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Tue, 15 Jan 2008, 02:34 PM

Dexter Tuttle Praises Evan Knoll for Providing Assistance to Fledgling Drag Racing Teams
Courtesy of Joe Sherk

Dexter Tuttle has been on the receiving end of Evan Knoll's drag racing benevolence and is very appreciative.

If Knoll had not stepped up early in the 2006 season, J.R. Todd, Tuttle's unheralded Top Fuel driver, might not have been the unanimous rookie of the year selection. Todd won three times, becoming a fan and media favorite along the way.

It was a storybook ending to a season that was supposed to last only 10-14 races.

"We weren't chasing an Evan Knoll sponsorship, he just called us," Tuttle recalled. "He had a good relationship with (then crew chief) Jimmy Walsh and Evan called after we didn't qualify at Phoenix - one of the two times we didn't qualify in two years. He said, 'What can I do to help you,' and that's how our deal started."

The Skull Shine/Torco Racing Fuels sponsorship continued through the 2007 season, with Todd winning five races overall and finishing eighth and seventh respectively in NHRA/Powerade Series standings.

Knoll has been content to stay out of the media spotlight, but a recent announcement that he will "sideline all Knoll Gas Motorsports teams for the 2008 season" while he takes care of serious health issues has come under scrutiny from fans and racers alike.

Tuttle, a successful business man and veteran team owner, has been watching, reading Internet stories and reactions and has some insight of his own.

"Evan's whole thing is about helping the part-time drivers and their teams," said Tuttle. "He spends a huge amount of money and he wants to be involved, but there is absolutely no return on investment. I understood it, and I think all those drivers involved in this interruption should understand, too. This (sponsor support) was subsistence, a gift from Evan Knoll to help them go out and show what they could do . . . and to move on. It was designed for them to showcase their potential.

"The only thing, I think, that really makes Evan happy is helping people. I truly believe that. I watched him for two years. We were one of his better-performing teams, but a few wins doesn't put money in his pocket. He gave me plenty of notice that our Skull Shine deal was done at the end of last year. We had been looking for sponsors the whole time we had Torco on the car so we could free up that money and he could help somebody else."

Tuttle, meanwhile, has found a company interested in sponsoring his Top Fuel team this year. "Look for an announcement in the next two or three weeks from Tuttle Motorsports and (driver) Alan Bradshaw that Tony Shortall is our new crew chief and that we will be out for all 24 races with a brand new sponsor.

"Would that have been possible without Evan's money? Maybe, but I don't think so," he continued. "It is a big step for somebody running 10-to-14 races (like he planned with Todd) and having a prospective sponsor say, 'Hey, you guys do pretty good being out there for the whole season, ending up seventh in points and contending and winning a couple of races.'

"We certainly hope Evan's health problems are taken care of and that he takes time to refocus and comes back and puts together a couple of contending teams. We wish him a speedy recovery."

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