Chase Randall accomplished a feat in his first Knoxville Nationals appearance that only few can say they’ve done in their career.
While Schatz eventually got by the 18-year-old to win the first preliminary night of the 62nd NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s on Wednesday, the moment wasn’t lost on the World of Outlaws champion.
“I didn’t really have any rhythm going when I got to him and got past him. I kind of went for it and really thought he’d look at me like a senior citizen and give me a pass, but he didn’t,” Schatz said with a laugh. “He went right back on by. That’s cool to see. That’s why we’re here. That why this is the Knoxville Nationals. This is where the best come.
“It’s good to see that. He obviously has a bright future ahead of him.”
Randall, driving the Albaugh #2KS for TKS Motorsports – a team he joined in mid-June – took the lead on Lap 18 and pulled ahead by half a second. Then came Schatz.
On Lap 20, Schatz dove under Randall through Turns 1 and 2, pulling even with him through the center of the turn. But Randall got a better run off Turn 2, shot ahead of Schatz down the backstretch and darted to the bottom lane.
The next lap, Schatz, again, threw his CARQUEST #15 under Randall into Turn 1; this time having enough room to slide ahead of him for the lead. Schatz led off Turn 2. But Randall found a video game-like boost around the bottom and rocketed alongside Schatz down the backstretch, reclaiming the lead before Turn 3.
Schatz eventually built a good enough run to pass Randall for the lead on Lap 22 and then ran away with the victory, leaving the teenager with a runner-up finish. For Randall, who grew up watching drivers like Schatz become legends at Knoxville, the prestige of moment will live with him forever. However, while in the battle, he didn’t let it overwhelm his thoughts. He just wanted to win.
“You don’t really want to think about [racing Donny Schatz in your first Knoxville Nationals],” Randall said. “I feel like I did a really good job with that, because I wanted to win just as much as he did. Just came up a little bit short, but it was still a huge confidence booster for me.”
Randall, the current Knoxville Raceway 360 Sprint Car points leader, made four Feature starts with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series this year, prior to Knoxville, earning a career best finish of 10th at Huset’s Speedway in June. The experience was not only educational, but more than he anticipated, helping to prepare him for his first Nationals.
“From watching them for so long and then getting to race with them this year, it was eye opening,” Randall said. “They race so much harder than I ever expected. It makes you a better driver every lap you can do with them because of everything you can learn. Racing with Donny and Sheldon (Haudenschild), they’re the best of the best. It helps me at such a young age learn and kind of adapt really quickly I feel like to put myself in a good position in the future and years coming on.”
His Knoxville Nationals experience with the World of Outlaws is far from over as he’ll now wait to see if his performance was good enough to lock him into Saturday’s main event or if he’ll still have to race his way in. Thursday night’s preliminary event – combined with Wednesday’s – will lock the Top 16 drivers in points into Saturday’s $185,000-to-win/$15,000-to-start Feature.
After Wednesday night’s preliminary event, Schatz is the current Knoxville Nationals points leader with 479 points. Randall sits sixth with 449 points.
Top 16 After Wednesday:
1. Donny Schatz, 479
2. Hunter Schuerenberg, 462
3. Kerry Madsen, 459
4. Giovanni Scelzi, 458
5. Corey Day, 458
6. Chase Randall, 449
7. Justin Peck, 449
8. James McFadden, 447
9. Kasey Kahane, 446
10. Tasker Phillips, 437
11. Dustin Selvage, 435
12. Sheldon Haudenschild, 434
13. Sye Lynch, 434
14. Blake Hahn, 429
15. Jamie Ball, 416
16. Brandon Wimmer, 415
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.