Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Kyle Larson Wastes Field to Win 2023 Knoxville Nationals

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Kyle Larson was in, as third-place finisher Donny Schatz put it, “another zip code” Saturday night (Aug. 12), becoming just the second driver to lead all 50 laps in winning his second career Knoxville Nationals trophy.

Larson, who started from the pole, went unchallenged for the entirety of the race, though runner-up David Gravel, who won hard charger honors with an eye-opening run from 22nd to second in the A-main, cut the lead down to roughly a second by race’s end.

Saturday’s feature was a fortunately tame ending to a nasty, wreck-filled night that saw Cody Ihlen and Matt Covington both have to be cut from their racecars after incidents on track (more on that later).

2023 KNOXVILLE NATIONALS RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: It came a night early after Aaron Reutzel led all 25 laps of the Hard Knox feature Friday night. In victory lane amid an audible chorus of boos, Reutzel took the role of heel and ran with it, uttering absolute golden t-shirt material.

Reutzel, whose Hard Knox win came scarcely a week removed from his last-lap loss in the 360 Nationals A-main at the same track, has been a polarizing driver in recent seasons, most notably after losing his World of Outlaws ride in the midst of an illegal chassis scandal in 2021.

What Dirt Racing Fans’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

See Kyle Larson. See Kyle Larson race a sprint car. See Kyle Larson win.

Considering the A-main ran all 50 laps without one of the spectacular tire failures that plagued the preliminary action on Saturday, it doesn’t seem that the Hoosier tires run at Knoxville over the weekend were systemically flawed. Having said that, there were an inordinate number of tire failures at Knoxville this weekend, including spectacular failures that took out World of Outlaws regulars James McFadden and Brad Sweet.

Kind of ironic to see a rash of tire failures the same reason seemingly every NASCAR fan (and quite a few staffers here on this site) are gushing over returning Cup racing to the Brickyard oval. 

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Scheduled comment that sprint car races with built in fuel stops are a pain in the neck. Fortunately I wasn’t the only one saying it this weekend … though it didn’t actually matter this year, Larson drove off from the field in both segments of the Nationals A-main.

Reutzel has earned every one of the boos he got showered with over the week of racing at Knoxville, but he did have a line other than his “MFers” quip that stuck with me after his feature win Friday. The owner/driver didn’t have a clue how much he won for the Hard Knox trophy, but knew immediately that he was going to take home a $15,000 check just for starting Saturday’s Nationals A-main.

He may be a heel, but give the man credit, if he’s going to make a spectacle about making money his focus is in the right place.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one a little underwhelmed by Saturday’s race.

I don’t know what was more comical, Noah Gass getting disqualified in the middle of the Last Chance Showdown Saturday for running without a required muffler, or just how many fans watching the Knoxville Nationals didn’t realize that every sprint car race run at Knoxville requires said mufflers. Yes, everyone prefers racecars without mufflers, but I definitely prefer open racetracks with mufflers to noise ordinances closing venues down.

I was going to include Gravel in the Heroes of the Weekend section below for his charge from 22nd to second in the A-main, as it was a fantastic effort, one that the driver even acknowledged was a “good second-place finish.” BUT, there’s something to be said about what appeared to be a major missed penalty by race officials that enabled said second-place finish to happen.

Of course, given that it is 2023, I also think that Logan Seavey asked a pertinent question.

Lastly, Frontstretch would like to join the dirt community in expressing condolences after the unexpected passing of Lowell Moural, the owner of Cycleland Speedway in California. Moural was the owner of the kart track that Larson, Sweet and many West Coast racers cut their teeth on and was on the mind of Larson in victory lane Saturday night.

Dirt Racing’s Hero(es) of the Weekend

Yes, Larson benefitted tremendously from his front-row start in winning Saturday’s feature. That doesn’t change the fact that he won a crown-jewel race in dominant fashion. Larson’s triumph made him the eighth driver in history to win multiple Knoxville Nationals and made his Indianapolis announcement Sunday morning all the more dramatic.

Pretty damn old-school to see a dirt guy announcing an Indy 500 ride.

The only driver able to post a result similar to Larson’s across the Nationals, including a stellar back-to-front charge in a prelim heat race was Schatz, who not only won his prelim feature Wednesday but in finishing third scored his 20th career Knoxville Nationals podium.

Dirt Racing’s Victim(s) of the Weekend

Where to start, there were a LOT of incidents over four days of racing. Wednesday night saw Justin Peck endure the worst wreck of the night, a nasty slam into the wall exiting turn 4 that fortunately saw the driver uninjured.

Both Ihlen and Covington had to be cut out of their cars and transported to the hospital after enduring vicious flips in the E-main and D-main of Saturday’s program. Scanning social media, both Ilhen and Covington are sore but avoided serious injury as a result of their crashes.

Lastly, McFadden was arguably the biggest name to miss the A-main field, courtesy of a wreck while leading the LCS feature Saturday night.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Wednesday morning (Aug. 16) with coverage of the High Limit Racing event at Huset’s Speedway in South Dakota. Streaming coverage can be found on Flo Racing.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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