2010: Shaffer Shocks Schatz At Knoxville
Editor’s Note: This is the 22nd 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 — The engines could barely be heard above the crowd of 23,500 when Tim Shaffer slid under Donny Schatz and grabbed the lead as the pair raced to the white flag in the 50th annual Goodyear Knoxville Nationals Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway.
Shaffer led the final two laps to score one of the biggest upsets in the history of the prestigious event, earning $150,000 in Janet Holbrook and Aaron Call’s No. 83 in the Golden Anniversary of sprint-car racing’s most important race.
“When you see the checkers at the Knoxville Nationals, I just can’t describe the feeling,” said the defending All Star Circuit of Champions title winner.
Having won a preliminary feature at the Nationals last year and 10 features this season coming into Knoxville, Shaffer was hardly a longshot, but he also wasn’t the driver everyone was talking about.
But he took care of his car and was in position when it came winning time at the end of the 50-lap grind, the longest race in Nationals history.
“When I was running third, I hoped they would get tangled together and I would go past them,” Shaffer said. “But then Sammy (Swindell) blew that tire and spun and I really had to turn the car to miss him. Then I was second and I thought, ‘This is for real now.’
“When I went past (Schatz), I thought he would turn under me and come back past, but he didn’t.”
Schatz, meanwhile, finished second after having won the race four-straight years, nursing his ailing car to the checkered flag.
“When I went to go on the restart, I just couldn’t go,” Schatz explained. “Sammy was setting a blistering pace and I don’t know if I burned the engine up or what, but it didn’t go. My crew told me there was no oil in the engine at the end of the race, so we had some kind of a leak or something and we burned the engine up.
“Tim deserved to win the race. He was smart with his car and he was smart with his tires, and I ran my engine hard running with Sam and paid the price for it and that is just the way it goes.”
Swindell grabbed the lead from outside the front row and paced the majority of the event, waging a thrilling battle with Schatz. Schatz, the four-time defending race winner, tried a slide job on Swindell for the first time on lap 10, but Swindell, who was trying to win at Knoxville for the first time since 1983, shut the door.
The controversial mid-race pit stop came at lap 26 and all of the contenders changed tires. Following the restart, it continued to be a two-car race with Swindell and Schatz out front. Schatz slid under Swindell in turn three on lap 35 of the half-mile Marion County Fairgrounds, but Swindell crossed back under Schatz to hang onto the lead.
The pair got a breather when Brian Brown, who was running fourth, stopped with a flat tire after 44 laps.
Schatz slid under Swindell to lead lap 45, but Swindell was back in front on lap 46. Schatz tried again on lap 47, taking the lead only to have Swindell hold the advantage at the line. The race changed on lap 48 when Swindell cut a tire while leading and flipped in turn four, continuing his string of dreadful luck in the Knoxville Nationals.
Schatz led on the restart, but Shaffer was up to the task from the beginning. After seeing Schatz cross back under him to lead lap 48, Shaffer took control as the pair raced to the conclusion of lap 49. With Schatz’s engine going sour, Shaffer powered away to victory.
Schatz held on to finish second with Shane Stewart, who won the Aug. 11 preliminary feature and last week’s 360 Knoxville Nationals, finishing third.
Craig Dollansky, who started 24th, and Kerry Madsen completed the top five.
Shaffer credited his victory to the relationship with crew chief Brian Kemenah, the brother of driver Chad Kemenah. “It’s a great team and a great crew chief,” Shaffer said. “Brian Kemenah is a great crew chief and we just clicked from the beginning.”
Stevie Smith won the B main, while Danny Lasoski claimed the C main, but failed to make the A main for the first time since 1989. Jonathan Cornell topped the D main and Greg Nikitenko won the E main.
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