Courtesy Knoxville Raceway

David Gravel claims emotional Knoxville Nationals win

David Gravel won his first Knoxville Nationals race, his trip to Victory Lane punctuating a four-day event that ended early Sunday morning on the East Coast. It may have been one of the more emotional victories in the 59-year history of the race, too.

Gravel’s victory in the country’s preeminent sprint car race came with Jason Johnson Racing in an Axalta-sponsored No. 41, with supporter Jeff Gordon watching and cheering.

Johnson died last year due to injuries sustained in a wreck while racing. His widow opted to keep Jason Johnson Racing going, and Gravel was selected to fill the seat. The choice paid off in a huge way. Moments after the win, Gravel and Jaxx Johnson — Jason Johnson’s son — celebrated together.

Dubbed the “Granddaddy Of Them All,” the 59th Knoxville Nationals hosted more than 100 sprint cars at Knoxville Raceway, a half-mile clay oval that served as the site for the four-day showdown. Gravel won his Qualifying Night feature race on Thursday to automatically qualify for Saturday night’s 24-car A-Main. His prize for winning was $150,000.

Gordon, who vouched for Gravel and urged Axalta to sponsor the car for the event, celebrated the win as well.

Logan Schuchart finished second, followed by World of Outlaws star Daryn Pittman, Tim Kaeding and Aaron Reutzel.

Brad Sweet, last year’s Knoxville Nationals winner, finished sixth for team owner Kasey Kahne. Sheldon Haudenschild, who drives for team owner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., took seventh. Rico Abreu qualified for the A-Main and finished 22nd.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson fell a couple spots shy of qualifying for Saturday night’s A-Main during his qualifying session on Wednesday. With the Monster Energy Series racing in Michigan all weekend, Larson did not further attempt to make the main event at Iowa, but he showed up at the track Saturday to sign autographs and take in the racing.