Kaleb Johnson enjoyed a special week during the 62 nd annual NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s hosted by Knoxville Raceway.
Johnson made the A Main during the Hard Knox Night and finished 12 th – his career-best World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series result. It was also good enough to earn a spot into the B Main during Saturday’s event finale.
“I think it went pretty well,” he said. “It was a confidence booster overall. I haven’t had too many laps in a 410 at Knoxville so to do that was very important confidence-wise.”
The event started for Johnson, who was making his rookie campaign at the Knoxville Nationals, on Thursday with his preliminary night. He qualified 28 thquickest and finished seventh in a heat race, which relegated him to the B Main.
“We just weren’t very good on our prelim night,” he said. “I made a big mistake in our heat race and that put us in the hole. I blew it in way too hard on the bottom at the start and let a few guys get around me. I was way too impatient and the next thing I knew I was in seventh. When you race against that caliber of cars you can’t really make mistakes.”
Johnson ended that night by advancing from 13 th to 11 th in the consolation race.
He returned to the half-mile track the following night for the Hard Knox Night. An 11th-place qualifying effort in Johnson’s group lined him up inside the heat race inversion.
“I let the first couple of guys get past me on the start and I knew the top was where you needed to be,” he said. “It wasn’t a great start, but being able to hold on to make the feature was the main thing. We finished third to lock in. We fine-tuned it and made it better for the A Main. I knew it’d be a long race. I had to go where the people in front of me weren’t. I took my time and luckily we made some good changes on the car. I felt really comfortable. I think I was up to ninth at one point. Just an untimely caution and a bad restart set me back a few spots.”
Johnson’s 12th-place finish was his best with the World of Outlaws and it placed him as the 18 th starter in the B Main on Saturday.
“We got up to 12 th or 13th, but I made a mistake on the berm and lost a few spots there toward the end,” he said. “We finished 19 th in the B Main. I was pretty happy with things overall.”
Another busy week is on tap with a High Limit Sprint Car Series race at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, S.D., on Tuesday followed by the AGCO Jackson Nationals powered by FENDT Thursday through Saturday at Jackson Motorplex in Jackson, Minn., with the World of Outlaws.
“I think for all four shows our goal is to make the A Mains,” he said. “We’ve been pretty solid in a 360 at Jackson. I feel we have our engine program pretty solid. To make the A Main each night is a goal that’d be pretty cool. And then I feel we have a little more confidence and learned some things we can do differently when the track starts to change so hopefully that will transition to success at Huset’s.”
QUICK RESULTS –
Aug. 10 – Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa – Qualifying: 28; Heat race: 7 (3); B Main: 11 (13).
Aug. 11 – Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa – Qualifying: 11; Heat race: 3 (1); Feature: 12 (15).
Aug. 12 – Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa – B Main: 19 (18).
SEASON STATS –
36 races, 0 wins, 6 top fives, 11 top 10s, 13 top 15s, 20 top 20s
UP NEXT –
Tuesday at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, S.D., for the Northwest Tire Inc. High Limit Sprint Car Series presented by Bank Midwest and Thursday through Saturday at Jackson Motorplex in Jackson, Minn., for the 45 th annual AGCO Jackson Nationals powered by FENDT with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series
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