Trey Starks upsets Night 1 of Knoxville Nationals

Trey Starks upsets

“I don’t know.”

That’s how Trey Starks responded when asked how he felt after his victory on Night 1 of the 2019 NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals.

In what was an unpredictable night of racing that saw Starks play Cinderella, Aaron Reutzel take the top points spot, and 2018’s third-place finisher Kyle Larson miss the A-Main.

Trey Starks upsets Night 1 of Knoxville Nationals

It took him a long time to process it.

Starks commits to flying into Des Moines, Iowa from Seattle, Washington each week to run at Knoxville in their track championship.

It’s his rookie season in the series, and he hadn’t been able to hit pay dirt until Wednesday.

“We took it upon ourselves to say, ‘Hey, let’s pick [Knoxville Raceway] out and try to get better there and see if we can consistently be fast there,’” Starks said. “And we haven’t really this year yet.”

He’s currently running eighth in the Knoxville Championship Cup Series points, so it was unexpected to see his name at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the night.

Starks held off last week’s 360 Knoxville Nationals champion James McFadden after a restart came midway through the 25-lap main event.

Besides one more caution in the first heat race of the evening and another at the start of the C-Main, it was a relatively clean night of racing, which led to a table that’s jumbled to say the least.

Trey Starks upset
Trey Starks rides the inside line in route to victory at Knoxville on Wednesday Night. Photo by Ken Berry Racing Pics.

Although Starks crossed the line first, Aaron Reutzel’s team were the ones taking the top spot in the Nationals standings after night one.

The Texas native qualified second overall and was one of two drivers to transfer into the A-Main after an invert of eight put the top 10 in row four to start their heats.

He was feeling good about it going into the night’s Feature.

That allowed him to take it easy in the main event, where he settled for a fifth-place finish.

“We tried a few things because of where we were sitting [in points],” Reutzel said. “I felt like it was worth trying some things. We were not as good as where we needed to be and had a few guys in front of us that were racing a little wild. We didn’t push the issue. I think we could have been a top three car, but I settled with fifth because I knew we were going to be sitting really good on Saturday.”

Reutzel exits with a 21-point lead over second-place Tim Kaeding. That allowed Reutzel to play things safe and ‘settle’ for a fifth-place finish in the main event.

Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for NASCAR’s Kyle Larson or the Outlaws’ Donny Schatz. 

Both drivers run historically well at the 1/2-mile track, but didn’t transfer to the A-Main following their heat races.

With only 12 laps to use in the B-Main to try and race their way in, they had to move quickly.

Schatz was able to pass four cars on the opening lap of the B-Main, to earn his transfer spot and actually salvage an admirable 10th-place in points.

For Larson, however, he got held up at the start of the last-chance race, and couldn’t make the move forward.

That means if he can’t come back on Friday night due to scheduling conflicts with NASCAR qualifying, he won’t be able to race on Saturday.

The rest of the 52 cars in the field will take to the track on Thursday night. Hot laps will begin at 7:15 p.m. CT.

Knoxville Nationals Points
Position Driver Points
1 Aaron Reutzel 487
2 Tim Kaeding 466
3 Paul McMahan 465
4 Brent Marks 464
5 Trey Starks 463
6 Ian Madsen 455
7 S. Haudenschild 453
8 James McFadden 450
9 Gio Scelzi 449
10 Donny Schatz 447
11 Mark Dobmeier 444
12 Tanner Thorson 440
13 Jac Haudenschild 424
14 Paige Polyak 423
15 Danny Dietrich 421
16 Brady Bacon 416
17 Tasker Phillips 410
18 Wayne Johnson 410
19 Justin Peck 410
20 Jamie Ball 410
21 Kyle Larson 406