In Knoxville, IA, Brian Brown is a household name. The Higginsville, MO native is known for his great relationship with Iowa fans and dominance on the race track at Knoxville Raceway.
Brian Brown overcomes adversity, Will start P18
When the World of Outlaws come into town, his name couldn’t get any bigger.
“When the outlaws come to town or at an event like this, [the Knoxville fans] are there supporting me,” Brown said. “I’m lucky to have them and I’m happy to represent them. I’m proud to represent them. The Knoxville regular fans are very passionate. They know a lot about the sport. I feel like they have my back.”
Since 2010, Brian Brown‘s worst Knoxville Nationals finish in an A-Main he has raced in is seventh. He’s finished second three times and nearly won a couple of times. When previewing the nationals, it’d be dumb not to mention his name. Brown will start 18th in this year’s A-Main, although that spot didn’t come without a lot of adversity.
Brian Brown Overcomes Adversity
When Brown took his No. 21 car out to the track for hot laps on Thursday, something was noticeably wrong. Brown, a driver with a rich history of success at the track, didn’t expect something to go so wrong so quickly.
“You talk about high hopes coming in,” Brown said. “You come in here to hot lap and you’re car is vibrating like you’ve got a tire out-of-balance.”
Brown nursed the car around the track and came back into the pits briefly before qualifying started. Though, his team couldn’t fix the issue in such a short amount of time.
“You change everything you can think of in five minute period and go back out and it’s vibrating again,” Brown said. “[We were] 38th quick. It sucked.”
Brown and his team opted to forgo the rest of the racing on Thursday night. The vibration wasn’t getting fixed and their was no way to compete with it. They were better off to come back on Friday night and try their luck again. Brown said his team changed the engine and the rear end of the car before Friday’s on-track action kicked off.
“We came back thinking, ‘We need to be perfect tonight,'” Brown said of Friday night’s events.
Brown pulled the car onto the track for hot laps. It was vibrating again.
“So, it’s like, now what?” Brown said. “We changed fuel pumps. We changed the driveshaft. We go out for qualifying. It’s still vibrating.”
Brown pulled the car back into his pit stall on the far end of the infield. He and his team clamored to figure out what was causing the vibration. They changed the fuel tank, the IRO valve, and the fuel pump according to Brown.
One of Swindell’s guys came down and said, ‘You should look at these front tires.’
“We had a couple of sets that were out of round,” Brown said. “This has been probably the second or third set [we’ve been on].”
The next set they put on would have been the fourth set of tires they had tried on the car that just wouldn’t stop vibrating. Boom. It worked.
“We changed that and went out to the heat race and it was like a million bucks,” Brown said. “At that point I didn’t really care one way or the other. It was like we had a seventh or eighth life.”
Even though it turned out to be a fluke of an issue, Brown was proud of his crew for how hard they worked trying to dissect it.
“I’ve never seen a team work as hard as [my team] did in an hour and a half period to try and see what the heck was going on,” Brown said. “That’s what I’m most proud of as a car owner – that our team never gave up. We never pointed fingers. We never yelled at each other. We just did what we had to do.”
The 21 car roared around the track, taking it’s heat race by a half a straightaway. The heat win would mean Brown would head to the A-Main on Friday night, starting on the front row, to try and punch his ticket to the Nationals main event. Brown started next to Logan Schuchart, who ended up being his only real competition on Friday.
The Missouri native pulled along side the Shark Racing No. 1S, separating themselves from the rest of the pack.
“I felt like I was as good as him during the middle stage of that, but once we got into traffic he could move around a little bit more,” Brown said.
On lap 10, Brown even took the lead in the race, before Schuchart was able to go back by him on the outside. For Brown to make a pass for the lead, it would take a lot of driving, so he toned it down a little.
“I was running my laps pretty hard and I thought, ‘I probably don’t want to do something stupid here and give away 3rd or 4th or blow a tire,'” Brown said.
Brown finished the race with no issues and crossed the finish line in second.
“I’ve never been content with running second at Knoxville, but tonight I am,” Brown said. It gives us an opportunity to come back tomorrow.”
Brown and his team will start in 18th for Saturday Night’s show. It’s one of the deepest spots in the field that Brown has taken the green flag in, though he’s not worried.
“Donny Schatz has won this thing from 21st before,” Brown said. “Jason Johnson won the [SPEED SPORT World Challenge] last year, and he passed me for sixth before the halfway [mark of Nationals]. It definitely can be done.”
Though Schatz has won from 21st, he has been the only driver to win the event from a starting spot outside the top 15. In fact, before that P14 was the record for the deepest starting spot in the field to win. The odds aren’t in Brown’s favor. Though, he doesn’t mind.
“After last night, I didn’t have high expectations of what was going to happen for the rest of the week, but we’re on house money at this point,” Brown said. “[I’m] Proud of my guys for not giving up.”
Brown has a strategy on getting up through the field, that includes taking things bit by bit. The FVP and Casey’s driver said he wants to get his car into the top half of the field by the halfway mark.
“It’s possible,” Brown said. “I think the key is to get in there and get yourself in the top six or seven at the break, and then get after them. Hopefully we can put on a good show. I think if anyone can drive it to the front, we can do it.”
2018 Knoxville Nationals A-Main Starting Lineup
1. Brad Sweet
2. Chad Kemenah
3. Kyle Larson
4. Donny Schatz
5. Aaron Reutzel
6. Kerry Madsen
7. Tim Shaffer
8. Carson Macedo
9. Gio Scelzi
10. Tim Kaeding
11. Ian Madsen
12. Jacob Allen
13. Rico Abreu
14. Greg Hodnett
15. Shane Stewart
16. Terry McCarl
17. Logan Schuchart
18. Brian Brown
19. Paul McMahan
20. Matt Juhl
21. B-Main Transfer No. 1
22. B-Main Transfer No. 2
23. B-Main Transfer No. 3
24. B-Main Transfer No. 4
25. Dominic Scelzi