KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Brian Brown had aspirations of winning his 50th career 410 sprint car feature at Knoxville Raceway on Sunday night, but David Gravel had other ideas.
Gravel stormed to the victory in the eighth annual Bell Helmets Capitani Classic presented by Great Southern Bank, banking a $7,500 payday in perhaps the most exciting running of the Cappy in history.
In a 25-lap feature where the lead officially changed hands five different times, it was Gravel who had the last laugh in the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41 sprinter. He had the door slammed on him by Brown in turn one with six to go, but ducked up to the middle groove and was able to make the winning pass.
From there, Gravel drove off to a 1.372-second victory over Brown, notching his fourth-career Knoxville Raceway feature win and his first in the Capitani Classic.
“Brownie has been really good here all year and is always one of the best cars, so to come out on top tonight over him feels really good,” said Gravel, who became the seventh different event winner in eight editions. “When you’re the leader, you don’t know what to do sometimes. He passed me around the top, and I knew if I hit the bottom good I’d be OK … but man, it was hard (to do).
“I got tighter as the race went on and it got harder and harder to hold it down there, and then lap cars were all over the place at the end,” Gravel added. “I don’t know if he was closer or not, but I made it wide and figured that there were three guys ahead of me, so nobody could really pass me.
“I’m happy to get a good run and this win is great confidence for the rest of our week.”
After Brown topped all comers to win $2,500 in the Ultimate Raceway Nationals Pole Shuffle, he led the field to green alongside Brock Zearfoss. A false start re-racked the field initially, but on the second attempt Brown got away to the lead with Gravel in tow on the bottom – a line he would run almost all night.
Gravel’s first bid for the top spot came on lap eight, and he made it stick with a diving pass to the inside of Brown, leading the lap before a caution was displayed for the wounded cars of Kerry Madsen and Tim Shaffer on the frontstretch. Both were able to return, restarting from the tail of the field.
When racing resumed, Gravel slid himself as a defensive maneuver to hold the top spot, but barely a lap later Brown was rocketing past to lead the 10th round with a run off the outside of turn two.
That set off a war between the top two, with Gravel using an under-over switch to grab some bite off the high line in turn four and resume command at lap 12. The furious battle was only interrupted by a brief debris caution moments later, after the restart cone was knocked onto the frontstretch.
Gravel’s defense worked so well on his first restart that he repeated it to perfection on the lap-13 green flag, but again, Brown used a big run one lap later to take the top spot back from the No. 41. That pass brought 17-year-old Gio Scelzi into the fray as well, shaping up a furious three-man battle for the win.
Scelzi briefly snuck by Gravel for the runner-up spot with 10 to go, but couldn’t hold it as Gravel turned on the afterburners and ran down Brown in a hurry to challenge for the victory. He caught the FVP No. 21 with eight to go and rocketed back to the lead for good two circuits later, never looking back.
Brown was left to settle for second, but was still smiling after the race and the thrilling scrap between he and Gravel out front.
“If anyone didn’t like that, I don’t know what to tell you, because that was pretty awesome racing from my seat,” Brown said. “David is one of the top two or three drivers in the world right now, and Gio is really good too, so to race those guys was a lot of fun. I just wasn’t hitting my lines … and was having to use the berm a little more on entry than I wanted to. We had been pretty tight, and just went a little too far.
“Three seconds in a row is tough … but it’s hard to be disappointed, because we could be on the other end and be a whole lot worse off than this.”
After contending for the lead in the second half, Scelzi ultimately completed the podium in third, followed by defending Capitani Classic winner Brad Sweet and his former teammate, Daryn Pittman.
Tim Kaeding was the night’s hard charger, coming out of a B-main transfer position and advancing 14 spots to come from 20th to sixth.
Ian Madsen, James McFadden, Sheldon Haudenschild and Aaron Reutzel filled out the top 10.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.
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