Larson Adds to Sprint Legacy, Earns Pole at Knoxville Nationals – DTD Exclusive

57 Kyle Larson

By Mike Mallett

It’s hard to believe that there was something in sprint car racing that Kyle Larson hadn’t accomplished. He’s won just about every big race there is to win, including the Knoxville Nationals.

One of the few remaining items on his checklist was being the high point man at the Nationals. Not any longer. On Thursday night, Larson did just enough to secure top honors over fellow California driver Rico Abreu to earn his first career pole starting spot for Saturday night.

“It’s definitely an honor when you can be the high-point guy out of a field this stout,” said Larson. “Obviously, that doesn’t pay anything, so you want to win the race on Saturday.  I’ve never started on the pole in this race, but I would think that you probably would have a little bit of a different mindset, and honestly, I don’t love starting on the pole most races.

“I think it’s good sometimes for you to be within striking distance, but you can see where you’re better than people, where the tracks change, and I think when you’re the leader, you can get complacent in the lines that you run, especially here at Knoxville. It’s tough to tell yourself to move around, but hopefully I’ve got enough experience here that I can see you in lanes are developing and be okay.”

Larson timed in ninth place of the 54 cars after going out late. He was the first to win a heat from the fourth row after starting seventh. He then put in an impressive drive late to earn a runner-up finish in the A-Main. His goal was to get enough points to lock in and start near the front. He did more than that.

“While I’m racing, I’m not really thinking about points,” he said. “My goal is honestly not to pass everybody and be the high point guy; I was really just like, don’t eff this up so you don’t end up starting… I knew we had a good enough night going to that point; if I finish in the top eight, I’m going to be starting in a good spot. So yeah, my goal was really just not to mess it up, and I almost spun out a couple of times. So I just kind of had to settle in, and it was just going to take whatever I could get.”

What he was able to take was second. After starting fifth, Larson settled into running between fourth and sixth for much of the race until three late red flags for flips changed all that. With each restart, he was able to pick off a car or two before eventually utilizing a restart with two to go to take over the second spot from Spencer Bayston.

“The last couple worked out for me,” said Larson about the restarts. “I was able to get by (Anthony) Macri. He was trying to run to the bottom. I was able to get by him, and then the caution came out right away. And then with Spencer, I honestly thought if I could get a good launch on the restart, maybe do something in one and two, and that didn’t work out; I missed the bottom or middle, whatever you want to call it, and Macri got to my outside in the backstretch, and I was just trying to hopefully protect third. I knew that. We were at that point gonna be on the front row, and then my car stuck super good on the bottom in three and four, and we had a run on Spencer, and I was able to slide him. It worked out for me.”

As stated, Larson will share the front row with Rico Abreu. He believes Abreu is going to be the car to beat after how impressive he’s been in his visits this season to Knoxville.

“As I’ve said, Rico is gonna be the toughest guy to beat this week,” said Larson. “There’s a lot of good guys, but Rico’s been by far the fastest car here at Knoxville. He’s passed more people here this year, and every time he’s been here, in the races that he’s won, he’s dominated. He’ll be the guy to beat, but I think we got a good shot.”