LEWISBURG, TN – FWhile lining up to start eighth in the fourth Feature of the 2021 season, Brent Larson questioned himself. “Man, I’m not sure I’m competent enough to start up here,” he thought.
One race later he abandoned that mindset.
During the latest World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model event at Volusia Speedway Park, Larson turned heads and widened eyes throughout the night. He outran current points leader Kyle Strickler and Chris Madden to win the Drydene Heat Race. Then, in the 40-lap Feature, he ran within the podium for the majority of the race, even passing eventual Big Gator champion Devin Moran back for third after losing the position.
He was on track for his first podium finish with the Series until his left rear tire became the villain of the night, blowing with five laps to go. A simultaneous moan of disappointment from the crowd echoed around the half-mile track. They all knew the significance of that performance by Larson, who’s run full-time with the Series for the past three years and made more than 140 starts.
While fans hung their heads for Larson, his was still held high back at his trailer. Even with having to settle for a 16th-place finish. A shot of confidence was the medicine he’d been looking for.
“Strickler is leading the points and undoubtedly, probably the star here (at Volusia) the last couple of weeks. Just to be able to beat him going into (turn) one and beating him and Madden in that Heat Race is a big confidence builder,” Larson said. “After winning that Heat Race, we were so busy all day long, which is probably good for my head, not thinking about it, but I felt good starting up there (in the Feature) and hanging in third for a while and then getting passed by Moran and passing him back, that was a confidence builder for sure. That makes me feel like I deserve to be running with the World of Outlaws.”
In his 142 Series starts, Larson, 44, of Lake Elmo, MN, has collected two top-five finishes – earning a career-best finish of fourth in 2019 – and 20 top-10 finishes.
This year, Larson said he’s in a good place. He has a fleet of Rocket XR-1 Chassis with Vic Hill Racing Engines power. He has a new primary sponsor with Motul. And he has a new crew, made up of his wife Melanie Larson, his 15-year-old son Matthew Larson and a first-time crew member. Combined, they’re helping him to work at his own pace to find the confidence and comfortability he’s been looking for.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on us,” Larson said. “I’m in a nice spot this year where I don’t have a lot of pressure from my sponsors. I don’t have a lot of pressure from veteran crew guys who are used to winning races. We’re going to try and keep this fun and race as well as we can. But confidence is a big part of success. And I do have that going for me right now. I’m looking forward to having some success but not putting any expectations on ourselves either.”
Having his family by his side this season, working on the #B1 machine with him, has provided an extra level of comfortability and joy on race days.
“It’s much better than being gone for three weeks and not seeing your family,” he said. “I love getting that fist bump from my kid before we pull on the track. And having him run do this or run do that. Just having him a part of what’s going on. And I have my wife on tires. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
His newfound speed at Volusia stemmed from finding comfort in his new cars, which has Larson excited for the upcoming Tennessee doubleheader at Duck River Raceway Park on March 5 and Smoky Mountain Speedway on March 6.
In the first five races, he’s been working to get the feel in his brakes right, his steering right, and to find the overall balance of the car’s handling.
“I’ve just been focused these first few races with trying to get more and more comfortable in the car so I know what it’s going to do and feel right about it,” Larson said. “Then, that allows me to go out there and race hard and put the car where I want it. And not tail or not push and not look stupid out there. A lot of it is just being comfortable. Adding what I felt helped me the night before. Adding a little bit of that, so I give it a little bit more. I’ve had a lot of good people helping me go in the right direction and I’ve been growing with it.”
He’ll look to try and bring that momentum into the quarter-mile Duck River Raceway Park and 4/10-mile Smoky Mountain Speedway. Larson’s best finish at Duck River is 18th in 2019 and his best finish at Smoky Mountain is 13th the same year. Last season, he finished 25th at Duck River and 19th at Smoky Mountain.
This year, he’s entering the doubleheader weekend with his highest level of confidence, yet. No matter where he lines up for each Feature, he won’t be questioning himself anymore.
“I feel confident in my ability to stay up front,” Larson said. “I showed that [at Volusia]. I showed it to myself and I showed it to everybody that was watching.”
For tickets to the events at Duck River Raceway Park and Smoky Mountain Speedway, go to WorldofOutlaws.com/tix.