2004: Victory No. 4 For The Dude
Editor’s Note: This is the eighth 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 — Danny Lasoski fought off a local hero and a pair of upstart challengers to collect his second-consecutive Knoxville Nationals victory Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway.
Driving Tony Stewart’s JDByrider/Home Depot Eagle, Lasoski passed Terry McCarl, who recently clinched his sixth track championship at the half-mile oval at the Marion County Fairgrounds, and held off two-time All Star sprint-car champion Chad Kemenah to bank the $125,000 winner’s check in sprint-car racing’s most prestigious event.
It was Lasoski’s fourth victory (1998, 2001, 2003, 2004) in the annual race, which has been held every year since 1961.
“That’s four Knoxville Nationals,” said Lasoski, who won an IROC race earlier this season. “This is what it is all about. It is our Daytona 500 or Indianapolis 500.”
Starting fourth, in part because he was penalized for not taking his car directly to the scales following Friday night’s A Scramble, Lasoski was the chaser during the early laps of the event.
McCarl started on the pole and took the early lead, with third-starter Kemenah and Lasoski in tow. A red flag when Randy Hannagan flipped on the second lap, and a yellow flag when Steve Kinser, who raced his way from the C main into the feature, spun, slowed the pace.
When racing resumed, Lasoski challenged McCarl for the lead, with the pair trading slide jobs on lap four. One lap later, Kemenah went to the bottom and passed both to briefly take the lead. But before the lap was complete, McCarl had regained the lead, with Lasoski back to third.
After another yellow flag with eight laps complete, McCarl went to the top of the track with Lasoski chasing on the cushion. Kemenah, meanwhile, began sliding backward, falling to fifth place.
Just past the halfway mark in the 30-lap race, the yellow flag waved when Brent Antill spun. Perennial contender Donny Schatz, who was running sixth, spun on the restart.
On the second restart, Lasoski made his move, diving to the bottom of the track and taking the lead from McCarl.
“Terry was getting good starts,” Lasoski explained. “He was choking us down and getting great starts, and that’s the thing to do, but he left the bottom open and we took it. He runs here every week, and he did a great job, but this team keeps plugging away.”
The leaders traded slide jobs on lap 17, with Lasoski leading at the flagstand.
The race went caution free the rest of the way and Lasoski stretched his lead.
As the laps ticked off, McCarl began dropping through the pack, and Kemenah, finding his way in the bottom groove, was again on the charge.
After passing Craig Dollansky and Jason Meyers, he took second from McCarl on lap 28, but while he was gaining on Lasoski at the finish, the Findlay, Ohio driver simply ran out of laps.
“We just kept missing the bottom early in the race,” explained Kemenah, who also came close to winning the King’s Royal at Eldora Speedway earlier this year. “I was expecting to see that 20 car (Lasoski) coming up down there, and that caught me off guard. It was really coming to me at the end of the race. A couple of times I was so low, I think I could have slapped hands with the people in the infield.
“I made up my mind to stay down there, and I passed a few cars and finished second,” he continued. “I’m thrilled to death to come out here and run second.”
Jeff Shepard also mounted a late charge, romping to third place during the final laps.
“I was just hanging onto that thing the entire race,” said Shepard, who has raced sparingly this season, and was driving for a team that was assembled just for the Nationals. “I don’t know that we had any kind of a setup under it. I missed the practice session because the ignition box didn’t work. The car was awesome.”
Meyers finished fourth, with McCarl taking fifth.
“We ran fifth a few years ago and were pretty excited about it, but right now, we’re a little disappointed,” McCarl acknowledged. “We sealed the tires up late in the race, and the car got real loose. Danny did a good job, and we put on a good show for the fans.”
Dollansky was sixth, with Shane Stewart, who started his night 16th in the B main, charging from 24th in the feature to finish seventh.