Misfortune is bound to strike a contender or two during their prelim at the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store. There are too many variables in racing to allow all of them to get through smoothly. And FVP Parts Hard Knox Night is about allowing those World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car heavyweights a chance to regroup and potentially lock in to the Knoxville Nationals finale.
And that’s exactly what happened Friday night at Knoxville Raceway.
Bad luck bit a pair of favorites in Aaron Reutzel and David Gravel on Wednesday night, leaving them forced to compete on Hard Knox Night. And the two did exactly what they’re supposed to do. Reutzel wheeled the Ridge & Sons Racing #8 to the victory while Gravel finished a close second. Their finishes secured them spots 21st and 22nd in the lineup for the $185,000-to-win, $15,000-to-start finale.
It was a comfortable drive for Reutzel as he led the field to green and never looked back. The result looked slightly in doubt coming to the checkered as Gravel got a run off the final corner but Reutzel held on. The Clute, TX native entered the night confident that if he did his job, they should have no issue locking in.
“It’s fourth or nothing here,” Reutzel said. “I don’t know where fifth lines you up here, but I know it ain’t good. I had tough luck. Same with David, tough luck… I just kind of put myself in a bad spot (on Wednesday) and got caught up in a wreck, but my guys did a great job getting the car back together. We had a fast race car. We knew we just needed to come into tonight and get a good (Qualifying) time, get through our heat where it started us up front and do what we did.”
For Gravel, Wednesday’s troubles left him a little weary entering the Feature, especially with having to start seventh. But the Big Game Motorsports driver did what he needed to do to lock into his 11th Knoxville Nationals finale.
“I’m just happy to get in the show,” Gravel said. “We’ve been fast. We had a plenty fast enough car to lock in on a prelim night, but that’s racing sometimes. Happy to bounce back with a different car, different engine. We just threw these body panels on there and were fast. I was bummed to start seventh in that Feature. I knew we’d be good enough to get up there, but again you just never know. It’s racing.”
There’s another element to Hard Knox Night. It’s not only about giving the titans of Sprint Car racing a second chance. It’s also an opportunity for some speedy underdogs to potentially sneak in. And Friday at “The Sprint Car Capital of the World” delivered on that storyline as well. After battling some recent adversity, Scott Bogucki drove an excellent 25 laps aboard the Liebig #10 to finish third, earning a spot in The Granddaddy of “Em All for the first time in his career in his seventh attempt.
“I really don’t have the words,” Bogucki said of his emotion. “It’s pretty emotional. I came over here 10 years ago as a crew guy, and this was always the dream. We missed it by one car two or three times now. Same thing Wednesday night. We qualified good and missed the Heat transfer by one. After last week and all of the disasters that have gone on, it’s so nice to rebound. I can’t thank Shane enough and all of the guys with the #10 for believing in me.”
Behind Bogucki came another feel-good story. Davey Heskin started 10th and spent the race moving forward and took over the final transfer in the closing laps. The St. Michael, MN driver locked into the sport’s biggest race for the first time in 11 years. The moment left Heskin full of emotion.
“Honestly, it’s just unreal,” Heskin said. “It’s a blessing to have everything we have. On Wednesday I was pretty down but we came back. I think tonight was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been for a Heat Race. I think that kind of showed the last few laps. It’s just unreal to lock in. Everybody here knows how much time and effort is put into these things. Just to do it with your family and friends is something unreal.”
The spots are secured for the four individuals who emerged from Hard Knox Night. Now, they can rest easy and focus on all that remains for them – the 62nd Knoxville Nationals finale on Saturday.
Parker Price-Miller owned the misfortune of finishing fifth to complete the top five. While it was a strong outing, it left the Kokomo, IN native without a guaranteed position in the Knoxville Nationals finale. The difference between finishing fourth and fifth in the Hard Knox Feature is starting 24th in the Saturday finale or 11th in Saturday’s Last Chance Showdown.
On top of winning the NOS Energy Drink Feature, Reutzel also claimed the Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award for the first time this year and the eighth time of his career.
Brent Marks was the KSE Racing Hard Charger by virtue of his run from 19th to 6th in the main event.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to David Gravel (231st Heat Race win of career). Your Life Iowa Heats Two through Six were claimed by Parker Price-Miller (22nd of career), Cory Eliason (20th of career), Chris Windom (first of career), and Tim Kaeding (77th of career).
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars take on the $185,000-to-win, $15,000-to-start finale of the 62nd NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals on Saturday, August 12. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to Knoxville, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
A Feature 1 (25 Laps): 1. 8-Aaron Reutzel; 2. 2-David Gravel; 3. 10-Scott Bogucki; 4. 2M-Davey Heskin; 5. 9P-Parker Price Miller; 6. 19-Brent Marks; 7. 7TW-Brandon Wimmer; 8. 5T-Ryan Timms; 9. 1-Justin Henderson; 10. 11-Cory Eliason; 11. 26-Zeb Wise; 12. 22K-Kaleb Johnson; 13. 21H-Brady Bacon; 14. 4W-Jamie Ball; 15. 3-Tim Kaeding; 16. 39M-Justin Sanders; 17. 49X-Tim Shaffer; 18. 2K-Lynton Jeffrey; 19. 4CW-Chris Windom; 20. 5C-Dylan Cisney; 21. 7S-Robbie Price; 22. 17W-Shane Golobic; 23. 17B-Bill Balog; 24. 42-Sye Lynch