1998: Lasoski Finally Breaks Through
Editor’s Note: This is the 18th installment in National Speed Sport News’ 30 Days of Knoxville countdown to the 52nd annual Goodyear Knoxville Nationals. During the coming days we will revisit past races, drivers and statistics, while previewing this year’s event.
KNOXVILLE, Iowa — “I’d give up every dollar I’ve ever made just to take that trophy home tonight,” Danny Lasoski said as he strapped himself in the No. 83 Beef Packers Eagle before the 38th annual Amoco Knoxville Nationals championship.
Later in the evening, as he stood in victory lane with the Amoco Knoxville Nationals trophy in sight, giving up 10 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series victories, seven Knoxville Raceway championships and 68 feature victories at his home track didn’t seem enough.
“We did it. We did it,” Lasoski yelled in victory lane. “I love this. This is great. This is the greatest day of my life.”
“The Dude” pulled off the move of his life early in the final lap, racing through the low groove in the second corner to pass 1983 Amoco Knoxville Nationals champion Sammy Swindell for the $100,000 first prize. He took a Polish victory lap, reminiscent of the late Alan Kulwicki after taking the checkered flag.
Lasoski, who started inside the second row, battled Swindell throughout the final 20 laps of the main event. Had it not been for a first-lap flip by Fred Rahmer, Lasoski might have led all 30 laps. After polesitter Jac Haudenschild led the 24-car field into turn one as the green flag fell at the beginning of the main event, Lasoski passed Sammy Swindell on the front straightaway and Haudenschild on the backstretch. The red flag was waving by the time the leaders reached the finish line, however, and the race was completely restarted. Lasoski pounded his steering wheel when he coasted into the pit area during the red period.
Haudenschild drove the No. 22 Pennzoil Maxim into the lead again as the green flag replaced the red, only to have Swindell pass him low in the second corner for the lead.
Swindell, whose No. 1 Channellock Stealth was strong in the low groove, was increasing his advantage when Tyler Walker spun between turns one and two early in the third lap.
Haudenschild took the high line into the lead as the race resumed, only to have Swindell race past him deep in the second corner. Haudenschild kept the No. 22 on the rim, but was unable to keep pace with Swindell who raced in the low groove of the semi-banked, half-mile oval at an average speed of 105 mph early. They switched lines just seconds before Swindell’s brother, Jeff, spun the No. 104+ Octane Boost J&J during lap eight.
Swindell, racing in his 25th Amoco Knoxville Nationals, controlled the ensuing restart as Lasoski challenged Haudenschild for second. Lasoski passed Haudenschild early in the 11th lap, the took the lead with a low, fourth-corner move past Swindell the next time around.
Less than two car- lengths separated the leaders as they raced in lapped traffic during the next three laps. Tim Shaffer stopped the No. 11h Vivarin Eagle in the fourth corner late in the 16th lap, giving the leaders a clear track and tightening the field.
Lasoski stayed in the low groove to control the restart while Swindell returned to the high line. Lasoski and Swindell raced wheel- to-wheel for much of the next five laps, and caught the backmarkers again during lap 22.
Swindell almost hit the outside wall in the fourth corner three laps later, but managed to catch Lasoski within a lap in traffic. Sammy regained the lead with a high move through turn two as Lasoski had problems passing Gary Wright early in the 28th lap.
Only four car lengths separated Swindell, Lasoski and Haudenschild as the white flag was waved. Lasoski executed the winning pass in turn two when Swindell was unable to keep the No. 1 in the low groove.
“Sammy got by me, but I think he got into one a little heated,” Lasoski said. “If you missed the bottom, you slid out, and we got by him.
“When he got by me, it was all I could do to keep from getting excited and blowing it all. I didn’t know how many laps were left and I saw the white (flag) and I said, ‘Oh my, what are we going to do now?’ He went too high in two and I slipped under him and made sure I covered the last lap.
“I owe this all to my crew — Jimmy Carr, Mark Ellis and Brian Brown.”
Haudenschild passed Swindell in the fourth corner to claim second place and was .752 seconds behind Lasoski at the checkered flag.
Donny Schatz used a similar move in turn four to pass 11- time Nationals champion Steve Kinser for fourth. Completing the top 10 in the 38th annual Amoco Knoxville Nationals championship feature were Andy Hillenburg, “B” Feature winner Mark Kinser, 24th-starting Stevie Smith, Johnny Herrera and Kenny Jacobs.
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