Track Preppers in Knoxville put to the test this weekend

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The Knoxville Raceway track preparation team will have their work cut out for them this week. (Photo by Mike Kerchner)

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – In track preparation circles, no one is as revered as the Dunkin family. The family has been instrumental in shaping the famous Knoxville Raceway since the 1950s.

Chris Dunkin is leading the current squad, which will see specific challenges with this weekend’s three-night program that includes the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series first appearance Friday on the historic half-mile oval.

It all starts with a workout for the Truck Series on Thursday leading up to Friday night’s Corn Belt 150. On Saturday, the $ 20,000 Corn Belt Clash hosts the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Series. Knoxville’s 410 winged sprint cars will also race on Saturday night.

Dirt trail operators around the world have spent a week at a time with the Dunkin team, trying to glean information to take home on their local trails. While NASCAR officials want Dunkin to do what he does, they have a stipulation that throws a wrench at the track preparation team.

“They told me, ‘No mud’,” Dunkin said. “NASCAR had two reasons. First, they have windshields. Second, they don’t want to fill radiators with mud.

Dunkin wants to learn from his experience preparing for the June 19 Superstar race experience at the Sprint Car Capital of the World.

“I would like to see him dry, but sticky to begin with. We’re going to put water on it, but not as much as usual, ”Dunkin explained. “We will be working until 6:05 am or when the qualifying races are ready to start. Hope it will be dry, but sticky so that we can have zero dust. It’s not muddy, it just has a sticky consistency. We will go out on Wednesday as we normally do with water the day before. We need moisture in there. To start the SRX race, we had dust and we don’t want it anymore.

The art of grime preparation has an ultimate chef.

“Mother Nature will be playing so much that day,” Dunkin continued. “If it’s dry air… we always monitor the dew point and humidity. The humidity was in our teens for our Outlaw show here (the show saw a rare track redesign), and we rarely see that. It doesn’t help us. If it’s like that, it’s going to be harder. We much prefer to see a little humidity in the air.

It will definitely be a different Knoxville than what sprint car fans are used to seeing.

“We’ll try to make it ‘dry and sticky’ for Thursday (practice sessions) and we’ll all learn,” Dunkin explained. “We’ll see what we like, and what they like and don’t like. We will adjust from there for Friday night.

When the Truck Series race concludes on Friday night, few will be left at the Marion County Fairgrounds to watch Dunkin and his crew burn the midnight oil in preparation for Saturday’s sprint car races.

Dunkin realizes that the turnaround will be a big challenge.

“I think having a dry race track with all the trucks doing 150 laps, there’s going to be a lot of rubber on the track,” Dunkin said. “Turning around on Saturday night and competing in a USAC race will be the biggest challenge. We have learned some things about the aerator that we will try overnight.

If anyone can succeed, it’s the Knoxville Raceway Track Team.

Tickets for all three nights are still available by clicking here or by calling the box office at 641-842-5431.


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