Hodnett locks a spot in A-main race

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Greg Hodnett has not had the best season in central Pennsylvania, but he’s had a great week in Iowa so far, including a third place finish in his preliminary feature Wednesday night — locking him into Saturday’s Knoxville Nationals A-main.

The last few seasons, Hodnett has passed a lot of cars at Knoxville after qualifying poorly and having to race from the back of every event. That was not the case Wednesday as he qualified 10th, finished third in his heat race before starting and finishing third in the main event earning the fourth most points on the night (472).

Hodnett won his preliminary night feature in the 360 sprint Nationals a week earlier. He finished 10th in the main event after spinning on the opening lap and racing from the back. He was fourth in the Capitani Classic Sunday.

Even for a veteran like Hodnett, the additional laps at Knoxville help.

“I always feel pretty comfortable here,” he said. “The last few years we’ve been here we’ve passed a whole lot of cars. I haven’t qualified well which tonight was a blessing, but track time is going to be ultimately what we need to get better.”

Hodnett, of Spring Grove, Pa., raced from the back of the starting line-up last year to a seventh place finish Saturday night with a broken shock.

“We have the same set-up in we had the last two years,” he said. “It’s the same exact car we had last year, which really doesn’t mean a lot because I’ve done that all year and struggled. We’ll keep working at it and see if we can figure something out.”

Last year, Hodnett finished second on the Friday night portion of the Nationals to get into the Saturday A-main.

“We ran second to Rico (Abreu) and we were coming pretty good,” Hodnett said. “We’ve been decent here. Obviously, not as good as those guys. I’m realistic and understand that they are the best in the world and we have to get a lot better for me to even be close.

“We’ve tried some stuff to get better and some of it has worked and some of it hasn’t,” he said. “We keep trying to fix a few issues. I think track time here, for me, is essential. Larson races here once a year and doesn’t have a problem. He’s an exception to most rules. Being out here last week definitely helped us.”

Hodnett was qualified to race in the World Challenge Friday night, but was going to wait on the final points to determine if he would race or not. The World Challenge is a special race for Australians and American drivers who raced “Down Under” last winter.

Prior to the 360 win, Hodnett’s only other Knoxville win came in a non-qualifiers race back in 1993.

“Fortunately for us, we have been okay here and made it worth our while to come out here and compete against the best drivers in the world on one of the best tracks in the world. We’re competitive, we’re not the best, but we’re doing okay, it’s pretty gratifying,” he said.

Hodnett had the best night of the Pennsylvania drivers who competed Wednesday. Lucas Wolfe of Mechanicsburg timed third quick. He started eighth in the third heat race and finished fifth, one spot out of a transfer. He challenged Paul McMahan for that spot, but couldn’t hold the pass as McMahan closed the door on him as they raced into turn three. Wolfe then won the B-main, but dropped out of the A-main with apparent engine problems. He finished the night 10th in points (438) thanks to that time trial lap, but that total will likely not be good enough to make Saturday night field.

Tyler Bear of Elliottsburg and World of Outlaws regular Logan Schuchart of Hanover had mechanical problems early in the night and didn’t even take a qualifying lap.