By MIKE MALLETT
And just like that Kyle Larson is done Sprint Car racing in 2017. “Young Money” went out with a bang as he finished second to perennial favorite Donny Schatz. Larson put on a show driving his way up through the field after starting 10th. He gave Schatz all he could to get it done, he just came up one spot short.
“It’s cool to be one of the seven, eight, ten guys that have run second to him,” cited Larson. “It’s also neat that I got to race. Really I didn’t expect in the months leading up to the event, I planned on racing on Wednesday night but figured I’d have no shot of racing Saturday. I think just getting the opportunity to race in the Knoxville Nationals on Saturday night is a cool thing. If it wasn’t for Chip (Ganassi) I wouldn’t be here, so I’ve got to thank him a lot.”
Larson took the second position on the first lap after the mid-race break. Kerry Madsen took a chance with a slide job going through turns one and two at Schatz. He missed and bobbled allowing Larson to move on by. Larson hung within striking distance of Schatz. In the final few laps Schatz entered traffic allowing him to close to within a few car lengths. On the last lap of the race the Elk Grove, Calif., driver dove low in turn three and tried to slide up in front of Schatz, but he didn’t have enough momentum to clear him.
“I actually found a good line a little bit before we got to traffic, probably with ten laps to go and I put a couple good laps together and closed on him some,” stated Larson. “If I could keep doing that I could get to him. As I got closer to him I was just getting tighter, making that trickier on me. It was just tough to hit. You are running so much throttle through there, trying to keep it straight, but not too straight, and not be too high, but not too low, it was just a fine line. Definitely a really tricky track. I didn’t expect it to get that rough up there.”
Coming up short is a tough deal for Larson. He’s a competitor and wants to win. Finishing second only makes him hungrier to run the Knoxville Nationals again.
“I mean I’m definitely hungry at any race, especially at the Knoxville Nationals,” commented Larson. “I think finishing second, gosh I run second a lot in a lot of different cars, but any time you finish second it makes you that much more hungry to be one step higher up in the finishing order.”
As stated above, it was Larson’s last Sprint Car race of the 2017 season. He’s run 15 races, of which, he won nine. He had a really great run but now it’s time to focus on the job that pays the bills and winning a NASCAR Championship.
“Tonight was my last Sprint Car race of the year and it’s been a heck of a 15 races I’ve run,” said Larson. “I’ve had nine wins and three seconds, that’s pretty good. I really enjoy racing for Paul (Silva) and I hope I can convince Chip to let me do this event every year, depending on our Cup season is going. I think as everyone can see there is a ton exposure around me, this event, this week and it’s good for our NASCAR team right now, especially searching for a new sponsor and stuff like that. Hopefully this will help them guys market me a little bit better as they search for a new sponsor.”
It was a great run for Larson and the fans that got to watch him. Now we’ll have to reserve our chance to see him race to Sunday afternoons as he chases a different championship.