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Gharst Garners ASCS Knoxville Nationals Prelim Win on Thursday
by: Lonnie Wheatley
KNOXVILLE, Iowa (August 2) – Kaley Gharst was presented with a golden
opportunity on Thursday night as the 17th Annual ASCS Knoxville Nationals kicked
off at the Marion County Fairgrounds' Knoxville Raceway.
And the young Illinois racer took full advantage by collecting his first career O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour feature win in the 20-lap main event and put himself in a solid position for Saturday night's $10,000 to win ASCS Knoxville Nationals finale.
For most of the distance in Thursday night's feature, it looked as though Missouri's Randy Martin was about to snare his first Knoxville Raceway triumph in nearly two years, with his last Knoxville score coming on August 6, 2005.
But Martin's run was cut short when a poorly executed slide job was attempted by Brian Brown on the 18th lap, sending both cars flipping in turn four in wild fashion.
Gharst assumed the point on the restart and held off 21st-starter Gary Wright over the final three rounds to secure the win aboard the Phillips' Floors No. 3* Maxim, powered by the same Wesmar powerplant that propelled Billy Alley to consecutive ASCS Knoxville Nationals triumphs in 2004 and 2005.
After qualifying 19th-quick among the 51-car field, Martin found himself on the pole for the feature event when eleven of the top 18 timers failed to finish among the top four in heat race action.
With the eight-car inversion, Martin started on the pole alongside Johnny Anderson, an ASCS Knoxville Nationals preliminary feature winner last year.
Martin gunned into the lead at the drop of the green flag and paced the early rounds in front of Anderson and Matt Moro, with fifth-starter Gharst, Brown and Travis Rilat dicing for position behind the lead trio.
Following a pair of early cautions, including one after four laps for George White's turn four spin and then another four laps later when Billy Alley came to a stop in turn four, Martin set sail while Gharst took to the extreme topside and charged by Moro and Anderson to take second on the ninth lap.
A lap later, at the midway point, Brown made his way past Moro and Anderson as well to take over the third position.
While the lead trio of Martin, Gharst and Brown led the way, current O'Reilly ASCoT National series points leader Gary Wright was on the move after starting 21st. Wright had picked off ten positions to climb to eleventh by the time the race's second caution appeared after eight laps, then had climbed to seventh by the 12th circuit.
As the leaders reached lapped traffic in the final handful of laps, Gharst and Brown closed in on Martin while Wright cracked the top five on the 15th lap.
Brown slid past Gharst for second in turns one and two on the 18th lap and set his sights on Martin. Martin rode the high line into turns three and four, while Brown drove in on the low side and tried to execute a slide job that had no chance of succeeding from the outset.
The resulting contact sent Martin's Diamond Pet Foods airborne and headlong into the turn four retaining barrier with Brown tumbling as well. Both drivers walked away from the melee, with a somewhat sore Martin later commenting that, "I never saw him coming, once I kind of regained my senses after a couple of minutes I asked one of the track officials who it was that just ran over me."
Gharst assumed the point on the restart, with Wright on his tailtank. Setting a slow pace approaching the green flag, Gharst got the jump and Wright was unable to mount a serious bid for the win, with Gharst taking the checkered flag with a 0.622-second advantage.
"If I would have just stayed on the bottom, I may have been able to get by him," Wright explained after his runner-up finish in the Wesmar-powered Richwood Construction/Whiteco Commercial Funding/Southwest Express No. 9 Maxim. "But I wasn't going to take any chances, I know finishing either first or second puts us in a good position for Saturday night."
Moro took the show position, with 15th-starter Russ Hall and Anderson rounding out the top five.
Dale Blaney raced from 22nd to finish sixth, with Scott Winters, Rilat, Bryan Howland and Jarod Smith completing the top ten.
Jon Corbin kicked off the night by setting a fast time of 16.226 seconds on the ˝-mile clay oval. Corbin brushed the wall in his heat and retired pitside for the balance of the night. The second, third and fourth qualifiers (Wright, John Kearney and Blaney) also failed to advance from heat race action and had to race through the "B" Main to tag the feature event.
Natalie Sather, Moro, Larry Neighbors, Winters and Luke Hall topped heat races. Frankie Heimbaugh posted a half-lap victory in the 8-lap "C" Main, with Wright winning the "B" Main.
The start of the third heat quickly went red for a multi-car tangle that sent Jeff Mitrisin upside down. Mitrisin returned for "B" Main action.
The red flag also flew on the opening lap of the "B" Main when Derek Hagar looped his mount in turn two and was hit by Brian Thomas, with both cars flipping. Thomas was uninjured but done for the night, while Hagar continued on.
O’Reilly ASCS Knoxville Nationals Thursday Preliminary Results:
1. 4c-Jon Corbin (Carrolton, MO) 16.226, 2. 9-Gary Wright (Hooks, TX) 16.236, 3. 86-John Kearney (Valley Falls, KS) 16.263, 4. 6b-Dale Blaney (Fowler, OH) 16.302, 5. 51h-Bryan Howland (Auburn, NY) 16.307, 6. 29T-Travis Rilat (Forney, TX) 16.309, 7. 21-Brian Brown (Grain Valley, MO) 16.311, 8. 55-Billy Alley (Lincoln, NE) 16.321, 9. 3*-Kaley Gharst (Decatur, IL) 16.322, 10. X-Chuck Swenson (Watertown, SD) 16.384, 11. 75-Don Young (Bartlett, TN) 16.386, 12. 2m-Matt Moro (Ankeny, IA) 16.410, 13. 12c-Fred Cade (Niagara Fall, ONT) 16.429, 14. 51s-Lee Sowell (Nesbit, MS) 16.434, 15. 7a-Johnny Anderson (Indianola, IA) 16.438, 16. 44-Larry Pinegar II (Des Moines, IA) 16.441, 17. 57c-Chris Schmelzle (Victoria, BC) 16.469, 18. 10-Jeff Mitrisin (Oskaloosa, IA) 16.469, 19. 14-Randy Martin (California, MO) 16.504, 20. 27-Don Droud, Jr. (Lincoln, NE) 16.513, 21. 94s-Natalie Sather (Fargo, ND) 16.526, 22. 24-Jarod Smith (Pleasant Hill, IA) 16.552, 23. 29n-Larry Neighbors (Oklahoma City, OK) 16.561, 24. R19-Scott Winters (Butterfield, MN) 16.572, 25. 34-Luke Hall (Ludlow Falls, OH) 16.613, 26. 1s-George White (Fort Worth, TX) 16.625, 27. 29-Russ Hall (Des Moines, IA) 16.648, 28. 23a-Seth Bergman (Snohomish, WA) 16.662, 29. 4J-Lee Grosz (Harwood, ND) 16.670, 30. 15-Jack Potter (Raymore, MO) 16.756, 31. 43-A.J. Selenke (Wichita, KS) 16.763, 32. 3-Nate Van Haaften (Otley, IA) 16.771, 33. 1-Pete Crall (Desoto, KS) 16.772, 34. 91x-Derek Ingalls (Snohomish, WA) 16.793, 35. 53h-Matt Harms (Chillicothe, IL) 16.807, 36. 33-Alan Zoutte (Knoxville, IA) 16.820, 37. 4r-Robbie Vaughn (Snohomish, WA) 16.838, 38. 04-Frankie Heimbaugh (Indianola, IA) 16.903, 39. 75c-Casey Heser (Jackson, MN) 16.904, 40. d12-Doc Sloan (Imperial, MO) 16.913, 41. 9JR-Derek Hagar (Marion, AR) 16.966, 42. 11F-Foster Landon (Collinsville, OK) 16.987, 43. 98R-Joe Ramaker (Boise, ID) 17.018, 44. 61J-Danny Jennings (Norman, OK) 17.044, 45. 48-Tyler Thompson (Des Moines, IA) 17.062, 46. 13m-Kathryne Minter (Bedford, TX) 17.083, 47. 31p-Travis Porter (Rock Islands, IL) 18.084, 48. 17-Jared Horstman (Cloverdale, OH) 18.350, 49. 67-Brian Thomas (Pendergrass, GA) 17.006 (moved to tail for use of illegal right rear tire), 50. 7c-Dave Becker (Belle Plaine, MN) NT, 51. 99-Korey Weyant (Springfield, IL) NT.
Heat Races (Top 4 Advance to "A" Main; Positions 5-8 to "B" Main; Positions 9-10 to "C" Main)
Heat One (8 Laps): 1. 94-Natalie Sather, 2. 29T-Travis Rilat, 3. 75-Don Young, 4. 1s-George White, 5. 44-Larry Pinegar II, 6. 33-Alan Zoutte, 7. 43-A.J. Selenke, 8. 9JR-Derek Hagar, 9. 13m-Kathryne Minter, 10. 4c-Jon Corbin. DNS: 99-Korey Weyant.
Heat Two (8 Laps): 1. 2m-Matt Moro, 2. 21-Brian Brown, 3. 29-Russ Hall, 4. 24-Jarod Smith, 5. 9-Gary Wright, 6. 3-Nate Van Haaften, 7. 11F-Foster Landon, 8. 4R-Robbie Vaughn, 9. 57c-Chris Schmelzle, 10. 31p-Travis Porter.
Heat Three (8 Laps): 1. 29n-Larry Neighbors, 2. 98R-Joe Ramaker, 3. 1-Pete Crall, 4. 23a-Seth Bergman, 5. 55-Billy Alley, 6. 10-Jeff Mitrisin, 7. 86-John Kearney, 8. 12c-Fred Cade, 9. 04-Frankie Heimbaugh. DNS: 17-Jared Horstman.
Heat Four (8 Laps): 1. R19-Scott Winters, 2. 3*-Kaley Gharst, 3. 4J-Lee Grosz, 4. 14-Randy Martin, 5. 51s-Lee Sowell, 6. 6b-Dale Blaney, 7. 91s-Derek Ingalls, 8. 61J-Danny Jennings, 9. 67-Brian Thomas, 10. 75c-Casey Heser.
Heat Five (8 Laps): 1. 34-Luke Hall, 2. 7a-Johnny Anderson, 3. 15-Jack Potter, 4. 51h-Bryan Howland, 5. 27-Don Droud, Jr., 6. X-Chuck Swenson, 7. 48-Tyler Thompson, 8. 53h-Matt Harms, 9. d12-Doc Sloan. DNS: 7c-Dave Becker.
"C" Main – Top 2 Advance to "B" Main
"C" Feature (8 Laps): 1. 04-Frankie Heimbaugh, 2. 67-Brian Thomas, 3. 31p-Travis Porter, 4. 57c-Chris Schmelzle, 5. 75c-Casey Heser, 6. 13m-Kathryne Minter. DNS: 4c-Jon Corbin, d12-Doc Sloan, 17-Jared Horstman, 7c-Dave Becker, 99-Korey Weyant.
"B" Main – Top 4 Advance to “A” Main
"B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 9-Gary Wright, 2. 6b-Dale Blaney, 3. 86-John Kearney, 4. 55-Billy Alley, 5. X-Chuck Swenson, 6. 27-Don Droud, Jr., 7. 44-Larry Pinegar II, 8. 51s-Lee Sowell, 9. 48-Tyler Thompson, 10. 91x-Derek Ingalls, 11. 61J-Danny Jennings, 12. 33-Alan Zoutte, 13. 9JR-Derek Hagar, 14. 3-Nate Van Haaften, 15. 04-Frankie Heimbaugh, 16. 53h-Matt Harms, 17. 11F-Foster Landon, 18. 4r-Robbie Vaughn, 19. 12c-Fred Cade, 20. 43-A.J. Selenke, 21. 10-Jeff Mitrisin, 22. 67-Brian Thomas.
O’Reilly ASCS Knoxville Nationals Thursday Preliminary "A" Main Event:
“A” Feature (20 Laps): 1. 3*-Kaley Gharst, 2. 9-Gary Wright, 3. 2m-Matt Moro, 4. 29-Russ Hall, 5. 7a-Johnny Anderson, 6. 6b-Dale Blaney, 7. R19-Scott Winters, 8. 29T-Travis Rilat, 9. 51h-Bryan Howland, 10. 24-Jarod Smith, 11. 29n-Larry Neighbors, 12. 34-Luke Hall, 13. 4J-Lee Grosz, 14. 75-Don Young, 15. 15-Jack Potter, 16. 23a-Seth Bergman, 17. 94s-Natalie Sather, 18. 1-Pete Crall, 19. 98r-Joe Ramaker, 20. 14-Randy Martin, 21. 21-Brian Brown, 22. 1s-George White, 23. 55-Billy Alley, 24. 86-John Kearney.
Lap Leaders: Randy Martin 1-17, Kaley Gharst 18-20.