Knoxville Nationals begins Wednesday with NASCAR flavor

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NASCAR will have a presence at the 56th annual Knoxville Nationals, which begins tonight at Knoxville Raceway.

Donny Schatz is the defending champion of the sprint car event, winning the crown for Tony Stewart Racing last year. Schatz has won the event nine of the past 10 years. Seven of those victories have come while driving for Stewart.

The four-day event begins with qualifying nights Wednesday and Thursday. Drivers earn points for how they perform in qualifying, heat and feature races. The top 16 in points from the two nights are locked in Saturday’s program. Friday’s racing will qualify more cars for Saturday’s action, which features four races leading up to the Knoxville Nationals feature race. The Nationals winner will earn $150,000.

NASCAR will be represented during the week.

Wednesday night features Shane Stewart, who drives for Larson Marks Racing, the team co-owned by Kyle Larson and Justin Marks. Also racing Wednesday is Daryn Pittman, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing, Schatz and Camping World Truck Series driver Rico Abreu.

Thursday’s racing includes Larson, Brad Sweet, who drives for Kasey Kahne’s team and former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney. Also, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will pace the field that night in Bryan Clauson’s car, honoring his close friend who died Sunday from injuries suffered in a midget race.