Mike Marlar returned to the Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway after a three-year absence and won a record-setting third Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals Saturday night. Marlar also won in 2016 and 2017.
Jimmy Owens won in 2018 and 2019 while last year was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes this three consecutive Knoxville Late Model Nationals for Marlar.
Starting third, Marlar took the lead on Lap 41 of the 100-lap affair and would relinquish it only once in the second half of the race. Lucas Oil points’ leader Tim McCreadie topped the field for one circuit on Lap 89.
“The car was good. Once I got out in front, the car was really, really good,” Marlar said in a press release. “My guys got me tuned in good this weekend. It was an awesome race. It was fun racing with Timmy there. He had me on pins and needles at the end of that thing.”
“You know Timmy’s a professional. He raced me as clean as he could without wrecking us both. We were all over each other and we made it through ok. I appreciate him racing me clean. He’s used to running on the hub in those Big Block Modifieds out east. I was just glad to hold him off.”
The opening laps of race featured a fierce show between Marlar, McCreadie and Tyler Erb. The battle was briefly interrupted when Erb broke a rear gear on Lap 40 to bring out a caution. He was able to rejoin the field at the tail, but would not be a factor for the win afterward.
McCreadie never lost contact with Marlar and finished a half-second back in second.
“My guys, I just can’t thank them enough. I think this is our 23rd day in a row that we have raced or went to the shop and worked,” Marlar said. “This is a fun week to come up here. We have run so well here and had so much success here. It takes a lot to happen to win here. I feel for Tyler Erb. He was going for something awesome.”
Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals presented by BRANDT Professional Agriculture Victory Lane interview with Mike Marlar! #LucasLMNats | #LucasDirt #LucasOil | #BRANDT@lucasdirt pic.twitter.com/mxfxyudLfb
— Knoxville Raceway (@knoxvilleraces) September 19, 2021
Erb was set to add his name to the record books by tying Billy Moyer as the only other driver to sweep the weekend in 17 years of the Late Model Nationals. After restarting shotgun on the field, he climbed to seventh at the checkers.
Erb won both preliminary races on Thursday and Friday.
One of the 48 drivers he beat on Night 1 of the Nationals was NASCAR standout Kyle Larson.
In his first race at the track since winning the Knoxville Nationals in August and his first-ever laps there in a Late Model, Larson finished second in his Heat and third in the Main. Larson’s matriculation in late models continued with some valuable lessons in that 25-lap race.
“I got up against the wall too many times,” Larson said. “Those caution flags hurt us. We had some good momentum going on the outside. I am not sure even if the race had more laps, we could have gotten up there even further.
“I was trying some sprint car lines there for a while and with this being the first time racing here in a late model we learned a lot for sure.”
Larson did not compete Friday or Saturday nights because of his NASCAR commitments at Bristol.
With his second-place finish, McCreadie maintained the points’ lead.