KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Though he put on a Herculean charge through Saturday night’s NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals finale, Logan Schuchart came up one spot short of victory after 50 laps.
Aiming to do what his grandfather, legendary driver-turned-owner Bobby Allen, did in 1990 when Allen upset the field to win the Nationals title, Schuchart charged from 22nd on the grid into contention to win it all at the legendary Marion County Fairgrounds black-dirt half mile.
The Hanover, Pa., native was quiet about it during the first half of the feature, sneaking up to ninth when the yellow waved for the halftime break at lap 25, but made plenty of noise in the second half.
He charged from ninth to fifth in just four laps following the restart, then methodically spent the next 11 circuits picking his way up into a podium position. By that point, however, Schuchart was six seconds adrift of race leader David Gravel, who dominated the proceedings for most of the night.
Still, there was no quit in Schuchart or the Shark Racing team, as the 26-year-old continued to push and eventually latched onto second-running Daryn Pittman’s rear nerf bar at Doug Clark’s white flag.
When Pittman made a small misstep in turns one and two on the final lap, Schuchart was there to pounce in traffic, driving past Pittman to secure the runner-up spot at the finish and a $75,000 payday.
It easily marked Schuchart’s best-career Knoxville Nationals performance in four Saturday A-main appearances. His previous high-water mark was eighth a year ago, after rolling off 17th in that one.
“To start off the week the way we did was tough, but I said after Friday night, when you put this team on the ropes they come back swinging,” Schuchart said. “Second at Eldora (during the Kings Royal) hurt, but I’m really proud of this one. Congratulations to David and Jason Johnson Racing, though … to win this race and overcome what they have is really cool to see.
“This is one of those things that you dream about as a little kid, and it’s a dream come true to get to drive these things,” Schuchart added. “I’m just happy to be a part of such a great sport. We didn’t quit.”
Schuchart and company’s perseverance extended far beyond just making adjustments to the car he was driving on Saturday night. It included a complete car swap on Friday prior to the Hard Knox program, from the new chassis they debuted at the Nationals back to the old one they’d been using coming in.
That mount, by the way, was the same car Schuchart won his four World of Outlaws races this year in.
“I can’t say enough about this team. I know that’s a pretty common thing to say, but since we started this deal, there’s been so many times when we’ve been knocked down and had to get back up,” Schuchart noted. “It’s what this team is all about and it’s something that my grandfather was built on when he raced and taught me as a little kid, as well. We actually had a bad night Sunday (in the Capitani Classic), and that made me really nervous. I didn’t have the confidence I felt that I should have had.
“Wednesday we just sat in the trailer and decided we were going to switch back to the car that was running well, and it seemed to play out (in our favor).”
As he was leaving Eldora Speedway in July after running second to Brad Sweet in the Kings Royal finale, Schuchart was glum and “didn’t have too much to be upbeat about.”
Saturday night, departing The Sprint Car Capital of the World, Schuchart sang a vastly different tune.
“To start 22nd and run second at the Knoxville Nationals is awesome,” Schuchart said. “There’s good and bad second-place finishes. Eldora was a tough one; I wasn’t smiling much after that one.
“Tonight, I’m smiling. That was pretty awesome, what we did out there.”