As the start of the 16th annual Indiana Midget Week drew closer, the name Kyle Larson was on the mind of every competitor and fan. After a controversial incident in April during an iRacing event that saw Larson lose his NASCAR Cup ride for the 2020 season, Kyle returned to full-time status in sprint car and midget racing.
Ever since, he has been a man on a mission.
Larson had already claimed a big win with the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions in 2020, taking the checkers in the East Bay Winternationals finale in February.
He joined the series’ Thunder Through The Plains swing on June 5, running second to Aaron Reutzel at Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Raceway, then knocked off three wins in a row – at 81 Speedway in Kansas on June 7, Oklahoma’s Lawton Speedway on June 8, and then at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas on June 10.
From there, Larson towed to Iowa and swept both features of the two-day World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series event at Knoxville Raceway, on June 12-13.
So, when he set his sights on yet another premier racing division, the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series, there was no doubt he would be a threat to top the points at the end of the six-race week.
In addition to the momentum he was carrying from his winged sprint car victories, entering Indiana Midget Week, only the late Bryan Clauson (with nine wins) topped Larson for total IMW career checkers, as Larson and Christopher Bell ranked second with five wins each.
In addition, USAC’s 2019 national midget season closed with Larson sweeping the final three events, at California’s Placerville Speedway, Bakersfield Speedway, and Ventura Raceway. He swept both his prelim night and the main event at the Gateway Dirt Nationals in St. Louis in December.
Then, he started out the 2020 season by winning his preliminary night at the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., before earning the Golden Driller in Saturday’s main event.
In short, his last seven outings in a midget in the United States all resulted in feature wins.
The series kicked off at Paragon Speedway, marking the first time the USAC National Midget Series had appeared at the three-eighths-mile oval since 1985.
Following hot laps, 46 midgets qualified, with Larson taking quick time and setting a new track record of 14.813 seconds in the Tucker-Boat Motorsports/Pristine Auction-K&C Drywall/Spike/Speedway-powered midget and besting Mel Kenyon’s 25-year midget record of 16.442 seconds in the process.
Larson ran second to Justin Grant in his heat race and started the 30-lap feature sixth, with Tucker-Boat teammate Gio Scelzi and Tanner Thorson on the front row to lead the field to the green.
Scelzi took the lead at the start, before a slide job from Thorson put him on the point.
Larson was running third, challenging Scelzi for position, when a spin by Brady Bacon brought out the yellow on lap 14. One lap into the restart, Larson took over the runner-up spot and began chasing Thorson for the lead.
Scelzi was running third when he flipped on lap 22 (he was uninjured), bringing out the red and putting Larson on Thorson’s push bar for the restart.
It took two attempts, and some wheel-banging, before Larson took over the lead on lap 27 and went on to claim the checkers by 1.696 seconds over Thorson.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished third in his first Indiana Midget Week appearance since 2007, with another of Larson’s Tucker-Boat teammates, 12th-place starter Chris Windom, fourth and Justin Grant rounding out the top five.
It was Larson’s 20th career USAC National Midget Series victory, tying him with A.J. Foyt for 32nd on the all-time win list.
On the morning of Wednesday, June 17, a bounty was placed on Larson’s head. Richard and Jennifer Marshall of Priority Aviation announced a $1,000 bonus for any driver able to top Larson at any of the remaining IMW events.
On nights that Kyle claimed another win, the Marshalls would donate $1,000 to the Indiana Donor Network in Larson’s name.
Clauson-Marshall Racing has partnered with the Indiana Donor Network to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation through the Driven2SaveLives campaign in honor of the late Bryan Clauson.
Larson responded accordingly.
After qualifying seventh on the quarter-mile (Logan Seavey earned quick time at 12.360) and missing his heat transfer by one spot, Larson ran third in the semi behind Rico Abreu and Jake Neuman to secure the 14th starting position for the 30-lap feature.
Defending USAC National midget champion Tyler Courtney and series rookie Buddy Kofoid started on the front row of the A-Main, with Courtney taking the lead at the green.
Cannon McIntosh started 12th, directly in front of Larson, and charged his way through the field to fourth by the second lap using a middle groove, with Larson following suit. By lap eight, Larson was in the top five.
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