Kyle Larson, the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Rookie of the Year, who won his qualifying night race in his very first Knoxville Nationals start in 2012, has officially entered the 5-hour ENERGY® Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores.
Larson, 23, will compete in sprint car racing’s greatest race for the third time in his career. When the racing phenom won his qualifying night in his rookie year he left the sprint car world in awe. He went on to finish 16th in Saturday’s finale and earned the event’s Rookie of the Year title.
“Getting a win at Knoxville is so big,” Larson said after his qualifying night win. “I wasn’t expecting to win. I was more hoping to finish top five or so, but I’m happy for the win.”
The following year, while racing full time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS), Larson again competed in the Knoxville Nationals. Larson, not locked into the finale with his qualifying night results, was forced to race in Friday’s preliminary night races. He started the day at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for NASCAR practice then flew to Knoxville, landing with just minutes to spare before hot laps. He won the feature event that night and locked himself into his second Knoxville Nationals finale. Before that, however, he had to return to Watkins Glen to race in the NXS event on Saturday afternoon. He again flew back to Knoxville that day and charged from a 17th-place starting position to a sixth-place finish.
While Larson, of Elk Grove, Calif., has turned his focus to earning his first Sprint Cup win and a NASCAR championship, he’s been very open about his love for sprint car racing. The NSCS schedule has an off-weekend on August 12-13, allowing Larson to return to sprint car racing’s biggest stage. Larson and car owner/crew chief Paul Silva will field the white No. 57 entry he’s been racing this season in the 5-hour ENERGY® Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores. This year, the duo have competed in eight sprint car events, earning an amazing two wins, six top-five and seven top-10 finishes.
In the meantime, Larson will continue to race the No. 42 Target Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NSCS, where, on top of his Rookie of the Year honors, he’s earned 13 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes, including four runner-up finishes.
With the success Larson has experienced in such little Knoxville Raceway track time, all competitors will have their eyes on the “part-time” driver as he chases his dream of winning the Knoxville Nationals.
Other entries received thus far for the 5-hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores include:
Jacob Allen of Indianapolis, Ind., will make his third Knoxville Nationals start. After finishing 13th in Saturday’s E-Main in his 2014 rookie year, Allen improved to a 10th-place finish in Saturday’s C-Main last year. He is the son of 1990 Knoxville Nationals winner Bobby Allen.
Chad Kemenah will return to the Knoxville Nationals stage in the 10H entry. The Alveda, Ohio driver has qualified for seven Knoxville Nationals finales, earning a career-best runner-up finish in 2004. He’ll be joined by his crew chief and brother, Brian Kemenah, who won the 2010 Knoxville Nationals with driver Tim Shaffer.
Mike Reinke of Howards Grove, Wisc., will be searching for his first Saturday finale start at this year’s Knoxville Nationals. Reinke competes with the IRA Series and has posted six top-10 finishes with the series this year.
Danny Smith, a National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee, has qualified for 13 Saturday finale events – the first in 1978 – and has posted seven top-10 finishes. The Danville, Ind., driver posted a career-best fourth-place finish in 1981.
Lucas Wolfe of Mechanicsburg, Penn., will return to the Knoxville Nationals in the famed Zemco No. 1Z sprint car. Wolfe has previously qualified for four Saturday finale races and posted a career-best finish of ninth last year.