KNOXVILLE, IOWA (August 7, 2014) – With rain wiping out the Wednesday night qualifying and pushing it to Friday night, there was a lot of anticipation in the air as the rain drops stopped falling around the Marion County Fairgrounds. You could just sense the excitement as fans packed the Midway under the main grandstands and were bustling through the souvenir trailers looking to get their favorite drivers apparel and merchandise.
But Jason and the Stenhouse Jr. Racing team were methodically going about their routine as they focused on getting the Priority Aviation Services, LLC/Fischer Body Shop #41 Maxim ready for battle. There were 52 stout cars and drivers in the pit area ready to start the arduous process of digging for the precious gold and metals at Knoxville Raceway at the prestigious 54th Annual running of the FVP Knoxville Nationals.
The first order of business was time trial qualifying with each driver getting two laps of individual track time around the famous black clay. Jason pushed off eleventh for his speed show and powered his way around the big half mile in 15.155 seconds on his first lap. Not satisfied, he kept his foot in it and got quicker on lap two with a 15.117 second lap. When the last qualifier, James McFadden, rode under the checkers, Jason’s time was 29th quick overall.
The heat race lineups were set, with an inversion of eight in each heat, and the #41 Priority Aviation Services, LLC machine was ready to fly in the fourth heat race from the third starting spot. When Doug Clark waved the green flag, pole sitter Ian Madsen screamed down the long front straightaway in front of the towering grandstands as Jason followed in the third position. He kept the pedal down and piloted the forty one to a third place finish as he crossed the finish line ahead of hard-charging Brian Brown who was chasing his Fuel Safe fuel cell around the Marion County oval for the last half of the heat race looking to take the higher spot in the running order.
The twenty five lap feature event was the only event left on Jason and the team’s agenda for the evening. Making these A-Mains are an accomplishment in and of itself for the 24 lucky drivers who do so. Running up at the front with this type of competitive field of high speed, flying artist is just amazing. The Cajun Sensation would jump into the cockpit of his Maxim missile and fire up his engine to create a beautiful rumble from his Schoenfeld Headers. He was starting from the eleventh starting spot. On his right side in row six was Bill Balog’s #17B from Brookfield, Wisconsin. As they went four wide in their salute to the fans, the lights around the speedway reflected off the big Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT) logo on top of his Vortex wing. They soon went back to their two-by-two lineup before the green flag waved. On the initial start, Balog jumped ahead of him in the running order, but the Cajun Sensation was determined not only to get that position back, but he wanted to work his way even further forward so he kept digging. He was making his way up the leader board with his fastest lap on lap eight, and by lap sixteen he was racing hard with Kevin Swindell for the ninth position. The red flew for Swindell when his steering broke heading into turn three at top speed as he flipped wildly along Knoxville’s famous stacked guiderail catch fence. While the race was under red flag conditions, Jason reached up and pulled off a tearoff from his Arai Helmet so he had a clear view of his path and entry to get the next position. When the racing resumed, he ducked under Clint Garner for eighth and then took another spot to move into seventh before race winner Brian Brown took the race win ahead of Sam Hafertepe, Jr. and Kerry Madsen.
While he didn’t find any gold on this night, he certainly kept digging and for his efforts he ended up with 426 points, which was 14th overall after the first night of qualifying action. A good night of competition for Jason and the entire Stenhouse Jr. Racing team.