‘A dream week’: With Jeff Gordon and Jason Johnson family watching, David Gravel rolls to 2019 Knoxville Nationals title


David Gravel after Knoxville Nationals win: ‘It was a dream week.’
Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

KNOXVILLE, Ia. — It took some initial calm as he changed into position to pounce. But once David Gravel did, there was small insurgency from a remaining field. This was his week — and some-more specifically, his night.

Gravel roared ahead on a 14th path and rolled to his initial Knoxville Nationals pretension Saturday night, winning in convincing conform by some-more than 3 seconds. The No. 41 car, owned by Jason Johnson Racing, took organisation control after a fuel stop and pulled divided for, during times, an whole straightaway lead.

“I’m dull right now,” Gravel pronounced during his post-race press conference.” I don’t even know what’s going on.”

The enthusiasm and startle of first-time Knoxville victories can leave drivers brief on elaboration. But this had been building all week.

Gravel won Thursday’s A-main feature, started second Saturday night and had simply a strongest automobile from Knoxville pulling into feat lane. After pulling past pole-sitter Aaron Reutzel, who finished fifth, Gravel had small play a rest of a way.

Runner-up Logan Schuchart and third-place motorist Daryn Pittman hung within strech for some stretches, though it was fast clear who was in control on this night. Gravel’s usually issues were if lap-down racers would means overload in a final stages.

“I suspicion things was going to get hairy there a integrate times,” Gravel said. “No. 18 would strike a wall and afterwards strengthen a bottom. And afterwards a (No.) 09 (car) about went out in front of me. It was, like, ‘Man, we know I’m losing time on these laps.’ we didn’t know if Daryn was tighten during that indicate or not, though it was unequivocally a small sketchy.

“I was means to redeem sincerely good and put those guys behind me. Definitely some tighten calls, for sure. You don’t know what’s going on (behind you) — 25 true laps with no yellow (flags) — we usually had to keep rolling.”

And hurl Gravel did, with copiousness of support from a ardent team.

Planted in a oppulance suite, Jeff Gordon roared with indebtedness as Gravel zoomed past a finish line with no challenger in sight. The former NASCAR giant was pivotal in bringing unite Axalta to Jason Johnson Racing’s winning car, so it was usually wise that Gordon spent a week in Knoxville as Gravel dominated.

Like Thursday, Gordon assimilated Gravel in feat line Saturday night. Smiles were in abundance, with Gravel’s Gordon-esque colorful automobile lucent in a background.

“I am so unapproachable of you, dude,” Gordon pronounced to Gravel in a video posted by Axalta.

Also fasten a jubilee were Bobbi and Jaxx Johnson, who lift on a family name after Jason died final June, following injuries postulated in a sprint-car crash. The pain still cuts low for Jason’s mother and 6-year-old son, though moments like Saturday’s yield snippets of bliss in what can be a vicious sport.

“To give Bobbi and Jaxx that fun is … flattering awesome,” pronounced Gravel, who assimilated JJR last October, following Jason’s death.

As for a remaining field, opposite emotions sat on any side of Gravel in a late-night press conference. To his right was Pittman, who felt he left something on a sand in finishing third. To his left was Schuchart, who rumbled from 22nd to a lectern in winning a Hard Charger Award.

“There are good and bad second-place finishes,” Schuchart said, “but tonight was flattering awesome.”

In Pittman’s case, he concluded on a initial comment though not the second.

“A integrate of those laps, I’d like to have back,” Pittman said. “The initial 5 laps after a break, we were on gait with David and usually unequivocally wanted to keep doing what we were doing until we got to trade and see how that shook out. Made a outrageous mistake on a one-lap automobile on 3 and 4 that cost me a full straightaway.

“… There are good thirds and bad thirds, like Logan (alluded to), and I’m kind of in-between. On one hand, I’m happy. On another hand, I’m pissed given we done too many mistakes as a driver.”

In singular fashion, it was a severe night for lane maestro Donny Schatz. The 10-time leader initial indispensable a B-main runner-up finish to validate 18th for a underline event. He afterwards found difficulty early in a A-main, exiting to a pits on path seven with sand packaged underneath a throttle. He remained on a lead path during a back, and eventually finished ninth.

It outlines a initial time given 2004 that Schatz didn’t finish during slightest second during a Knoxville Nationals. Defending champion Brad Sweet finished sixth.

Those dual can applaud another day. This was Gravel’s night from a jump.

“It was a dream week,” he said.

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for a Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and a Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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