Dakotah Knuckles is no stranger to success on dirt tracks. But recently, the Ewing, VA driver has really begun to step up his game on the clay ovals around east Tennessee. The 23-year-old driver had won two consecutive Late Model feature races at Tazewell Speedway and was the points leader in that class coming into this past weekend’s Southern Nationals Bonus Series/Iron-Man Late Model co-sanctioned event on the high-banked, third-mile track.
But this recent run of success had come after an early season setback and the arrival of a new machine into the Knuckles racing stable.
“We started off good at Bulls Gap and got a win up there with our old car but then we got into a bad wreck at 411 with that car so we ended up getting this new one, it’s a Rocket XR1(chassis), and it’s been taking some time to get it figured out,” Knuckles explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “The guys at Brucebilt have really been helping us get it lined out. We finally got our old car back together and started getting some wins. Hopefully we can get this new car to handle like the old one.”
And handle it did as Knuckles led Group A qualifying in the new ride and started the Super Late Model show on Sunday night from the pole position. Knuckles went on to finish second in that $5,000-to-win race behind veteran racer Vic Hill. It was the young driver’s most successful effort in a Super Late Model event after having won those earlier races in the Steelhead(Limited) Late Model division.
“There’s quite a bit of difference between that Blue/Gray(Rocket) car and that XR1,” Knuckles explained. “We’ve just got to figure out what the car is like. It’s all about adjusting to the car. It takes a little bit to get the hang of it. And that super motor is a lot different than running with steelheads. When you get back in that steelhead, it feels like you’re crawling. Hopefully we’ll get this one lined out and be just as good in it as we are in the old one.”
Knuckles has experienced much of his success on the east Tennessee high banks of Tazewell Speedway and Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap. Because of the speed and banking of those two facilities, many drivers shy away from them. However, Knuckles loves the challenge each of them presents.
“It’s just that you can charge these corners so hard,” the driver of the No. 21K pointed out. “Sometimes it hurts you in the long run when you go to other tracks. It can spoil you having this high banking. I like racing here and at Bulls Gap. It’s just fun to be able to drive in there hard and know it will stick.”
Although he may be younger than many other competitors, Knuckles believes he has an advantage at Tazewell when touring series racers come to the mountain top speedway.
“We’ve definitely got a lot of laps here,” the driver who began racing in the Modified Street class back in 2012 said. “This is our home track because we live about 20 minutes from here. It gives me a lot of confidence coming into this place. I believe we can hold our own pretty good.”
The Knuckles racing operation includes the driver’s father, John, and his grandfather, Dean. Together the three men have set a goal for their team as the 2017 season rolls into its second half.
“Me and my dad have been talking about it and we’re going to try to stick out this steelhead deal,” Knuckles declared. “We’re leading the points here at Tazewell. My papaw has been wanting to win a championship real bad and we’re going to try to do that for him. He’s been real good to help us so that’s the least we can do. As far as this Super Late Model stuff, we’d like to get a win or two under our belts and boost our confidence even more.”