From Jordan Delucia / worldofoutlaws.com
A win at Knoxville Raceway is special anytime a driver can get one. But to Brent Marks, it’s more than just another Victory Lane stage – it’s long-awaited success at a place he’s been trying so hard to improve at.
“This ranks right up there for me,” said Marks, of Myerstown, PA. “I’ve spent a lot of time here and struggled a lot; been working really hard to get a good program here. I felt like we had some strength last year at the Nationals. I just couldn’t wait to come back.”
After 30 career attempts, Marks finally broke through Friday night for his first-ever win at The Sprint Car Capital of the World, collecting $10,000 for his efforts on night #1 of the Brownells Big Guns Bash.
Better yet, he did it in dominating fashion, a clean sweep of the program – collecting his first career Slick Woody’s Quick Time Award for fastest overall lap in My Place Hotels Qualifying, winning his Heat Race, the DIRTVision FAST PASS Dash and leading all 25 laps of the NOS Energy Drink Feature.
But to do it, he had to hold off the best of the best all throughout the program. A grand total of 52 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series competitors packed the infield pit area, consisting of full-time Outlaws, Knoxville 410 Sprint Car regulars and even a fellow Pennsylvanian in Anthony Macri – the winningest Sprint Car driver in the nation so far this year.
With all the big guns in the house, Marks never let the pressure get to him. He gassed it at the drop of the green and took off, opening a nice advantage over Brian Brown and Logan Schuchart before hitting lapped traffic on Lap 8.
While Marks zoomed through lapped traffic, Brown was not as quick getting by the slower cars and allowed Marks to widen the gap. Schuchart took advantage of the situation and made a move for second on Brown but gave it right back two laps later. As they approached the checkered, in came the wrench to crash everyone’s plans.
A red flag was displayed after track points leader Austin McCarl took a tumble in Turns 1-2 with 22 laps complete, resetting the field and erasing Marks’ lead. With only three laps remaining, everyone knew it was go-time.
“When that red came out, I was kind of licking my chops, just because Brent doesn’t run here a lot,” Brown said. “But he’s a smart racecar driver, I knew that, so it’s like ‘I’m gonna dig in my bag of tricks here and figure out anything I’ve ever did here to try and win.’”
While Marks pulled away slightly again on the restart, Schuchart pulled the trigger to the low side for second when Brown checked-up on the cushion. They came around to take the white and Schuchart gave it everything he had but was unable to catch Marks as he crossed the stripe for the win.
“We didn’t need that red, that’s for sure,” Schuchart said. “I felt like we had a very good chance at getting Brent before the red came out, even after we went down the backstretch almost side-by-side. He made the smart move in taking away my line.”
Even for the guy who had dominated all night, sitting idle in the car waiting for the incident cleanup was concerning for the restart.
“Sitting there under red, I think we just lost too much air pressure or something and I got really tight,” Marks said. “I just went into defense mode there. With Brian [Brown] being behind me – I know how good he is here, how he can win these races at the very end – I was just trying to block all lanes as much as I could so he couldn’t get a run on me.”
Marks is trying to be a contender at Knoxville come Nationals time in August. Though he’s struggled at Knoxville in the past, he traveled way out of his way, past closer races, to come and compete with the best and get better this weekend. And it’s paid off.
“It’s a very difficult racetrack, and you’ve gotta be a really smart driver in order to win races here,” Marks said. “I feel like I’m getting to that point.”
Schuchart crossed in second to record his seventh-straight top-10 finish. After debuting a brand-new car at Bristol in April, the Shark Racing #1s squad has been one of the most consistent teams on the tour and continued it with their sixth podium of the season Friday.
Brown crossed the stripe third in his Casey’s/FVP #21, matching his best finish of the season against the Outlaws. He and crew chief Danny Lasoski put their heads and loads of experience together Friday and bagged a solid run as the highest-finishing Knoxville regular in the field.
“I’m a Knoxville guy, true and true,” Brown said. “To be able to represent them… I don’t care if it’s an Outlaws race or not, it’s just a race that’s got tougher crowd.
“There’s been so many years I’ve been amped-up and try to do different stuff when the Outlaws come to town. As a team, we just wanted to stick to the basics and do what we do every single week here.”
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series continues the Brownells Big Guns Bash Saturday evening with another $10,000 check on the line.
NOS Energy Drink Feature Results (25 Laps):
1. 19-Brent Marks [$10,000]; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$5,500]; 3. 21-Brian Brown [$3,200]; 4. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,600]; 5. 41-Carson Macedo [$2,350]; 6. 49-Brad Sweet [$2,150]; 7. 2-David Gravel [$2,100]; 8. 8-Aaron Reutzel [$1,950]; 9. 15-Donny Schatz [$1,900]; 10. 5-Spencer Bayston [$1,850]; 11. 18-Giovanni Scelzi [$1,400]; 12. 24-Rico Abreu [$1,200]; 13. 27-Carson McCarl [$1,000]; 14. 15H-Sam Hafertepe [$950]; 15. O9-Matt Juhl [$900]; 16. 39M-Anthony Macri [$900]; 17. 83-James McFadden [$900]; 18. 3-Ayrton Gennetten [$900]; 19. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$]; 20. 9-Kasey Kahne [$900]; 21. 1A-Jacob Allen [$900]; 22. 22-Riley Goodno [$900]; 23. 25-JJ Hickle [$900]; 24. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$]; 25. 88-Austin McCarl [$900]; 26. 2J-Lynton Jeffrey [$900]
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Photos: Trent Gower / worldofoutlaws.com