Photos courtesy of Chuck Stowe.
KNOXVILLE, Iowa (August 7, 2018) – The 28th annual 360 Knoxville Nationals turned out to be one of the best weekends of Thomas Kennedy’s careerto date. Kennedy upset the stout field in attendance by claiming the preliminary night feature win.
Kennedy grabbed the lead on the lap two restart after starting on the outside of the front row. Kennedy went on to lead the remainder of the 20-lap feature, but heavy pressure was applied in the closing laps.
Kennedy had a left rear tire going down on his Buffalo Wild Wings / Kennedy Floorings No. 21K, which allowed polesitter, Mason Daniels, to close in with five to go. A hard-charging Sammy Swindell cruised by Daniels on the following lap and quickly set his sights on Kennedy.
Swindell had a run and momentarily pulled even with Kennedy in the final set of corners coming to the checkered flag, but Kennedy slammed the door shut on the exit of turn four to earn his first career win at Knoxville Raceway.
“I was struggling to get through lapped traffic there. Sam [Hafertepe] and everyone else seemed to be the same pace I was, and I knew I was losing a lot of momentum and I looked at the board and I see the No. 3 car was there and he’s the veteran of the veterans at this track and when I seen him underneath me for the checkered I went no way you’re passing me,” said Kennedy of his run and final trip to the front straightaway in victory lane.
With the win, Kennedy became the first Canadian driver to win a 360 Sprint Car race at the famed Marion County Fairgrounds.
Kennedy earned the eighth starting position for Saturday night’s $15,000-to-win 360 Knoxville Nationals A-main.
During the championship feature, restarts were the key for Kennedy. On a track that was one-lane dominant around the top side in the early going, Kennedy picked off positions nearly every restart. In the second half of the race, Kennedy snuck around the outside of Gio Scelzi and Greg Hodnett in turn one, putting him in the fifth position.
Kennedy was closing in on Joey Saldana for fourth when the low side of the speedway began to take rubber. Kennedy held on to take the checkers in the fifth position, marking his best career finish at the 360 Nationals.
The busy weekend of racing concluded Sunday at Knoxville’s Capitani Classic. After slipping back in his heat, Kennedy was in solid position to grab a transfer spot in the B-main. After starting fifth, Kennedy was working on Hodnett for fourth when issues with the ignition box sent Kennedy to the pits on lap two, ending his night.
Kennedy will qualify for the 58th annual 5-hour energy Knoxville Nationals on Thursday, August 9th.
Free, live audio can be found at dirtvision.com. Live, pay-per-view video will be available at thecushion.com.
A big thanks goes out to all the Kennedy Racing Team sponsors: Kennedy Floorings, Buffalo Wild Wings, Big Trucks by Jimco, General Signs and Speedway Shots.
Top Fives: 17
Top Tens: 20