Stevie Smith; Knoxville Nationals
End to a Busy Week: Smith Finishes 7th in Goodyear Knoxville Nationals
Pennsylvania native leads first 13 laps of $150,000-to-win event at half mile
HOLMESVILLE, Ohio. - August 13, 2012 - Stevie Smith had the best seat in the house for the 52nd Goodyear Knoxville Nationals. From his pole position in the #19 CL Motorsports/DDNi/CJB Motorsports/Pella Motors KPC, he could see nothing but open track in front of him as the field of 24 cars were given the green on Saturday, August 11.
"It was a great feeling knowing that a lot of the chaos was happening behind you," said Smith, an eight time winner at the legendary half-mile. "The starts at Knoxville are known for being crazy and we were lucky enough to bolt out to an early lead. Unfortunately, Donny Schatz was able to reel us in after only 13 laps of being out front."
Schatz, who would go on to claim his sixth Goodyear Knoxville Nationals title in a thrilling battle with Brian Brown, battled with Smith for two laps before finally slipping past the New Oxford, Pa. native. With Schatz setting sail on the field, Smith began to fall back through the pack.
"Our car was very good in the beginning and we were able to pull away," said Smith. "But as the first 25 laps wore on, we just had a hard time driving off the corner. It's been something we have been battling all year and it really hurt us as the track slicked off."
Car #19 was running fourth when Knoxville Raceway officials called the entire field into the pit area for a five-minute work period at lap 26. Crews were able to refuel their cars, change tires and make any adjustments necessary.
"We made a few small changes," said Smith, who now has led 115 laps in 2012. "The hope was the restart would equalize things out and we would be able to get back up front. Things didn't really pan out that way as we continued to slide backwards."
By the end of the 50 lap main event, Smith had settled into 7th position after some fierce battles with the likes of Kraig Kinser and Shane Stewart.
"Towards the end of the race, we had some pretty exciting racing with a lot of guys," said Smith. "There were cars on the top, the bottom and in the middle. I felt a bit bummed out because we sat on the pole and didn't finish any better than what we did. You only get a handful of opportunities to win a race like the Knoxville Nationals and we didn't capitalize on it. However, in the grand scheme of everything, this is quite an accomplishment for a first year organization. We came out to the biggest race of the year, sat on the pole and came home with a good finish. It's very tough to even make it into this event so that in of itself is a milestone accomplishment. I'm very proud of the entire #19 crew for all of their hard work and dedication. This is a very stressful and long week but they kept plugging away and gave me a great car. It was also a pleasure to have many of our partners out here as well. They are the backbone of what we do and it showed this week."