Pittman Brings Lead to Knoxville
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin on August 8, 2013 | 5:19 P.M. EST
Pittman passed 19 cars in the en route to a fifth-place finish in last night's A-Main. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
KNOXVILLE, Iowa - Daryn Pittman leads the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series standings in his first season with Kasey Kahne Racing and now looks to give the team its first Knoxville Nationals title.
Pittman opened the Nationals Wednesday night by qualifying ninth and then missed the final transfer spot into the Feature by one position in his heat race. He was able to make it into the main event by grabbing the final transfer spot in the Last Chance Showdown to give him the 24th starting position. In the A-Main, Pittman passed 19 cars en route to his fifth-place finish.
"When you start last, you can’t go anywhere but forward," Pittman said. "I pretty much thought our Nationals were buried. You never give up because every lap and every position means so much. For us on time trial night, I knew if we didn’t make it out of our heat race it was going to put us in a tough spot in the B. You don’t mind being in the B if you are quick time.
"I knew I needed to get to the top 10 in the A to try and salvage a decent points night and had a really good car. It was probably the most fun A-Main I've ever run here. This is a place I've struggled at and definitely need to get better at. I was just trying to go where they weren’t and my car was actually good enough to go to the top or the bottom."
At the end of the first night, Pittman came away sixth in Nationals points with 464.
Pittman, who spent last season driving the No. 27 for Mike Heffner, credits his KKR team for the strong start out of the gate that has seen him record a series-leading 34 top fives, which includes eight trips to Victory Lane.
"I feel like I’m the same driver, I'm just surrounded by better people," Pittman said. "Kale Kahne does a good job with our car, and Willie Kahne with our shocks and stuff. I think that's a really big part of KKR's success. As many years as he's had out on the road as a crew chief and now just focusing on the shock business in California is a big advantage, for sure."
Although he leads the standings by 71 points over Donny Schatz, Pittman knows there's still work to be done.
"We've been good from the beginning, luckily, and are just trying to stay there," Pittman said. "We need to get a little bit better. I don’t think we're struggling by any means, but some other guys have gotten a lot better over the last several months. We need to try and step up to finish the year strong and win some more races."
Knoxville Raceway is one track that Pittman doesn't have a lot of experience on. With the opportunity to run with KKR and the World of Outlaws, this is his third trip there this season.
"This place is probably the most technical place to run," said Pittman, who has posted a 6.0 average finish in his two Knoxville starts this season prior to the Nationals. "I’ve been racing a long time, but I have probably never raced here more than three-four times a year ... ever. There have probably been a lot of years I've only been here once over the course of a year."
And as Pittman proved Wednesday night, a bad starting position isn't the end of the world at Knoxville ... if you have a good car.
"Knoxville is definitely one of the few places in the country where I think, especially with 50 laps, that a starting spot is strictly that," Pittman said. "This is one of the few places you don’t fake your way around here. If you're no good, you're going to the back - it doesn’t matter if it's 10 laps or 50. And if you're one of the best cars, by the same token you're going straight to the front."
Pittman’s teammate, Brad Sweet, finished second on Wednesday. Cody Darrah, driver of the No. 4 KKR entry, will be racing on Night 2 Thursday.
Motor Racing Network's "Winged Nation" will be live at Knoxville Raceway, streaming nightly Thursday through Saturday from 6-7 p.m. (CT) at MotorRacingNetwork.com.