By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE — Donny Schatz won the Knoxville Nationals sprint car race in Iowa on Saturday night for the eighth time in nine years.
Schatz collected $150,000 for the win, by far the richest purse in sprint car racing.
Schatz nearly led from start to finish in yet another stellar run for the No. 15 car in the sport’s marquee event.
Brian Brown was second for the third year in a row, followed by Kerry Madsen, Craig Dollansky and Justin Henderson.
“I just have to say that I can’t believe it,” Schatz said.
Schatz started on the Knoxville pole for the fifth time in his career and jumped out to a big early lead over Shane Stewart.
Schatz was already lapping cars roughly 10 laps into the event. Though Schatz’s lead was essentially erased because of a mid-race break designed to accommodate the move to 50 laps — a 20-lap addition that started in 2010 — it hardly seemed to matter.
Then Brown caught Schatz.
Brown surpassed Schatz with seven laps to go by sliding into a high groove. But Schatz took the lead back two laps later and clinched his fourth consecutive Knoxville title by 1.2 seconds.
Saturday night’s race could have been the final Knoxville Nationals for Steve Kinser, known in sprint car circles as “The King.” Kinser, a 20-time World of Outlaws series champion and a 12-time winner of the Knoxville race, announced before the season that this will be his last in the points race.
Poor qualifying runs earlier this week left Kinser needing to advance through two preliminary races simply to reach the finals.
Kinser didn’t even make it through a lap.
He was collected in a scary 10-car crash that saw at least four cars flip and two nearly land in the infield. Kinser’s car was among seven that were too damaged to continue.
“Racing has been awful good to me,” Kinser said. “I’ve been blessed to have a great career.”
Schatz is now just three wins away from tying Kinser’s Knoxville mark.