2005: Like Father, Like Son
Editor’s Note: This is the 15th 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 — Many racers believe luck plays an important role in winning the Knoxville Nationals, the most prestigious sprint-car race in the world.
In the 45th running of the event Sunday, Kraig Kinser took luck out of the equation. With the schedule shuffled and delayed by two days of rain, Kinser raced his way to the pole position in the afternoon and patiently waited until the evening to dominate the A main. He led all 30 laps en route to the $140,000 payday and climbed the frontstretch fence to celebrate with the large crowd that remained at Knoxville Raceway an extra day.
The field was stacked with 13 World of Outlaws Sprint Series competitors. It included Kraig’s father, Steve Kinser, a 12-time Knoxville Nationals champion who leads the standings, and Danny Lasoski, a four-time Knoxville Nationals champion who has a record 86 victories at the half-mile oval in central Iowa.
Kraig Kinser, 20, jumped to the lead in his Steve Kinser Racing Remy Maxim as soon as the green flag waved, with Donny Schatz sliding to the inside of Brian Paulus to grab second. Four laps into the race, Lasoski cut under Chad Kemenah for third and those three pulled away, each running different lines as the track continued to widen under an 18-lap green-flag run.
The leaders caught the rear of the field only 10 laps into the event. Kinser darted high and low through the traffic. When a caution waved with 12 laps to go, it bunched the field, with Schatz, Lasoski, Shane Stewart and Kemenah all ready to pounce on Kinser, who had Jac Haudenschild’s lapped car directly behind him.
On the restart, Kinser shot to the top of the track, Schatz tried the bottom and Lasoski went up and down. The three quickly pulled away once again before another caution waved, setting up a seven-lap shootout to the big money.
Kinser set the pace coming to the green flag and pulled away in the high groove. Schatz and Lasoski raced each other, with Schatz winning the battle and finishing second for the fourth time at the Nationals. Lasoski was third, ahead of Shane Stewart and Kemenah.
“We were joking, ‘Well, now we just need 30 good laps around the front,’” Kraig Kinser said. “I was joking around in the pit area about that, but then you step back and look at the lineup and see 23 of the best sprint-car drivers in the world behind you. You know you’ve got to go, and you know you have to have perfect laps, but even if you have perfect laps sometimes it doesn’t work out for you.
“I knew we had to have a lot of luck this weekend and be strong every time we hit the track. I think we definitely accomplished that. We were a threat every time we went on the track.”
Emotions were high afterward. Steve Kinser grabbed the microphone in victory lane, shouting to the crowd, “Not too bad for a 20 year old.”
Off to the side taking it all in was Steve’s father, Bob, who also was at Eldora to see his son capture the King’s Royal last month. Steve joined Bob in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame this season.
“He’s great,” Bob Kinser said of his grandson. “He’s done a hell of a job. He drove a perfect race. He put it right where he needed to put it and left it there. Once or twice he drove down, but he was trying to pass cars. You can’t follow a car and pass it. He did a heck of a job.
“I’m so happy I just can’t explain how good it feels.”
Neither could Kraig, who still is racing with a bandaged left hand to protect it from infection after it was burned last month at Williams Grove Speedway when the fuel nozzle broke off on the final lap of a heat race, igniting a fire that injured not only his hand but also his left leg.
“The cautions helped me a little bit. I opened up a lead,” Kinser said. “I didn’t hear anyone back there, so I knew I was pretty good. I was getting around the track really good the whole race, so I knew we were going. On that first long run, I got spinning a little bit on the end of it and I was worried about blistering my left rear, which it ended up doing, but it worked out fine. Every time a flag came out, the tires got cool and we were able to go again real good for about five or six laps and then we’d fall off a little bit. But it was just racing. Your tires are going to fall off a little bit.”
For Schatz, another second-place run with his ParkerStores machine in the Nationals, this one worth $70,000, is an accomplishment in itself even if he sees otherwise.
“The thrill of second is really gone, I guess,” said Schatz. “We really need to get that one extra spot. I drove as hard as I could. I can’t feel bad, I can’t be upset. I did everything I could, Kraig was just better. He did 30 great laps. If the race would have been a little different, it may have been a different outcome. If we had lapped traffic or not as many yellows, we may have been there, or Danny may have been there.
“We definitely needed to not have the yellows and we needed lapped traffic. We did have the lapped car of Jac Haudenschild in there the one time. He actually told me on the yellow he was going to go to the bottom and he went to the top. Maybe his computer is backwards tonight. That’s just the way it goes. It’s not his fault. We pushed as hard as we could and couldn’t get it done.”
“I want to thank all of Tony Stewart Motorsports for putting out the effort they did,” said Lasoski. “Paul Kistler and all the Mopar engineers worked a lot of overtime for this Bass Pro Shops team. We think we’re gaining on it. We ran third tonight, but we were a third-place car. I tried a couple of dumb moves to try to get something with Donny and we just hurt ourselves by trying to race and Kraig got away from us. Our hat is off to Kraig Kinser. He’s a hell of a race-car driver and he needs to hold his head high.”
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