2023 Knoxville Nationals

2023 Knoxville Nationals: Ranking The 10 Favorites To Win

2023 Knoxville Nationals: Ranking The 10 Favorites To Win

Ranking the 10 favorites that have the best shot to win the 2023 Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway.

Aug 3, 2023 by Kyle McFadden

With the 62nd NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s at Knoxville Raceway less than a week away, here’s a look at 10 Sprint Car drivers and teams that have the best chances to win The Grand Daddy Of ‘Em All.

Be on the lookout for FloRacing’s coverage of the Knoxville Nationals that commences next Wednesday at the famed half-mile oval on the property of Marion County Fairgrounds.

RELATED: Breaking Down The 2023 Knoxville Nationals Entry List

1. Kyle Larson

Hometown: Elk Grove, Calif.

Team: Silva Motorsports No. 57

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 1st (2021)

Though the 31-year-old superstar has the same amount of Sprint Car wins (seven) as this time last year, there seems to be an uptick of confidence and speed behind Paul Silva’s No. 57 approaching Knoxville as opposed to last season. Of course, the 2021 Knoxville Nationals champion is usually the biggest threat to win anywhere he goes. But his 13 podium runs in 18 Sprint Car races this season separates him in consistency from the remaining favorites. The only disadvantage Larson might face from the outset is he hasn’t raced Knoxville in 2023, whereas his nearest competitors have. Even then, that’s not really a cause for concern.


VIDEO: Kyle Larson discusses his 2021 Knoxville Nationals victory. 

2. Donny Schatz

Hometown: West Fargo, N.D.

Team: Tony Stewart Racing No. 15

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 1st (2006, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’17, ’22)

If there’s an underlying message the 45-year-old living legend has sent of late, it’s to never count him out of the sport’s biggest races. Two of Schatz’s last six wins are Crown Jewels, dating back to last summer’s epic Knoxville Nationals title, the 11th of his storied career. Then, just last month, he captured his sixth Kings Royal crown at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway. The 10-time World of Outlaws champion finds himself outside the top five of the series standings for the first time since 2002, but that’s not relevant come The Granddaddy Of ‘Em All. While Larson can be considered the absolute favorite, Schatz is without question the fiercest competitor to overcome at Knoxville’s big dance. Oh, and another Knoxville title would effectively tie The King, Steve Kinser, for most all time.

3. Rico Abreu

Hometown: St. Helena, Calif.

Team: Rico Abreu Racing No. 24

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 8th (2017)

The 31-year-old is in the midst of his most productive Sprint Car season ever at seven wins and counting. And the only reason he isn’t first or second is because of his underwhelming track record at the Knoxville Nationals. Abreu has just one top-10 finish — eighth in 2017 — in six career Knoxville Nationals main event starts. He did finished 13th from the 21st-starting spot last year, but failed to finish features in the three years prior. The anticipation is quite high this year for Abreu, who’s on a roll with prolific crew chief Ricky Warner, winner of 10 Knoxville Nationals titles with Donny Schatz. Abreu did win July 29’s All Star Circuit of Champions feature at Knoxville. When Warner was asked if he thinks the team found a Nationals-winning package last weekend, he said, “I think so.” Take that for what it’s worth.


VIDEO: Highlights from Rico Abreu's recent All Star Circuit of Champions win at Knoxville. 

4. David Gravel

Hometown: Watertown, Conn.

Team: Big Game Motorsports No. 2

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 1st (2019)

While Larson is perhaps the absolute favorite and Schatz considered as the fiercest competitor, the 31-year-old Gravel has the most momentum behind him heading into this year’s Knoxville Nationals. To date, he’s the only driver with double-digit World of Outlaws wins. Gravel owns the second-biggest payday in Sprint Car racing this year — June’s $250,000 Huset’s High Bank Nationals — and just last weekend won at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway with the WoO. Leading a race-high 20 laps in last year’s Knoxville Nationals wasn’t enough for Gravel to earn his second event title. Gravel hasn’t squandered the lead many times this year, so maybe he’s bound to join that exclusive list of multi-time Knoxville Nationals winners in Schatz, Danny Lasoski, Steve Kinser, Mark Kinser, Doug Wolfgang, Eddie Leavitt and Kenny Weld.

5. Logan Schuchart

Hometown: Hanover, Pa.

Team: Shark Racing No. 1s

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 2nd (2019)

Can the Eldora Million champion collect the biggest prizes in Sprint Car racing this year? There’s no reason to believe he can’t. Schuchart’s consistently brought race-winning cars to Knoxville the past few years; it’s just something along the way, whether a setback in a prelim night or in the main event itself, has impeded his path to victory. Last year, Schuchart surged from 17th to finish third. In 2019, he knifed through quite practically the entire field to finish second from 22nd. In 2021, he turned in a fine fifth-place performance. Now, the expectation should be nothing less but a win. After putting all the pieces together to win the Eldora Million, he should have extra confidence to do the same at Knoxville.


VIDEO: Logan Schuchart reacts after winning the Eldora Million. 

6. Brad Sweet

Hometown: Grass Valley, Calif.

Team: Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb No. 49

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 1st (2018)

Though David Gravel currently leads Sweet in the World of Outlaws standings and five drivers have supposedly better Knoxville Nationals odds, Sweet’s still the gold standard of Sprint Car racing. The four-time reigning WoO champion hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in the Knoxville Nationals since 2016 and, of course, his ’18 victory in the event is one of his greatest achievements. Last year, Sweet was a non-factor in The Granddaddy Of ‘Em All, finishing where he started in ninth. It’s hard to fathom Sweet not finishing outside at least the top five for a second year, which hasn’t happened since he finished 13th in consecutive years in 2013 and ’14.

7. Carson Macedo

Hometown: Lemoore, Calif.

Team: Jason Johnson Racing No. 41

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 6th (2018)

The 27-year-old was on track for his best Knoxville Nationals finish last year, a top five, before a flat tire derailed those prospects. Macedo has been, by no surprise aboard the Jason Johnson No. 41, one of the fastest cars in the country the last few years. His 11 wins led the World of Outlaws last year and this season his five wins has him third in the series standings. While he’s never finished the Nationals better than sixth in 2018, he does have a pair of WoO wins at Knoxville that came in 2021.

8. Brian Brown

Hometown: Higginsville, Mo.

Team: Brian Brown Racing No. 21

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 2nd (2012, ’13 and ’14)

The 44-year-old has won literally everything there is at Knoxville Raceway — five 410 track titles, a 360 Nationals, a Capitani Classic, World of Outlaws and All Star Circuit of Champions features — but The Granddaddy Of ‘Em All. Brown was agonizingly close in three straight runner-ups in 2012, ’13 and ’14, but really hasn’t been close since. He’s failed to see the finish line in the Knoxville Nationals main event the past five years, either failing to finish or qualify for the big dance every year since 2017. The good news is that Brown has five wins at Knoxville to date this year, his most since 2019, and the same amount of wins at his stomping grounds prior to his runner-up Nationals finish in ’14.

9. Brent Marks

Hometown: Myerstown, Pa.

Team: Murray Marks Racing No. 19

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 6th (2021)

The 2022 Kings Royal winner has never been particularly fond of Knoxville’s black dirt, which is completely foreign to the red clay that Marks predominately excels on in Central Pennsylvania. That’s a central reason why there’s only been two Knoxville Nationals winners from Pennsylvania the last 32 years (Tim Shaffer in 2017 and Bobby Allen in 1990). But the 31-year-old, outside Logan Schuchart, is slowly working toward that feat. After failing to qualify for five of his first seven Knoxville Nationals, the Myerstown Missile has finishes of sixth and seventh the last two years in the big dance. He hasn’t been like his 18-win self from last year, but his six wins still rank him tied for 12th in the nation; enough momentum to maintain his status as a favorite.

10. Giovanni Scelzi

Hometown: Fresno, Calif.

Team: KCP Racing No. 18

Best Knoxville Nationals finish: 4th (2021)

Many have a case as the 10th and final Knoxville Nationals favorite, but few remaining drivers have tasted victory as close as Scelzi. The 21-year-old budding star started from the pole of the grand event in 2021 and led the opening 10 laps before faded to finish fourth. He didn’t have the greatest performance last year — starting 18th and finishing 22nd — but he’s yet to miss a Knoxville Nationals main event since moving into full-time 410 Sprint Car racing in 2018. His 360 Nationals win in 2021 is a gold star on his young resume, too.