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KNOXVILLE, Iowa | Concrete to dirt.

In these parts the "Fastest Short Track on the Planet'' isn't that many laps from the "Sprint Car Capital of the World'' so your auto racing fix can be satiated in less than an hour.

The "Capital'' is officially the Knoxville Raceway on the Marion County Fairgrounds here where dirt and mud are flung with much joy by drivers to the glee of fans.

Up the road in "Planet Newton'' is the button-down Iowa Speedway whose grandstand soars into the Central, if rural, Iowa skyline.

When the premier sprint car teams in the country converge here, Sheldon High School senior Trevor Smith feels right at home after the long tow from Sanborn in O'Brien County.

Still, he's a bit of an iconoclast, the Lone Siouxland Ranger so to speak, in the sprint car element here.

"I think I'm the only driver from my area and one of a very few from Northwest Iowa who compete here at Knoxville,'' said Smith, who just turned 18. "This place is it in sprint car racing.

"The atmosphere is great. Competition is the best and the folks who run the show are outstanding and the fans are friendly.''

Friday night, Smith was making his second start of the season in the 305 (cubic inch engine) class in the Lucas Oil Knoxville Championship Cup Series. Last week, Smith finished fifth in the A main.

Later this season he'll also run in the National Sprint League competition here. The 305 A mains in those pay $5,000 to win.

He was sixth overall in the class last year and earned the division's Sportsman of the Year award.

"The 305s is an entry level, cost effective class compared to the bigger 360 and 410 divisions, but even this class is spiraling out of control financially,'' said Smith, whose car owners are his parents Jim and Lisa Smith and Randy and Ann Wiese of Lake Park. "I've been racing since I was 14. You had to be 14 to race at Jackson Speedway and that's where I started in sprint cars.

"The goal is to move up in competition.

"We run the 305s here, but back home were run in the 360s at Badlands Speedway (formerly Huset's) in Sioux Falls and Jackson (Minn.), Rock Rapids and Sioux Center.

"I've never raced at Park Jefferson, but hope to make a first appearance there sometime this season when they run a special.''

The elder Smith, Wiese and Trevor Fuerstenberg comprise Trevor's crew.

Smith's 305 engine can get 550 to 600 horsepower and he holds the one-lap speed record at the prestigious oval in the class, making a circuit in 16.820 seconds in his red winged No 33 machine powered by Smith Raceway Engines.

In the 410s here this early spring, 33-year-old A.J. Moeller of Rockwell City ranks 17th in points.

Trevor's grandfather (Bill) and his father were also race car drivers and instilled the desire to continue a family tradition.

Another youngster in the 305 class is McKenna Haase, an 18-year-old from Carlisle who last season became the first female driver to pilot an A main victory in almost 60 years of racing here.

"You can't be in awe of this place despite all the great drivers,'' said Smith, who lists recently-retired Jeff Gordon as has favorite NASCAR driver. "Racing is an expensive business and it is always a big challenge to line up sponsorships.''

Knoxville oozes tradition.

World of Outlaw headliners like Danny Lasoski, Sammy Swindell, Donny Schatz and Joey Saldana are regular and semi-regulars. Among upcoming superstars are Australian brothers Ian and Kenny Madsen and Brian Brown.

One of the top 360 regulars here is Clint Gardner of Sioux Falls.


The premier NASCAR and IndyCar racing returns to the Hawkeye State June 18-19 with the NASCAR INFINITY Series American Ethanol 250 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton.

That show also includes NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 200.

XFINITY then comes back July 29-30 with the U.S. Cellular 250 and NASCAR K&N Pro Series 150.

Compare the K&N to Triple-A baseball. One step away from the bigs.

XFINITY is sort of that way, but, unfortunately and unfairly, too many Sprint Cup teams show up for those shows.

Sure, it's all about the money and draw and fans in Iowa salivate over the Keselowskis of NASCAR and the track's potential for a Sprint Cup show.

The Verizon IndyCar Iowa Corn 300 and ARCA 150 will be run July 9-10.


Sports reporter

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