PLACERVILLE, Calif. – Kyle Larson put a beatdown on the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series en route to victory and the Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100 points title Wednesday night at Placerville Speedway.
Larson took command of the 100-lap feature on the 35th revolution of the quarter-mile oval, then proceeded to decimate the competition in his self-owned No. 1k Lucas Oil/iRacing.com King-Toyota midget.
The Elk Grove, Calif., native ran off and hid during the final third of the Hangtown 100, lapping all but the top eight cars and winning the feature by a whopping 8.152 seconds over Christopher Bell.
Wednesday night’s victory was Larson’s second USAC win of the year and the 17th of his career, tying him with Jay Drake and JJ Yeley for 37th on the all-time list.
But more importantly, it was worth $20,000 to Larson, plus an additional $12,000 for the overall points Hangtown 100 championship. That meant that Larson left Placerville with a grand total of $32,000.
“This feels really good, not just the money, but to win the way we did tonight,” Larson said. “Paul (Silva, crew chief) has put a lot of work into this car throughout the last handful of months, and we ran out here a couple of times, but they car counts haven’t been big, so I didn’t know how good we were, really. But I think we proved that we were really, really good, and good in the slick, which was nice. You want to be strong when the track gets really technical like that.
“It feels good to win in my own car, though. That’s something I’ve wanted ever since we started building it,” he added. “I didn’t think we’d have a shot at the overall points after our heat-race issue on Tuesday, but we had a little help and got the job done, thankfully.”
With an inversion of the top 12 in overall event points shuffling Larson back to 10th on the grid, it took him a little while to get to the front, but he did so methodically while others took turns leading the race.
Polesitter Brady Bacon led the first two rounds before Aaron Reutzel drove underneath Bacon in turn three to pace the third lap, then Reutzel hung on out front for the next 15 circuits before reigning series champion Logan Seavey came calling with a textbook diamond off turn four to lead on lap 18.
From there, Seavey remained at the head of the field until Larson caught him in heavy traffic after the quarter-distance mark. Larson came from two seconds back in third to Seavey’s back bumper in 10 laps, with Seavey finally getting held up by a slower car in turn three, allowing Larson to dive low to the lead.
After that, Larson led the final 66 laps uncontested, but it was his skill at lapping cars that ultimately paid off for him. By the time the halfway fuel stop hit on lap 50, he’s lapped up to 17th and put six cars between himself and then runner-up Tanner Carrick.
Those lapped cars gave Larson an insurmountable advantage through a sequence of restarts in the early part of the second half, with the most notable incidents coming on the initial restart and at lap 55.
A six-car pileup on the first try at green-flag racing after the break saw Shane Golobic and Rico Abreu make contact and flip in turn three, collecting incoming point leader Logan Seavey and others in the process, while Kevin Thomas Jr. went for a violent flip on the backstretch, the last of 15 on the week.
The good news was that Thomas, like all others who got upside down, walked off under his own power.
Wednesday’s final caution came with 30 to go when Michael Pickens spun in turn one, erasing a 4.715 second lead for Larson, but he shrugged that off and simply doubled it down the stretch.
Larson drove off as Bell scrapped for second with Carrick over the final laps, with Bell finally getting the upper hand at eight to go after nearly 15 laps of side-by-side racing.
By then, however, Larson was gone into the night. It was the first time in five one-two finishes between the pair in USAC competition that Larson had gotten the edge over Bell at the checkered flag.
“That’s a confidence booster, for sure,” Larson noted. “I love these long-distance races, because of how much you have to adapt through the night, but he’d had our number recently in a lot of them. We got one back though tonight, and I’m excited about that and about what’s still to come this winter.”
Carrick hung on to complete the podium, followed by 19th-starter Ryan Bernal charging to fourth and Jerry Coons Jr. completing the top five in an impressive run.
Gio Scelzi, who ran as high as third at one point and held the points lead briefly because of it, faded in the final laps to seventh and missed out on the event championship by nine points to Larson.
Hard charger Tyler Courtney, the last man in from the B-main, came from 24th to end up eighth.
To view complete results, advance to the next page.