Understanding The Knoxville Nationals Format
Editor’s Note: One of the things that makes the Knoxville Nationals the prestigious event that it has become through the years, is the unique format used to crown the champion during four days of racing.
Shawn Miller explained the format and the pressure created because of it in the August issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine. Here’s an excerpt from his story:
By Shawn Miller
With more than 100 of the top sprint car drivers in the world expected to compete for a spot in the $150,000-to-win and $9,500-to-start feature, a unique, points-conscience format has evolved through the years for an event that features a four-day purse of more than $1 million.
The drivers are split into two qualifying nights Aug. 7-8. The only time a driver doesn’t earn points when he or she hits the track is during hot laps. A huge emphasis is placed on qualifying, when the fastest qualifier earns 200 points and each subsequent qualifier drops by two points.
Only the top 50 qualifiers advance to one of five heat races. Drivers who fail to time in quick enough will compete in a last chance race, which transfers the top-eight finishers to the back of the C Main.
Heat races are inverted by eight, meaning the fastest qualifier starts on the outside of the fourth row in the first heat. The second fastest qualifier starts on the outside of the fourth row in the second heat and so on. The top four-finishers in each heat race advance to the feature with positions five through eight going to the B Main and the final two finishers to the C Main.
Since points are the name of the game, each heat race winner will earn 100 points with a three-point drop per position.
The top-two finishers in the C Main transfer to the back of the B Main, which transfers its top four to the main event. A-Feature points are the same as qualifying with 200 points to the winner and a two-point drop per position.
The top 16 drivers in overall points from the qualifying nights are locked into Saturday’s main event. For drivers who aren’t happy with their qualifying night performance, Friday presents a fresh opportunity to lock into the show. Thanks to a new twist added in 2012, any driver can give up his or her qualifying performance to compete in a full program on Friday with the top-four finishers in the feature locking into positions 17 through 20 for Saturday’s main event.
The remaining drivers will be lined up by points on Saturday with the top-four finishers in the B Main transferring into the FVP Knoxville Nationals.
“It’s a good format,” six-time FVP Knoxville Nationals champion Donny Schatz said. “Good cars are going to be in a situation where they manage to overcome whatever format there is. You have to get yourself through those heats and accumulate points. It’s not easy. The fast cars have to work for it and that’s the way it should be.”