KNOXVILLE, IOWA (August 13, 2020) – Usually Highway 14 in Knoxville would normally be bustling with fans from around the world during this time of the year. But as 2020 has been different to say the least, so has the season for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and dirt tracks across the country. With restrictions around the globe associated with Coronavirus, the usual crowd was unable to travel to Knoxville Raceway. With the restrictions, the 60 running of the Knoxville Nationals was postponed until 2021 and replaced with a unique event labeled ‘The One and Only’. Three days of racing limited to a 70 car field. A unique point format for nights one and two which accumulated to set the field for the finale on Saturday evening. And a 7,000 limit on fans that could attend.
There were 67 teams signed into the pit area on Thursday evening. The cars were split into 8 groups for qualifying which would have three cars on the track at one time for their time trial laps. David Gravel, aboard the special paint scheme celebrating Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT) long-time support of the JJR #41 team, would be the 57th car out for his laps at speed. The number 57 holds a special place in the Johnson family’s hearts as it was a number used by a number of the family members on their race cars throughout history, including Jason Johnson early in his racing career. Hitting the track late, when it was Gravel’s turn to show speed he did just that as he turned his first lap in 15.852 seconds. His second lap was slightly slower at 15.953 seconds, but the faster of his two laps was good for 13th quick overall when time trials concluded. He earned 88 points out of a total of 100 in time trials.
With an inversion of the fastest 48 cars, the Watertown, Connecticut speedster would find himself on the outside of row three in the Weikert’s Livestock/Durst Inc. #41 Maxim. Unlike normal formats where the top finishers automatically transfer into the feature, this format awarded finishing position points which encouraged the fastest drivers to race forward during the 10-lap event. The field in the first heat race was filled with talent as Tyler Courtney and Rico Abreu sitting on the front row with Scott Bogucki and Gio Scelzi in the next row. David shared row three with Brock Zearfoss, as Donny Schatz and quick timer Jacob Allen made up row four. When the green flag waved Gravel was on the throttle and moving forward. He moved into the fifth spot and then quickly advanced up to fourth. Tyler Courtney was leading Abreu and Scelzi as Gravel was trucking in the fourth position. Gravel was moving the forty-one closer to Scelzi’s bumper and with three to-go was in striking distance and tried to make the pass for position entering turn three. He was momentarily successful before Scelzi wrestled it back heading down the front straightaway. Courtney took the win over Abreu, Scelzi, Gravel and Schatz. Gravel earned an additional 85 points for his heat race effort bringing his cumulative point total to 173 overall.
With the eight highest point drivers locking into the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash Gravel and the JJR #41 team would have to wait patiently through the remaining five heat races to see if they would earn a spot in the race to set the starting lineup in the first four rows. His 173 points ended up being seventh overall and locked him into the dash where he drew a ‘5’ out of the over-sized NOS Energy Drink can. Logan Schuchart and Cory Eliason would make up the front row with Spencer Bayston and Aaron Reutzel in row two. David Gravel’s row three partner was Joey Saldana with Brian Brown and Donny Schatz rounding out the starting grid. Schuchart wasted little time taking the lead at the drop of the green as Gravel got shuffled back in the early stages of the race. He got his elbows up and moved the Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/High Performance Lubricants #41 Maxim to the top of the track and started to gain back some positions. Schuchart collected the victory over Reutzel, Bayston, Eliason and Saldana as Gravel drove back up to the sixth position ahead of Brown and Schatz.
The only thing remaining on the race agenda was the 25-lap feature event. The field was set. Crew Chief Philip Dietz and the JJR crew made their final adjustments as they pushed the J.R.C. Transportation/Team Jack Foundation #41 to the staging area. It was race time at Knoxville Raceway! After their four-wide salute to the fans in the stands and watching on DirtVision, the drivers flipped down their shields and took the green flag. David drove his Kistler Engines powered Maxim Racing machine into fourth and used the low line to grab the third position on lap 4. A caution was thrown for Terry McCarl who appeared to be losing oil. On the restart Gravel did not get a good start and dropped back to eighth, but luckily a yellow was displayed before a lap could be completed for a spinning Daryn Pittman so he got his third starting spot back for the restart. The high speed racing action resumed but did not last long as the red flag was thrown for a four car crash in turn one involving Brad Sweet, Donny Schatz, Cory Eliason and James McFadden. Schuchart was still leading Reutzel and Gravel when the green flag waved, but Brian Brown and Kyle Larson were on the move and passed the forty-one for position. Gravel was now running fifth. Kyle Larson was opening eyes and tracking down Schuchart for the lead. He caught him and made the pass for the top spot and was your new leader with eight laps to go. Meanwhile Gravel was building speed and starting to drive forward as he was now battle with Brian Brown for the fourth position. Gravel and Brown had company though as 24 starting Carson Macedo was flying on the low side and there was a three-car battle for position. Macedo had it before Brown took it. Then Gravel moved into the spot with Macedo and Brown fighting for the fifth position. Larson checked out in the lead and took the win over Schuchart and Reutzel as Macedo made a low line pass entering turn one on the last lap to reclaim the fourth position. Gravel brought the Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT) #41 Maxim home fifth as Brian Brown finished sixth. Gravel earned 238 more points for his feature finish bringing his total after the first night of “The One and Only” to 411 points, which was 6 out of 67 competitors. David Gravel and the JJR #41 will be back at the track on Friday night looking to add to their point total. Catch all of the action on DirtVision!
Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT); Saich Family; Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution; Weikert’s Livestock; J.R.C. Transportation, Inc.; Durst Inc.; Maxim Racing; The Boyd Family; Pro Powder Coating (PPC); Waco Metal; High Performance Lubricants, LLC; Team Jack Foundation; Mark Burch Motorsports; Tiger Towing; All Pro Auto Reconditioning; AutoMeter; Bell Racing USA; Brown & Miller Racing Solutions (BMRS); Buckwalter Trucking, LLC; C&R Racing; Chalk Stix Torsion Bars; Crow Enterprizes, Engler Machine & Tool, Inc.; Factory Kahne FK Shocks; Fibreworks Composites; FK Rod Ends; Fuel Safe Racing Cells; Greber Racing Components; Hoosier Racing Tire; ISC Racers Tape; Jansen Transportation; Kistler Racing Engines; KSE Racing Products; LogoDaddy Graphics; Max Papis Innovations (MPI); MSD Performance; RaceDiecast.com; Schoenfeld Headers; Shell Shock Paint; Simpson Race Products; T-FAB Custom Metal Fabrication; Vortex Racing Products; Walker Performance Filtration; Weld Wheels; Wilwood Racing; and Winters Performance Products.
To stay connected with Jason Johnson Racing (JJR), go to www.jasonjohnsonracing.com.
To stay up-to-date with David Gravel and his success and journey on and off the track, as well as to purchase his gear and merchandise, go to www.DavidGravel89.com.