KNOXVILLE, Iowa - Brian Brown showed that he may be the man to beat in the Knoxville Nationals main event tonight after a dominating performance in his qualifying night on Thursday.
Brown, of Grain Valley, Mo., came within a car length of winning the Knoxville Nationals last year and has set himself up for another shot at the $150,000 this season.
He earned $12,000 for the preliminary feature and his performance will put him second in the starting lineup in sprint car racing's biggest event on Saturday night.
Two Pennsylvania drivers failed to qualify Thursday night in Iowa - Fayetteville's Lance Dewease and Hanover's Logan Schuchart - but were trying again Friday.
Thomasville, Pa.'s Greg Hodnett, however, is locked into the 16th starting spot for Saturday night's race. He will earn at least $9,500 for making the show.
On Friday, Schuchart finished second in the fourth heat race to advance to that night's A main. Other Pennsylvania drivers - Danny Dietrich, Brent Marks, Dewease and Jacob Allen - didn't qualify through the heat races. They were scheduled for the B-mains, which were not completed as of 11 p.m. Friday.
Chad Kemenah set fast time Friday with a lap of 15.762 over the 71-car field. Jac Haudenschild, Sammy Swindell, Kyle Larson and R.J. Johnson were top five in time trials. Gettysburg's Dietrich timed sixth. Schuchart was 17th, Dewease 25th and Marks 36th.
James McFadden, Haudenschild, Davey Heskin, Randy Hannigan, Robby Wolfgang and Jeff Swindell won the heat races.
The Thursday night race belonged to Brown.
"This is by far the biggest win of my career to this point," Brown said. "It seems like we always qualify good, run good in the heat and then struggle in the A. We've got a great team assembled and my guys work hard. They deserve to be starting where we are starting Saturday night with an opportunity to win it. It is pretty exciting. When you go into Saturday night, they don't care who won Wednesday night or Thursday night. It's a clean slate."
Roger Crockett started on the pole and grabbed the early lead. Brown made a great move on the start to advance from fifth to second.
Brown made his car work wherever he put it and was able to drive into the lead on lap three off the second corner.
Kerry Madsen was up to second and would challenge Brown for the top spot following a restart. Brown slammed the door on Madsen entering turn three to keep the lead.
They swapped the lead following a lap eight restart, but once again it was Brown maintaining the advantage.
As they raced in lapped traffic, Brown held a slim lead over Madsen and a fast-closing Kevin Swindell. That's the way they would finish with Crockett holding on for fourth and point leader and Saturday night pole sitter Joey Saldana fifth.
Cody Darrah, of Red Lion, Pa., a regular with the World of Outlaws, finished sixth after starting 22nd. Scott Winters, Craig Dollansky, Terry McCarl and Pennsylvania native Stevie Smith completed the top 10.
Saldana set fast time over the 53-car field with a lap of 15.387. Jack Dover, Wayne Johnson, Smith, McCarl and Robby Wolfgang won the heat races.
Six-time Nationals champion Donny Schatz will have to run the B-main on Saturday night. He's scheduled to start fourth. If he's going to win his seventh, he will have to race from the rear of the 50-lap event if he makes the field.
California's Kyle Larson was set to re-qualify on Friday night after not making the main event on Wednesday. He's competing in the NASCAR Nationwide series event in Watkins Glen, N.Y., this weekend as well and will fly back and forth in order to do both.
Notes: The final eight starting spots will be filled by the top four finishers from Friday night's feature and the top four finishers from Saturday night's B-main. ... After both missing the main event last year, Hall of Fame drivers Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski are already locked in this year.