursday night's A-Main winner Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., failed to qualify after pulling off the track in the B-Main due to a vibration in his car. ... Lineups for Saturday night's A-Main, B-Main and C-Main can be seen here.
Preliminary results and lineups:
The horn to line up the A-Main was blown at 9:30 p.m. CT. ... Thursday-night feature winner Jonathan Davenport failed to qualify after retiring from the B-Main on the first lap when he felt a vibration in his car. ... A-Main front-row starters Mike Marlar and Tim McCreadie both failed to qualify for Thursday night's headliner.
B-Main finish (top 6 to A-Main): Jason Feger, Matt Westfall, Mason Ziegler, Dale McDowell, Billy Moyer, Ricky Weiss, Jason Rauen, Morgan Bagley, Frank Heckenast Jr., Dennis Erb Jr., Eddie Carrier Jr., Ryan Gustin, Rich Bell, Jason Utter, Josh Richards, Jason Papich, Brian Harris, Brian Shirley, Skip Frey, Charlie McKenna, Jonathan Davenport, Denny Eckrich.
C-Main finish (top 4 to B-Main): Jason Papich, Frank Heckenast Jr., Josh Richards, Rich Bell, Justin Kay, Mitch McGrath, Tim Lance Jr., Rob Moss, Chris Spieker, Dave Eckrich, Jim Shereck, Mike Fryer, Joel Callahan, Ray Sveggeen, Ray Guss Jr., (DNS) R.C. Whitwell, Chris Simpson, Wendell Wallace, Steve Francis, Kerry King, Sonny Findling, Jay Johnson.
(15 laps; top 6 to A-Main)
Row 1: Jason Feger, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Matt Westfall, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Mason Zeigler, Ricky Weiss
Row 4: Jason Rauen, Dale McDowell
Row 5: Eddie Carrier Jr., Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 6: Denny Eckrich, Ryan Gustin
Row 7: Brian Harris, Brian Shirley
Row 8: Morgan Bagley, Charlie McKenna
Row 9: Jason Utter, Skip Frey
Row 10: C-Main transfers
Row 11: C-Main transfers
(12 laps; top 4 to B-Main)
Row 1: Rich Bell, Wendell Wallace
Row 2: Jason Papich, Josh Richards
Row 3: Ray Guss Jr., R.C. Whitwell
Row 4: Frank Heckenast Jr., Mitch McGrath
Row 5: Chris Simpson, Tim Lance Jr.
Row 6: Steve Francis, Joel Callahan
Row 7: Dave Eckrich, Jim Shereck
Row 8: Justin Kay, Kerry King Sr.
Row 9: Rob Moss, Sonny Findling
Row 10: Ray Sveeggen, Mike Fryer
Row 11: Chris Spieker, Jay Johnson
Chad Simpson scored an impressive victory, charging forward from the eighth starting spot to grab the lead from A.J. Diemel on lap eight. Diemel, who had passed Ryan Gustin for the lead on lap two, settled for second and Spencer Diercks placed third.
Finish: Chad Simpson, A.J. Diemel, Spencer Diercks, Dale McDowell, Ryan Gustin, Ricky Weiss, Joel Callahan, Mike Fryer, Kerry King Sr.
Don O'Neal passed Brian Shirley for the lead on lap four and marched on to victory by 2.042 seconds over Tim McCreadie, who ran second for the final seven circuits. Chris Brown overtook Shirley on lap seven and finished third, while Thursday-night feature winner Jonathan Davenport missed the cut with a fourth-place finish.
Finish: Don O'Neal, Tim McCreadie, Chris Brown, Jonathan Davenport, Billy Moyer, Brian Shirley, Josh Richards, Jim Shereck, Sonny Findling (DNS) Jay Johnson.
Jimmy Mars overtook Wendell Wallace for the lead on lap five and never looked back en route to beating Darrell Lanigan by 0.633 of a second. Kent Robinson, meanwhile, was third. Two incidents dotted the event: on lap two Mitch McGrath hopped the inside berm and spun in turn two moments after taking the lead from Mars, and on lap 10 Wendell Wallace, who led laps 3-4, backed into the turn-four wall after tangling with Robinson while battling for second. A red flag was thrown for Wallace's crash, but he climbed out of the car uninjured.
Finish: Jimmy Mars, Darrell Lanigan, Kent Robinson, Dennis Erb Jr., Skip Frey, Charlie McKenna, Wendell Wallace, Mitch McGrath, Tim Lance Jr., R.C. Whitwell.
Earl Pearson Jr. led from wire-to-wire, defeating Jared Landers by 3.253 seconds. The eighth-starting Landers reached second with a lap-six pass of Shannon Babb, who finished third.
Finish: Earl Pearson Jr., Jared Landers, Shannon Babb, Jason Utter, Denny Eckrich, Jason Feger, Ray Guss Jr., Rob Moss (DNS) Chris Simpson.
Brandon Sheppard dominated the action, leading from flag-to-flag to take the win by 1.7 seconds over Billy Moyer Jr., who pulled off a late pass of Chase Junghans to finish second. Junghans settled for third in the caution-free event.
Finish: Brandon Sheppard, Billy Moyer Jr., Chase Junghans, Matt Westfall, Eddie Carrier Jr., Jason Rauen, Jason Papich, Rich Bell, Justin Kay (DNS) Chris Spieker.
In a prelim that saw four different leaders, Scott Bloomquist came from the seventh starting spot to take the lead from Mike Marlar on lap seven and march on to victory. Marlar, who led laps 4-6, settled for second and fast-timer Jimmy Owens was third. The race was slowed by a caution flag on lap three for a tangle involving Steve Francis and Morgan Bagley; contact between the two off the second turn sent Bagley spinning and Francis hard into the outside wall. Francis was done with heavy right-side damage while Bagley, who led lap 1, continued. Brian Harris was the other lead, pacing laps 2-3.
Finish: Scott Bloomquist, Mike Marlar, Jimmy Owens, Mason Zeigler, Brian Harris, Morgan Bagley, Dave Eckrich, Frank Heckenast Jr., Ray Sveeggen, Steve Francis.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., was the overall quickest driver in time trials, turning a lap of 17.490 seconds in Group 1.
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., meanwhile, was fastest in Group 2 at 18.212 seconds.
Friday night’s field numbers 58 cars after the departure from action of five drivers who competed on Thursday. That group includes Donny Schatz (off to run a World of Outlaws Sprint Car race at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway); Greg Cox (flipped wildly in the D-Main); and Tyler Bruening, Paul Glendenning and Austin Theiss (mechanical trouble). … Tim McCreadie has a backup engine installed after losing a powerplant during Thursday night’s heat racing. … Billy Moyer Jr. had to pull his number one motor after Thursday’s A-Main and put in his backup. … The rearend of Jimmy Mars’s car broke on lap six of Thursday’s feature, forcing him to swap rears for Friday’s action. … The cause of Canadian Ricky Weiss’s fall from a pole position start to an early-retiring 23rd-place finish in Thursday’s A-Main? An incorrect tire choice. “We over-engineered our tire thinking,” quipped Weiss’s car owner J.R. Haley, who noted that the too-soft right-front tire on Weiss’s car didn’t fire after the lap-six caution, dropping him quickly from the top five to the back of the pack. … Arizona’s R.C. Whitwell pulled off after leading the early portion of Thursday’s B-Main due to a water leak in his Al Humphrey-Owned car. … Iowa’s Jason Utter is hoping for a smoother night after scrambling through Thursday’s action. His primary car was sidelined after time trials by a broken caliper that locked up the machine’s brakes; he ran his backup car, which is equipped with a smaller engine, the remainder of the evening and didn’t qualify. He’s back in the mount he started off driving on Thursday.
The 12th annual Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores continues night with the second of two preliminary nights at the famed Knoxville Raceway, a half-mile fairgrounds oval best known for hosting sprint car racing.
Tonight’s racing card, which begins with hot laps at 6:45 p.m. CT, is identical to Thursday’s with a complete program of time trials, six heat races, C-Main, B-Main and 25-lap A-Main paying $7,000-to-win. Drivers accrue points based on performances each time they hit the track that will help set the lineup for Saturday's action.
Drivers will use their better points night — not combined points — to see where they stand for Saturday’s alphabet soup of features, which are topped by the 100-lap A-Man paying $40,000 to win. The top 24 drivers in the “best night” points rankings after Friday’s action will transfer directly to Saturday night’s headliner and start straight-up.
For full details of the weekend’s format, refer to our Fast Facts page.
Heat race lineups
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Morgan Bagley, Brian Harris
Row 2: Steve Francis, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 3: Mason Ziegler, Mike Marlar
Row 4: Scott Blomquist, Jimmy Owens
Row 5: Dave Eckrich, Ray Sveeggen
Row 1: Chase Jungians, Brandon Sheppard
Row 2: Eddie Carrier Jr., Jason Rauen
Row 3: Billy Moyer Jr., Matt Westfall
Row 4: Jason Papich, Rich Bell
Row 5: Justin Kay, Chris Spieker
Row 1: Jason Utter, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 2: Denny Eckrich, Chris Simpson
Row 3: Ray Guss Jr., Shannon Babb
Row 4: Jason Feger, Jared Landers
Row 5: Rob Moss
Row 1: Jimmy Mars, Tim Lance Jr.
Row 2: Mitch McGrath, R.C. Whitwell
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Wendell Wallace
Row 4: Kent Robinson, Darrell Lanigan
Row 5: Charlie McKenna, Skip Frey
Row 1: Jim Shereck, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Chris Brown, Don O’Neal
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards
Row 4: Jonathan Davenport, Billy Moyer
Row 5: Sonny Findling, Jay Johnson
Row 1: Kerry King Sr., Joel Callahan
Row 2: Ryan Gustin, A.J. Diemel
Row 3: Spencer Directs, Dale McDowell
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Chad Simpson
Row 5: Mike Fryer
Qualifying results (unofficial)
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 17.49
Rich Bell (21M), Sheffield, Ill., 17.724
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 17.791
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 17.799
Jason Papich (91P), Nipomo, Calif., 17.891
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 17.917
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 17.938
Matt Westfall (54), Pleasant Hills, Ohio, 17.994
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 18.053
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 18.089
Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., 18.124
Ray Guss Jr. (58), Milan, Ill., 18.126
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfort, Ill., 18.146
Jason Rauen (98), Farley, Iowa, 18.205
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 18.254
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 18.258
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 18.298
Denny Eckrich (50), Tiffin, Iowa, 18.332
Brian Harris (21H), Davenport, Iowa, 18.338
Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., 18.412
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 18.465
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 18.492
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 18.544
Jason Utter (31), Columbuc Junction, Iowa, 18.574
Dave Eckrich (58), Oxford, Iowa, 18.637
Justin Kay (15K), Wheatland, Iowa, 18.649
Rob Moss (1M), Iowa City, Iowa, 19.092
Ray Sveeggen (R21), Hartford, S.D., 20.239
Chris Spieker (56), Massena, Iowa, 23.951
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 18.212
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 18.254
Chad Simpson (25), Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 18.262
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 18.284
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 18.348
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingly, Manitoba, 18.365
Wendell Wallace (6M), Batesville, Ark., 18.537
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 18.539
Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., 18.562
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 18.607
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 18.621
Spencer Diercks (29), Davenport, Iowa, 18.648
R.C. Whitwell (6), Tucson, Ariz., 18.672
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 18.719
A.J. Diemel (58), Elk Mound, Wis., 18.735
Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 18.739
Chris Brown (21b), Spring, Texas, 18.779
Ryan Gustin (19R), Marshalltown, Iowa, 18.969
Tim Lance Jr. (48), Brimfield, Ill., 19.059
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 19.116
Joel Callahan (40), Dubuque, Iowa, 19.14
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 19.151
Jim Shereck (17), St. Charles, Mo., 19.196
Kerry King Sr. (KB1), Delmar, Del., 19.412
Charlie McKenna (22), Clear Lake, Iowa, 19.494
Sonny Findling (8), Kirksville, Mo., 19.759
Mike Fryer (54), Freeport, Ill., 19.872
Skip Frey (3x), Ely, Iowa, 20.099
Jay Johnson (93), W. Burlington, Iowa, N/T
Knoxville Nationals points rankings
(after first preliminary night)
1. Jimmy Owens 492
2. Jonathan Davenport 487
3. Don O'Neal 484
4. Chris Brown 484
5. Chad Simpson 481
6. Earl Pearson Jr. 476
7. Scott Bloomquist 472
8. Jared Landers 470
9. Dennis Erb Jr. 462
10. Chris Simpson 460
11. Darrell Lanigan 459
12. Shannon Babb 458
13. Kent Robinson 454
14. Josh Richards 444
15. Steve Francis 438
16. Brandon Sheppard 435
17. Frank Heckenast Jr. 434
18. Ricky Weiss 429
19. Jimmy Mars 429
20. Joel Callahan 422
21. Billy Moyer 419
22. Morgan Bagley 419
23. Billy Moyer Jr. 418
24. Rich Bell 415
25. Mason Zeigler 414
26. Matt Westfall 407
27. Jason Papich 406
28. Ray Guss Jr. 401
29. Jason Feger 394
30. Jason Rauen 387
31. A.J. Diemel 385
32. Justin Kay 384
33. Eddie Carrier Jr. 381
34. Wendell Wallace 379
35. Donny Schatz 378
36. Mike Marlar 368
37. Tim Lance 367
38. Chris Spieker 363
39. Dave Eckrich 360
40. Spencer Diercks 355
41. Mitch McGrath 350
42. R.C. Whitwell 339
43. Rob Moss 330
44. Brian Harris 325
45. Ryan Gustin 321
46. Tim McCreadie 321
47. Dale McDowell 319
48. Jim Shereck 315
49. Chase Junghans 313
50. Mike Fryer 310
51. Denny Eckrich 298
52. Charlie McKenna 298
53. Jay Johnson 296
54. Kerry King Sr. 294
55. Skip Frey 291
56. Austin Theiss 285
57. Sonny Findling 284
58. Ray Sveeggen 282
59. Tyler Bruening 276
60. Paul Glendenning 256
61. Brian Shirley 255
62. Jason Utter 253
63. Greg Cox 253