After three races on the Southern Nationals tour Jake Knowles has been the model of consistency. The 33-year-old racer from Rome, GA began the series with a 7th place effort at Wythe Raceway in Wytheville, VA followed by a 5th at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC. He then came home in the 6th position on Tuesday night in Maryville, TN at Smoky Mountain Speedway.
Those performances have placed Knowles solidly in the third spot of the Southern Nationals standings behind Brandon Overton and Donald McIntosh as the tour roars ahead with four consecutive races in his home state. Events slated for Toccoa Raceway, Senoia Raceway, Screven Motor Speedway and Rome Speedway will make for shorter commutes for this working racer.
The decision for the Crate Late Model regular to participate in the series for the first time since 2005 was made as a result of getting the proper equipment to compete at a high level. A new engine to go in a Longhorn Chassis has the No. 66 running competitively in the Super Late Model ranks.
“We’ve been running crate stuff a lot this year and we just have got this motor and this car built,” Knowles explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “Since we didn’t have any crate races these two weeks we just decided to go day-by-day and see how it goes. If everything keeps going good, we’re going to do them all.”
Needless to say, Knowles hopes his early run of success can continue throughout the entire two-week stretch.
“Obviously we want to win but we’d like to get more top-5’s,” the second generation driver said prior to the race at Smoky Mountain. “But like here, I’m here by myself. I’ve got my mom and my girlfriend and my one other guy had to work today. We don’t really have full-time people so we’re just doing what we can. If we could get a win that would be awesome and be in the top-5 at the end in the points deal that would be a pretty successful trip.”
But one obstacle that faces almost every team in the pit area is also adding to the difficulty of this operation’s efforts. Racing so often over such a short time span can put a strain on the amount of help teams have at their disposal and the Knowles effort is no different. Even the larger and more highly financed teams often find themselves short of crew members.
“It’s crazy,” the racer who has previously assisted cousin Tony Knowles in the Southern Nationals declared. “Them guys have got crews and they even have a lack of help. I drove all the way back from Gaffney and worked all day yesterday. The people that do help me have real jobs and I’ve got my parts business that I had to work at. We were at the shop this morning at 4:30 trying to get everything done so we could get up here, but it’s fun and we’re going to keep going as long as we can go.”
Super Late Model racing is a departure from the norm for Knowles and he is enjoying the experience that he hopes will continue in the future.
“I like running supers but just haven’t had a motor, our motor has been down,” Knowles said. “I ran about a month ago at Rome in a super and then these past two races and those are the only super races I’ve run in really the past three years. So yeah, it’s definitely a lot different for me but we’re running decent so as long as we keep running decent we’re going to keep running some more.”
A major part of that enjoyment comes from racing at new places or places he hasn’t seen in a long while.
“I had never been to Wythe or Gaffney and I’ve never run a super here at Smoky Mountain but I have run crate stuff here,” the 2018 winner of the $10,000 Southern 100 pointed out. “It’s probably been since 2008 or so since I’ve been to Toccoa or Screven so there’s a lot of places I haven’t been in a long time or are new tracks. We’re just going in not really planning on nothing but just taking it as whatever happens just happens. So far we’ve adapted pretty good by making the right changes and staying out of trouble.
“It’s definitely exciting to go to new places,” he added. “That Wytheville, some race tracks you haven’t been to you can compare something else to it, but there ain’t nothing you can really compare to Wytheville because it’s so big. And Gaffney is like that too, those are just different places. It’s exciting and it makes it even more exciting when you run good at them.”
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