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Ackerman: Best in late models heading for Knoxville

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Once a year, the best super late models in the country invade the Sprint Car Capital of the World for one of the biggest late model shows of the year.

The 11th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Nationals will take center stage at the Knoxville Raceway from Sept. 25-27.

The Lucas Oil series will run complete programs each night, but the big one is Saturday night’s $40,000-to-win 100-lap feature, which is definitely one of the crown jewels of dirt late model racing.

What does it mean to win a race and win at Knoxville? Just ask Iowa Hall of Fame dirt late model star Gary Webb of Davenport.

“It’s a thrilling place to race,” Webb said. “They have a great racing surface, and to win there is special.”

Webb recalls the realization that drivers who didn’t drive full bore, even through the corners, probably weren’t making the A feature.

“I remember going there as a young man and watching the sprint cars. I soon realized that the guys that lifted (let up on the throttle in the corners) during qualifying ran the B. I remember wanting to drive a late model there and not lifting. Not sure I quite got that done, but it was close.”

Webb is not alone. Say “Knoxville” to a driver of any class of cars and he might get goose bumps thinking about racing there — let along winning there.

Brian Stickel, Knoxville Raceway general manager, looks forward every year to the Lucas Oil Late Model Nationals.

“The quality of the field is as good as it gets,” Stickel said. “Each year I am amazed at the side-by-side action that doesn’t stop for 100 straight laps. It seems like it always comes down to Turn 4 on Lap 99 before you see who is going to win, and even then you are not sure.”

The event is expected to draw 70 or more dirt late models, including most of the best drivers in the country. “The Bluegrass Bandit” Darrell Lanigan of Union, Kentucky, is the defending Late Model Nationals champion.

For more information, visit or call 641-842-5431.

Saying goodbye to Riviera

For 50 years the Riviera Raceway in Norfolk has been the place to race in northeast Nebraska. Built and run by the late Bob Haase and his family, it is closing its doors — but it will have one last race on Sunday — the Robert Haase Memorial.

For more information, call the Riviera Raceway at 402-610-1989.

Septemberfest at Beatrice

The Beatrice Speedway will hold its annual Septemberfest races Sept. 25-27. Classes racing will include IMCA modifieds, sports mods, stock cars, hobby stocks and sports compacts.

For more information, visit

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Lee covers Midlands racing for The World-Herald.

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