Knoxville Raceway, the “sprint car capital of the world,” will host its inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night.
For Xfinity Series regular Michael Annett, it’s a meaningful moment.
Before he races his JR Motorsports Xfinity entry at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Annett will compete in the Knoxville Truck race for Young’s Motorsports in its No. 02 entry.
The Annett family has a long, successful history at Knoxville. Michael’s late father, Harrold Annett, owned the No. 12 Mickow sprint car that raced at Knoxville weekly during the 1970s and 1980s.
Harrold Annett, who passed away this past March, earned a Knoxville track championship in 1980 as team owner for driver Mike Brooks.
Later on in the 1980s and into the 1990s, Harrold had more success with driver Sammy Swindell, who took the No. 1 sprint car – bearing the colors of Harrold’s trucking company, TMC Transportation – to numerous wins at Knoxville.
Now, Michael Annett gets to add to that legacy, starting with the Trucks’ opening practice on Thursday night.
“I’m really excited,” Annett said Thursday morning in a media teleconference. “I’ve dreamt about running a race at Knoxville pretty much forever. I was there when I was three days old, so the fact that tonight, I get to make my first laps there is just really exciting.”
“It’s awesome that NASCAR decided to go there. When it popped up on the schedule, I called my people right away and said ‘I need to be in that race.’ The fact that (Young’s Motorsports owner) Tyler Young was accommodating to me – he’s a good buddy of mine – and the fact I get to do that with his organization is pretty special.”
There’s also a Cup regular competing at Knoxville. Chase Briscoe is back with Roper Racing for his third Truck start of the season.
One of them was on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway back in March, where he finished fifth.
Briscoe said in his own media teleconference on Wednesday that being able to race as often as he can, no matter the car or the surface, makes him “sharper.”
“Even though the cars are totally different and the discipline is different, you’re always learning as a race car driver, so, for me, just being able to race as much as I can, especially with how we don’t have practice anymore — just getting any seat time is better than sitting at home in my opinion,” Briscoe said.
He also believes that having the Trucks race at Knoxville, one of dirt racing’s most hallowed venues, is important to help continue a growing crossover between the dirt world and the NASCAR world.
That crossover has been fueled by events such as the first Cup race on dirt in 50 years at Bristol, as well as the exploits of Kyle Larson, whose success in both worlds this season has made headlines.
“I feel like you’ve seen more sprint car people that in the past wouldn’t really watch NASCAR, but now they do because they have people to cheer for or root for on the NASCAR side,” Briscoe noted. “And the same with NASCAR people that probably would have never watched a sprint car race.
“Now they can watch guys that they watch on Sunday go race sprint cars at the local track or whatever and it gives them a reason to go that they probably wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for that. So, I think it’s just a really good crossover for our sport and sprint car racing or dirt track racing in general.
“The more fans that we can get, the better, I think, for all involved.”
The Trucks will practice Thursday night from 7:05-8:25 p.m. ET. On Friday, four qualifying heat races (15 laps each; 7, 7:15, 7:30 and 7:45 p.m. ET) will set the field for the Corn Belt 150 later that night at 9 p.m. ET. All sessions will air on FS1.