GAS CITY, Ind. – Kyle Larson pulled off the equivalent of a Hollywood miracle Wednesday night at Gas City I-69 Speedway to keep his incredible dirt-track winning streak alive.
After failing to transfer to the feature through his heat race and having to race his way in through the B-main, Larson started 14th and drove all the way through the field to score the victory in night two of Indiana Midget Week at the quarter-mile oval.
The defining moment of the main event came on lap 18, when Larson threw a haymaker of a slider on leader Tyler Courtney in turns three and four and ultimately came out of it with the top spot.
From there, the Elk Grove, Calif., native fended off a late run by teenager Buddy Kofoid to earn his second Indiana Midget Week win in as many nights aboard the Tucker/Boat Motorsports No. 86.
Looking deeper into the statistics, it was Larson’s seventh dirt-track victory in as many races – spanning three different series and two disciplines – and his ninth midget win in a row on U.S. soil.
However, he admitted after the race that there were times during the night Wednesday where he had doubts about his run being able to continue.
“When I didn’t transfer out of the heat race, I knew (winning) would be really hard. If I had transferred, I probably would have started in the second row instead of 14th,” Larson said. “Typically at Gas City, you can pass, but you can’t come from 14th to win … so I wasn’t too confident starting the feature. We had enough lane options at the beginning, though, where it was patchy from the track rework and no one really knew where the grip was at first, to be able to come forward.
“I saw Cannon (McIntosh) work the middle on the first lap, and he was able to move forward, so I did the same and moved forward quickly also,” Larson added. “That win came down to a really, really good car, and it was a lot of fun during that feature.”
As Larson drove his way through the field, Courtney set the pace from the pole position, leading the first 17 laps uncontested in the Clauson/Marshall Racing No. 7bc.
However, it was clear that a clash between Courtney and Larson would be imminent at some point, after Larson climbed from the outside of the seventh row to seventh in just four revolutions.
Larson cracked the top five on lap eight and reached the podium with 12 laps complete, after Cannon McIntosh lost a power-steering line and stopped in turn four from third place.
That incident, which necessitated a red flag after 17th-place Thomas Meseraull flipped separately in the middle of turns three and four, ended up being exactly what Larson needed to be able to strike.
The stoppage erased a two-second deficit for Larson and set him up behind Kofoid and Courtney for the ensuing lap-13 restart. When the green flag waved again, Larson took his shot for second on Kofoid right away, but Kofoid drove back around Larson on the high side and forced him to try again.
Larson did just that two laps later, wresting second from Kofoid underneath the crossed flags that signified halfway. Though Kofoid repassed Larson for second coming to lap 16, a yellow moments before the lap would have counted – for a two-car incident in turn two – was the break Larson needed.
That yellow negated Kofoid’s move to get second back and set Larson up on Courtney’s rear nerf bar for the race-defining final restart. Ironically enough, it played out much like the lap-13 restart did earlier on.
Larson’s immediate slider attempt in turns one and two wasn’t enough to clear Courtney, and he had to reload and try a second time.
When he fired his Hail Mary attempt to the bottom of turns three and four with 13 to go, Courtney couldn’t defend and Larson cleared the defending champion and drove away.
“As I got to the faster cars, the big sliders were about the only move I could do, so I was just hoping for enough grip down the straightaway to be able to block his move on the next (corner entry),” Larson tipped. “I needed to just make sure I got through there with enough speed, and we were able to.”
After that, Kofoid slipped past Courtney for second, while Larson masterfully picked off lap traffic in the closing stages to collect his 21st career USAC National Midget Series victory by a slim .263 seconds.
While Larson banked $3,000 for his win, there was also a $1,400 bounty up for grabs for any driver that could defeat Larson in the feature. The first $1,000 was put up by Richard and Jennifer Marshall of Priority Aviation, and the other $400 came from fan donations.
Since Larson went to victory lane, the bounty money will be donated to the Indiana Donor Network in his name. Similar bounties will be in place for the rest of Indiana Midget Week.
Behind Larson, Kofoid and Courtney, Tanner Thorson and Gio Scelzi completed the top five.
Jake Neuman crossed sixth, ahead of Logan Seavey, Carson Macedo, Tanner Carrick and Kaylee Bryson.
In terms of the overall Indiana Midget Week standings, Larson carries an 11-point lead over Thorson into Thursday night’s round at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind., thanks to his back-to-back wins.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.