Friday’s #HardKnox program at the 61st NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores continues to be one of the most intense nights in all of Sprint Car Racing.
With 72 cars unqualified for Saturday’s $175,000-to-win, $10,000-to-start main event, the pressure was real with racers taking their last chance to grab four lock-in positions to The Granddaddy of ‘Em All.
At the end of the 25-lapper, a familiar face was welcomed to Victory Lane as Rico Abreu made it back-to-back wins in Friday’s #HardKnox portion of the Knoxville Nationals. It was his third preliminary win and locks him into his seventh career A-Main.
The St. Helena, CA native led all 25 laps in a relatively unchallenged dispute. He’ll roll off from 21st in Saturday’s 50-lap finale.
“Solid performance by the team tonight,” Abreu noted afterward. “I let them down last night with some poor decisions, and I think I made up for it tonight. This is huge for us to put HyVee in Victory Lane across the street. I’m thankful for their support and everyone who continues to support this race team. I can see it in my guys’ eyes how bad they want it. These races are so damn hard to win, but we put ourselves in a position and we finally capitalized on it.”
Following Abreu to the stripe on Friday was Kerry Madsen aboard the Roth Motorsports #83JR. The St. Mary’s, New South Wales, Australia native is now locked-in for his 15th career Knoxville Nationals A-Main.
“I had one chance to send it early on, but the top-four is more important than heroics of the moment on this kind of night,” Madsen said on keeping it cool. “This Roth Motorsports #83 was so comfortable and easy to drive over those last 25 laps. We’re gonna see if we can make a charge tomorrow.
Rounding out the podium was Sheldon Haudenschild in the Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink #17. Following a rough preliminary night, the Wooster, OH native successfully rebounded with an eighth-to-third charge as he booked his fourth trip to the Knoxville Nationals A-Main.
“I really didn’t want to see those restarts,” Haudenschild spoke on his nervousness. “I got by the #5 [Bayston] in traffic, but then the caution came out right away. I threw a bomb on him, but then knew I would have to do something different with the #21 [Brown] there. Luckily, it all worked out. This is a tough, stressful week for everyone.,
Scoring the 24th and final lock-in position was Brian Brown, of Grain Valley, MO, who rocketed by Spencer Bayston in a surprise attack on the final restart. His bold move paid off with a 12th career Knoxville Nationals A-Main start.”
“Shit was going on, I can guarantee you that,” Brown joked on his wild ending. “This night is chaotic, just because the pressure is so high. Everybody knows how important this race is to me and my team, but it has not been a great week. Nobody has given up, though, and I think it’s starting to pay off. We’re gonna keep driving our ass off until that last checkered flag falls. This definitely makes tomorrow easier and less stressful.”
Finishing behind the lock-in drivers and earning a position in Saturday’s B-Main lineup was Anthony Macri, Spencer Bayston, Corey Day, Justin Henderson, Brady Bacon, Dylan Cisney, Brooke Tatnell, Sawyer Phillips, Terry McCarl, and Brock Zearfoss.
NOS Energy Drink Feature Results (25 Laps) – 1. 24R-Rico Abreu ; 2. 83JR-Kerry Madsen ; 3. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild ; 4. 21-Brian Brown ; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri ; 6. 5-Spencer Bayston ; 7. 14-Corey Day ; 8. 7-Justin Henderson ; 9. 21H-Brady Bacon ; 10. 5C-Dylan Cisney ; 11. 16-Brooke Tatnell ; 12. 3P-Sawyer Phillips ; 13. 24-Terry McCarl ; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss ; 15. 91-Kyle Reinhardt ; 16. 55T-McKenna Haase ; 17. 42-Sye Lynch ; 18. 1-Logan Wagner ; 19. 49X-Cale Thomas ; 20. 71-Cory Eliason ; 21. 1AU-Marcus Dumesny ; 22. 6B-Brandon Wimmer ; 23. 3-Ayrton Gennetten ; 24. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg . Lap Leader(s): Rico Abreu 1-25. KSE Hard Charger Award: 7-Justin Henderson[+16]
Knoxville Nationals A-Main Lineup (50 Laps):
Row 1: 88 Austin McCarl — 7BC Tyler Courtney
Row 2: 15 Donny Schatz — 2 David Gravel
Row 3: 41 Carson Maced — 57 Kyle Larson
Row 4: 19 Brent Marks — 27H Daryn Pittman
Row 5: 49 Brad Sweet — 25 J.J. Hickle
Row 6: 1A Jacob Allen — 11M Parker Price-Miller
Row 7: 39 Justin Sanders — 11X Buddy Kofoid
Row 8: 7TAZ Tasker Phillips — 8 Aaron Reutzel
Row 9: B-Main Transfers
Row 10: B-Main Transfers
Row 11: 24 Rico Abreu — 83JR Kerry Madsen
Row 12: 17 Sheldon Haudenschild — 21 Brian Brown