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A TOUGH ROAD BACK: Carson Macedo Tops Night Two of Knoxville Nationals for Special Win
After a frightening crash two months ago, Macedo rolls to triumphant prelim victory
KNOXVILLE, IA (August 10, 2023) - Back in June, Carson Macedo left Knoxville Raceway in an ambulance. Two months later to the date, he left “The Sprint Car Capital of the World” the winner of a NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals prelim.
On that scary night, Macedo limped away from a wrecked Jason Johnson Racing #41 uncertain of the future. But he battled back. The 27-year-old fought through the pain to stay in the behind the wheel. Little by little, he healed. A couple wins came as he returned to physical normalcy. And then came a return to Knoxville for The Granddaddy of ‘Em All.
Macedo and the JJR crew brought a special livery donning flames to both show appreciation to the safety team that helped Macedo and make a little light of a difficult situation. The car hit the track on Thursday night for the first time, and Macedo wheeled it to the win on Iowa Lottery Qualifying Night.
The team, family, and friends erupted with joy in Victory Lane. Emotions overflowed as Macedo won on the sport’s grandest stage at the track that put them face to face with a hefty load of adversity.
“It’s amazing. That was incredible,” Macedo said. “It sucked to have that wreck. Man, it was a tough road back. You take for granted your youth, I think. I hadn’t had a wreck that bad before. The recovery process at Beaver Dam that next weekend was hell on earth with my ribs being broke and still trying to race. And to come back here and win is pretty incredible.”
The win marked Macedo’s fifth overall win at Knoxville with JJR. The pairing won their first race together in a 2018 360 Nationals prelim. They topped two World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car events in 2021. Last year, they claimed a local Knoxville show. It was also enough to slot them in fifth among the lineup for Saturday’s 50-lap, $185,000 to win finale.
Macedo began the 25-lap Feature from the fourth position while up front Anthony Macri and Garet Williamson paced the field. Third-starting Dusty Zomer used a strong start to slide Macri for the lead in the first set of corners, but Macri returned the favor in Turns 3 and 4 to lead the opening lap.
Macri settled into the lead while Williamson rolled around Zomer for second on Lap 4, and Macedo followed him to slot into third.The top trio stayed in that order throughout the early portion of the race. But as the raced moved beyond halfway, Macedo slid Williamson to take over runner-up.
The red flag flew for a flipping Daryn Pittman with only 10 laps remaining to set up a pivotal restart. When the green lights came back on, a great run coming out of Turn 4 allowed Macedo to clear a slide job on Macri. The Dillsburg, PA native attempted to return the favor on the next lap but couldn’t clear him.
“Macri just missed the bottom on that start,” Macedo explained. “I was able to kind of fire across and get the lead. I knew at that point it was going to be tough to get by me as long as I started logging laps around the top.”
Macedo was correct in his assessment as nobody could mount a challenge to even attempt to pass him. The Lemoore, CA driver survived some late yellow and red flags and went on to win comfortably.
Now, the focus can shift to the main prize – Saturday’s $185,000 finale. The Knoxville Nationals brought Jason Johnson Racing’s most memorable moment when the late Johnson himself wheeled the #41 to victory in 2016. Macedo thinks he might have a passenger this week.
“I’m thankful for my team,” Macedo said. “JJR is amazing. I think Jason was maybe riding with me tonight there after I had my bad one. He loved Knoxville Raceway, and I love it too.”
Behind Macedo, Kyle Larson put together a late charge to bring the Silva Motorsports #57 home in the runner up spot. “Yung Money’s” efforts throughout the night earned him 482 points – enough to give him the pole for Saturday’s finale. Larson is a former Knoxville Nationals champion (2021), but the pole is an honor he’d not yet experienced. He’ll aim for back to back Saturday triumphs after topping last weekend’s Ironman 55.
“Winning the Knoxville Nationals was really cool, but I’ve also wanted to be able to say I’ve started on the pole of the Knoxville Nationals someday,” Larson said. “So, I’m glad to get a really good prelim night in. Qualified okay for going out late. Then driving from the fourth row to win the Heat was pretty awesome. I had a good car in the Feature, just made a lot of mistakes most of that whole race. So, to still come away with a second after running that sloppy, I’m happy with it but just need to clean a lot of things up behind the wheel and hopefully have a good shot for Saturday.”
Spencer Bayston put together a strong charge from 10th to third to round out the podium aboard the CJB Motorsports #5. Bayston’s run gave him enough points to lock him into his first Knoxville Nationals finale as he’ll start 13th on Saturday – a moment that left him feeling especially grateful.
“It just feels really good,” Bayston said. “I’ve never made a Knoxville Nationals A-main, and I’ve been trying for so long and it feels so good. This is the most special place and the most special race of all of Sprint Car racing. And just to make the A-main finally feels so good.”
Anthony Macri and Rico Abreu, who started 21st, completed the top five. Abreu earned 480 points through the night, putting him alongside Larson on the front row for Saturday. The northern Californians who grew up racing together will lead the field to green in the sport’s biggest race.
Abreu also earned the night’s Simpson Performance Products QuickTime for the third time this season and the 16th of his career. And to go along with that, he took KSE Racing Hard Charger honors. The Micro-Lite Last Chane Showdown? Also to Abreu.
CASE No. 1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Zach Hampton (first Heat Race win of career). Your Life Iowa Heats Two through Five were topped by Kevin Thomas Jr. (first of career), Kalib Henry (first of career), Kyle Larson (38th of career), and Ayrton Gennetten (second of career).
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars return to Knoxville Raceway on Friday, August 11 for Hard Knox night. The drivers who weren’t able to lock in get the opportunity to forget all about a sub-par prelim with four more spots available to the drivers who run first through fourth in the Friday main event. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the racing live on DIRTVision.
FIRST EIGHT ROWS OF KNOXVILLE NATIONALS FINALE:
Row 1: Kyle Larson – Rico Abreu
Row 2: Donny Schatz – Logan Schuchart
Row 3: Carson Macedo – Hunter Schuerenberg
Row 4: Kerry Madsen – Buddy Kofoid
Row 5: Giovanni Scelzi – Corey Day
Row 6: Ian Madsen – Dusty Zomer
Row 7: Spencer Bayston – Chase Randall
Row 8: Anthony Macri – Brad Sweet
RESULTS:A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 41-Carson Macedo; 2. 57-Kyle Larson; 3. 5-Spencer Bayston; 4. 7BC-Anthony Macri; 5. 24-Rico Abreu; 6. 88-Austin McCarl; 7. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 8. 3J-Dusty Zomer; 9. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 10. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 11. 21-Brian Brown; 12. 6G-Garet Williamson; 13. 71-Shane Stewart; 14. 16A-Colby Copeland; 15. 4-Ian Madsen; 16. 25-Lachlan McHugh; 17. 12X-Ayrton Gennetten; 18. 101-Kalib Henry; 19. 35-Zach Hampton; 20. 17AU-Jamie Veal; 21. 49-Brad Sweet; 22. 11-Cory Eliason; 23. 5X-Daryn Pittman; 24. 4J-Kevin Thomas Jr
SCHATZ STRIKES FIRST: Donny Schatz Outduels Chase Randall for Knoxville Nationals Qualifier Win, Points Lead
The 11-time NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals champ survives a fierce battle with Chase Randall for opening night win
KNOXVILLE, IA (August 9, 2023) - Plenty of eyes were on Donny Schatz entering this week’s 62nd NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store. Even more eyes than normal. Schatz has an opportunity to tie Steve Kinser’s record of 12 Knoxville Nationals titles. Wednesday’s prelim showed no signs of him feeling any pressure.
The 10-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car champion drove an excellent 25-lap main event on the opening prelim night at Knoxville Raceway. On the day before his 46th birthday, Schatz rolled from seventh on the grid to the front and sealed the deal by besting Chase Randall in a late battle. The win marked his first in a Knoxville Nationals prelim in 20 years.
Not only did Schatz come out on top of the NOS Energy Drink Feature, but his point total of 479 also placed him atop the Knoxville Nationals points. There’s still another prelim to be run, but Schatz has set himself up nicely to have a shot at “The King’s” record on Saturday.
“I remember when I first came here, we were really good on the prelim nights but couldn’t ever put it together on Saturday to get the win, and we took a little bit of that emphasis off,” Schatz said. “I don’t think you can leave anything on the table anymore. We qualified 10th. I think being in that fifth Heat was really key to get through there. The longer you run the more the track widens out, and the track was great all night. Man, my race team, these guys. We didn’t run that good when we were here in June, and we tried a few things. We’re always trying things. Kind of went back to square one, and that’s what you saw. The car feels really good. I can still move around some power, so hopefully we can be in a good spot Saturday.”
While it was Schatz who surged ahead late, the early story of the Feature became about two drivers new to the Nationals. In only his second attempt at The Granddaddy of ‘Em All, Blake Hahn earned the pole of the prelim. Lining up directly behind him in third aboard the TKS Motorsports machine was JETCO Rookie of the Year contender – Chase Randall.
When the green flag dropped, Hahn pulled ahead with the lead while Randall quickly worked his way into second on the second circuit.
Early on Hahn gapped Randall with clean air. While the lead duo had space between, the battles were plentiful inside the top 10 as drivers jockeyed for spots. Schatz began to come to life as the race approached lap 10. After moving into sixth at the initial start, Schatz cracked the top five on the ninth lap. One circle later and he was into fourth. Schatz looked like his peak self as he searched for grip in various lines and often found it.
A red flag on lap 17 for a flipping Justin Peck set up an eight-lap shootout to the finish. Randall took the opportunity to flex his muscle as the Waco, TX native slid by Hahn in Turns 3 and 4 to take over the top spot.
Behind that battle, Schatz quickly moved into third on the opening lap of the restart and then into second a lap later. Schatz began to close on the 18-year-old and pulled the trigger on a slide job on Lap 21 only to have Randall cross him over down the back straightaway and return the favor in the next set of corners.
“I didn’t really have any rhythm going when I got to him and got past him. I kind of went for it and really thought he’d look at me like a senior citizen and give me a pass, but he didn’t,” Schatz said with a laugh. “He went right back on by. That’s cool to see. That’s why we’re here. This is the Knoxville Nationals.”
On the next lap, Randall slid himself in Turns 1 and 2 allowing Schatz to get a run heading into Turn 3. This time, Schatz executed a slider that Randall couldn’t find the momentum to counter.
With the lead secured, Schatz went on to roll to a comfortable victory on the opening qualifier night. When the checkered flag flew, Schatz led Randall by roughly a second and a half to cement a statement win. Now, the focus shifts to Saturday’s finale for the pilot of the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15.
“I just wanted to get locked in the show,” Schatz said. “That’s kind of the goal. Once you get yourself in a position where you get qualified, you can kind of move that goal post.”
Randall’s runner-up was the latest testament to his continued strides. The Texas talent went wheel to wheel with a living legend for a win on the sport’s grandest stage. Being that close to a win could’ve left a slightly bitter taste for the Knoxville Nationals rookie, but the overall feeling was primarily prideful.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Randall said. “It’s hard to be mad about it, finishing second like that after coming so close. I’m really proud of it and how we did and how the team made the right decisions throughout the night to set us up and put ourselves in position to be that close. And it kind of shows how much hard work they’ve been putting in to get better each and every week. Running here we’ve had really good speed here this whole year, and to be running up front in our prelim night at the Knoxville Nationals is pretty cool.”
Charging from 12th to third to complete the podium was Sheldon Haudenschild aboard the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing/NOS Energy Drink #17. The Wooster, OH native even moved around eventual winner, Schatz, early on but couldn’t keep him behind him to contend for the victory.
“I knew once I got by Donny early that I needed to keep him back there,” Haudenschild said. “I kind of got hung up on the #39 a little bit, and Donny was able to get by and gap us. All in all it was a good night… I feel pretty good. This is the best I’ve felt in my car in a long time. Getting on the podium was a great night.”
Kerry Madsen and Blake Hahn rounded out the top five.
Tasker Phillips claimed the KSE Racing Hard Charger with a run from 24th to 11th.
The night’s Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award went to David Gravel for the ninth time this season and the 106th of his career.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One was claimed by Brady Bacon (fourth Heat Race win of career). Your Life Iowa Heats Two through Five were topped by Sheldon Haudenschild (94th of career), Justin Henderson (33rd of career), Sye Lynch (third of career), and Carson McCarl (second of career).
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are back at Knoxville Raceway on Thursday, August 10 for the second and final prelim night to finalize the top 16 starters for Saturday’s finale. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to Knoxville, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
RESULTS:A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 15-Donny Schatz; 2. 2KS-Chase Randall; 3. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 4. 55-Kerry Madsen; 5. 52-Blake Hahn; 6. 42-Sye Lynch; 7. 39-Hunter Schuerenberg; 8. 7W-Dustin Selvage; 9. 7TW-Brandon Wimmer; 10. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 11. 7TAZ-Tasker Phillips; 12. 21H-Brady Bacon; 13. 9-Kasey Kahne; 14. 14-Corey Day; 15. 83-James McFadden; 16. 21T-Cole Macedo; 17. 1-Justin Henderson; 18. 22-Riley Goodno; 19. 1X-Jake Bubak; 20. 1M-Don Droud Jr; 21. 7S-Robbie Price; 22. 27-Carson McCarl; 23. 83T-Tanner Carrick; 24. 13-Justin Peck