Thursday, November 23, 2023

An Explainer of the Saturday Format at the Knoxville Nationals

Austin McCarl proudly posing by his car after learning he will lead the field to the 2022 Knoxville Nationals A-Main.
Austin McCarl proudly posing by his car after learning he will lead the field to the 2022 Knoxville Nationals A-Main. Photo courtesy of World Racing Group/Trent Gower.

The biggest race in sprint car racing is only hours away. Around 10:45 p.m. ET, 24 drivers will walk in front of a sellout crowd at Knoxville Raceway before getting into their 900+ horsepower cars, harnessed only by seatbelts and the laws of physics.

These drivers have spent the last three days in this small town of around 7,600 people, whose population has ballooned as the racers and their crews and fans see who makes the big show.

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Now that it’s the final day of the Nationals, let’s take a look at the format for Saturday’s races.

First of all, here are the combatants that will take part in the Alphabet Soup:

Preliminary night performances determine Saturday evening’s race grids. The top 16 in the A-Main earned their grid spots based on point totals from Wednesday and Thursday night’s preliminary qualifying, heat races and main races, with each position paying a certain number of points. The 21st through 24th placed drivers in the A-Main are the drivers who finished in the top four in Friday night’s Hard Knox A-Main.

Alphabet Soup

Saturday’s racing program begins with a 10-lap E-Main. First through fourth place finishers move on to the D-Main lasting 12 laps.

The top four drivers from the D-Main move on to the 15-lap C-Main. The top four finishers from the C-Main move on to a 22 lap B-Main. That B-Main is the last chance race to fill out the field for the A-Main and only the top four finishers advance to the A-Main.

Those four drivers advancing to the A-Main fill out the 17th through 20th starting positions.

There is one major differentiator between the B-Main and the other Saturday preliminary main events. The top 10 drivers starting in the B-Main are the drivers who were 17th through 26th in preliminary night points.

The top five drivers in each race are weighed at the scales. While only the top four transfer, fifth place is weighed if any of the top four are lighter than 1,425 pounds on the scales.

The A-Main 

Once technical inspection concludes, pre-race ceremonies begin for the 50-lap A-Main.

Caution laps do not count and the race is run in two 25-lap segments. After 25 laps, the World of Outlaws officials throw the caution flag and all drivers go to the infield work area.

Teams will have a three minute window to refuel their cars, adjust tire pressures and add more tear-offs to the drivers’ helmets. This break is necessary owing to the smaller size of sprint car fuel tanks.

After three minutes are up, the crews leave the cars and push trucks then get behind the cars to push start them for the second half of the race.

If the winner clears the scales, then the celebrations begin in front of a sold out crowd.

Altoona, Iowa’s Austin McCarl will lead the 24 drivers to the green flag. McCarl earned enough points on Thursday with the fifth fastest time in qualifying and a fourth place finish in both his heat race and the main event. Tyler Courtney starts second, having finished seventh in Thursday’s A-Main.

The E-Main will start at 9:10 p.m. ET. All Saturday night races are streamed live on Dirtvision.

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