Kyle Larson celebrates with his son, Owen, after winning his third consecutive Indiana Midget Week feature Thursday at Lincoln Park Speedway (Rich Forman Photo) (Video Highlights from FloRacing.com)
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Putnamville, Indiana (June 18, 2020).........Just when a little doubt crept in that maybe a 15th place starting spot just might be too much to overcome, Kyle Larson was there to prove that notion wrong. Again.
The Elk Grove, Calif. native is now 3-for-3 at Indiana Midget Week following Thursday night's USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget triumph in round three of the series at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind.
It was Larson's third consecutive Indiana Midget Week victory in as many nights and was his eighth consecutive feature win across USAC, World of Outlaws and All Star competition in less than a two-week span.
Furthermore, Larson became the series' first driver to win three consecutive feature events since, well, himself. He won the final three races of the 2019 season and has now won six USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget races in his last six starts.
Two nights after winning the opener at Paragon Speedway and one night after charging from 14th to the win at Gas City I-69 Speedway, Larson did it again, already becoming the first driver to win three races in a single Indiana Midget Week, but this one in particular made him most proud.
"To come from 15th like that on a super technical racetrack is very special to me," Larson said. "I had a good line working in three and four. People would enter in and turn across, and I felt like I could run above the cushion the whole way and be good. It got some holes developing over there. It was a little tricky."
Relatively speaking, of course, Larson dug himself a hole he would have to drive himself out of, much as he did one night prior at Gas City. He qualified 9th, then missed the transfer in the heat race, and finished a ho-hum 3rd in the semi-feature, which placed him inside of row eight for the start of the feature.
Cannon McIntosh led the first third of the 30-lapper, repealing repeated challenges from fourth-starting Tanner Thorson who slid past McIntosh on multiple occasions throughout the first nine laps, with McIntosh denying him the position each time, for the time being.
That is, until the 10th lap, when Thorson found grip on the bottom of turns one and two to pull even with McIntosh exiting turn two. Thorson out-drag raced McIntosh into the third corner, slid up and ripped away the position for the race lead. McIntosh brought the heat to in retaliation, sliding his way past from bottom to top in three and four, but Thorson dipped low and nipped McIntosh by a single strand of hair at the line before pulling away on the back straight as McIntosh hiccupped at the exit of two.
By the 14th circuit, a familiar name had popped up on the radar with Larson occupying 6th and now closing in on a gaggle in a close-knit battle for 3rd. Larson took matters into his own hands, splitting between Buddy Kofoid and fast qualifier Chris Windom midway down the back straightaway of the 5/16-mile dirt oval before utilizing the bottom to slide up in front of Zach Daum for third-place at the exit of turn four.
Moments later, on the 16th lap, 11th running Jason McDougal got upside down atop the banking in turns three and four, from which he emerged unscathed, but saw his race end.
All that did was help close the gap for Larson between his 3rd position and the leaders. A spectacular high/low pass of McIntosh for 2nd was negated by a yellow for a Kevin Thomas Jr. spin in the second turn on lap 17. But, on the following restart, it didn't long for Larson to resume his craftwork, submitting a 2-for-1 slide job in turn three that sent him past both McIntosh and Thorson for the lead momentarily as Thorson ducked back under to nip Larson at the line and retain the lead.
Larson fired another shot on the 21st lap, powering past Thorson on the bottom of turn three, only to slide up at the exit of four as Thorson shot back under to beat Larson at the stripe by a wheel.
With 9 to go, Thorson's car hopped off the bottom of turn two, opening a clear lane on the bottom for Larson to skate on by and snag the race lead. Thorson promptly came back at Larson in turn three on consecutive laps, trying to slide on by but was not able to get enough mustard on the fastball to slide in front of him, only to pull side-by-side before Larson scooched away.
A clear lane to victory for Larson was interrupted by the stopped car of 12th running Carson Macedo, who came to a halt on the back straight with smoke pouring out from under the hood. Under the caution, Thomas Meseraull, who had worked his way to 4th, pulled off and into the work area due to a flat right rear tire. That sequence of events orchestrated a final three-lap shootout where Larson was not to be denied.
"I felt like, when I slid Tanner and Cannon a couple times in three and four, I could actually make up ground, and they would only get to my inside. I felt like if I just ran that line the last few laps, I could carry enough speed to the exit that they wouldn't have a run to get to my back bumper inside down the front stretch."
From there, Larson closed out a masterpiece performance with a 1.285 second margin of victory over Thorson, McIntosh, Windom and Shane Golobic.
The victory was Larson's 8th of his Indiana Midget Week career, putting him just one victory shy of Bryan Clauson's all-time mark of nine wins with the series. Furthermore, the win was the 22nd of Larson's USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget career, equaling him with past series champions Bobby East and Shorty Templeman for 26th all-time.
"(I had) just a really great car once again," Larson said of his Tucker-Boat Motorsports/Pristine Auction - K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway. "(It's) cool to be the first to win three Indiana Midget Week races (in a week), and in a row too, that's special. Hopefully, there's many more the rest of the week. It's been a lot of fun."
For Thorson, it was his second runner-up finish to Larson in a three-night span after finishing 2nd at the Paragon opener. Ironically, it was he who started 15th and won at the Lincoln Park round of IMW in 2019. Thorson made no bones about his motivation in the upcoming final three rounds of Indiana Midget Week, to find an answer on how to stop Larson.
"It just sucks being a sitting duck," Thorson exclaimed regarding leading a restart. "That's what happened at Paragon (too). He's (Larson) the best there is. There's no two ways about it. To run second to him, I guess it's saying something, but damn, I want to win. I need to stop this guy."
Meanwhile, a turn four flip involving defending Indiana Midget Week champion Logan Seavey was the most serious accident of the night. Seavey climbed out of his crashed ride with assistance from the medical crew, but was later transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Ind. for observation.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 18, 2020 - Lincoln Park Speedway - Putnamville, Indiana - 5/16-Mile Dirt Oval - Indiana Midget Week
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Chris Windom, 89, Tucker/Boat-12.982, 2. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.177, 3. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.181, 4. Chase Johnson, 25, Malloy-13.208, 5. Carson Macedo, 21T, Tarlton-13.212, 6. Tanner Thorson, 19, Hayward-13.233, 7. Shane Golobic, 17w, Wood-13.234, 8. Rico Abreu, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.254, 9. Kyle Larson, 86, Tucker/Boat-13.257, 10. Jake Neuman, 3N, Neuman-13.274, 11. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-13.292, 12. Cannon McIntosh, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.302, 13. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 5, Petry-13.324, 14. Logan Seavey, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-13.344, 15. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-13.346, 16. Tanner Carrick, 35, Petry-13.393, 17. Justin Grant, 4A, RAMS-13.405, 18. Clinton Boyles, 98, RMS-13.430, 19. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.491, 20. Jason McDougal, 21KS, Reynolds-13.503, 21. Andrew Layser, 82, Tucker/Boat-13.504, 22. Brady Bacon, 4B, Klatt-13.505, 23. Maria Cofer, 57, Cofer-13.509, 24. Robert Dalby, 4, Dalby-13.518, 25. Daison Pursley, 9, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.522, 26. Sam Johnson, 72, Johnson-13.528, 27. Kyle Cummins, 3G, Yeley-13.552, 28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 17s, Clauson/Marshall-13.554, 29. Brody Roa, 7m, Iron Dome/Moonshine-13.572, 30. Cole Bodine, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.577, 31. Ryan Hall, 2, Bush-13.608, 32. Karter Sarff, 55K, Sparks-13.636, 33. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-13.659, 34. Terry Babb, 37, Felker-13.659, 35. Jadon Rogers, 4J, 4J-13.661, 36. Jake Swanson, 73T, Ford-13.704, 37. Ace McCarthy, 28, Dave Mac-13.708, 38. Dave Darland, 2ND, Harris-13.728, 39. Steve Buckwalter, 25B, Buckwalter-13.746, 40. Ronnie Gardner, 7R, Iron Dome/Moonshine-13.889, 41. Justin Dickerson, 21D, Dickerson-13.923, 42. Hayden Reinbold, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-13.968, 43. Noah Gass, 5T, Dave Mac-13.972, 44. Dylan Ito, 73, Ford-13.995, 45. Carson Garrett, 15, Garrett-14.375, 46. Oliver Akard, 41, Akard-14.416.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jason McDougal, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5. Carson Macedo, 6. Kyle Larson, 7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 8. Robert Dalby, 9. Ace McCarthy, 10. Carson Garrett. 2:16.860
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Clinton Boyles, 2. Buddy Kofoid, 3. Jake Neuman, 4. Tanner Thorson, 5. Brody Roa, 6. Andrew Layser, 7. Daison Pursley, 8. Dave Darland, 9. Ethan Mitchell, 10. Oliver Akard, 11. Logan Seavey, 12. Hayden Reinbold. NT
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Cole Bodine, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Zach Daum, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Shane Golobic, 7. Sam Johnson, 8. Jadon Rogers, 9. Noah Gass, 10. Ryan Hall, 11. Steve Buckwalter. 2:16.244
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Cannon McIntosh, 2. Kaylee Bryson, 3. Tanner Carrick, 4. Maria Cofer, 5. Rico Abreu, 6. Chase Johnson, 7. Kyle Cummins, 8. Jake Swanson, 9. Karter Sarff, 10. Dylan Ito, 11. Ronnie Gardner. 2:17.260
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Ethan Mitchell, 2. Jake Swanson, 3. Dave Darland, 4. Karter Sarff, 5. Ronnie Gardner, 6. Terry Babb, 7. Hayden Reinbold, 8. Noah Gass, 9. Dylan Ito, 10. Oliver Akard, 11. Justin Dickerson, 12. Carson Garrett, 13. Ace McCarthy. NT
INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Carson Macedo, 3. Kyle Larson, 4. Chase Johnson, 5. Shane Golobic, 6. Rico Abreu, 7. Andrew Layser, 8. Daison Pursley, 9. Kyle Cummins, 10. Brody Roa, 11. Jake Swanson, 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 13. Dave Darland, 14. Robert Dalby, 15. Sam Johnson, 16. Karter Sarff, 17. Ryan Hall, 18. Ethan Mitchell. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Larson (15), 2. Tanner Thorson (4), 3. Cannon McIntosh (1), 4. Chris Windom (6), 5. Shane Golobic (13), 6. Zach Daum (2), 7. Justin Grant (18), 8. Chase Johnson (11), 9. Buddy Kofoid (5), 10. Clinton Boyles (8), 11. Rico Abreu (14), 12. Tyler Courtney (10), 13. Tanner Carrick (17), 14. Jake Neuman (3), 15. Daison Pursley (23), 16. Kaylee Bryson (20), 17. Cole Bodine (19), 18. Kevin Thomas Jr. (16), 19. Maria Cofer (22), 20. Thomas Meseraull (7), 21. Carson Macedo (12), 22. Jason McDougal (9), 23. Brady Bacon (21). NT
**Logan Seavey flipped during the second heat and was transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for observation. Jason McDougal flipped on lap 16 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-9 Cannon McIntosh, Laps 10-21 Tanner Thorson, Laps 22-30 Kyle Larson.
NEW USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Tyler Courtney-525, 2-Chris Windom-522, 3-Tanner Thorson-511, 4-Buddy Kofoid-482, 5-Cannon McIntosh-412, 6-Tanner Carrick-400, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-399, 8-Justin Grant-356, 9-Cole Bodine-348, 10-Logan Seavey-342.
NEW INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Kyle Larson-227, 2-Tanner Thorson-217, 3-Buddy Kofoid-187, 4-Chris Windom-179, 5-Tyler Courtney-176, 6-Justin Grant-169, 7-Tanner Carrick-160, 8-Jake Neuman-138, 9-Zach Daum-134, 10-Rico Abreu-134.
NEW INDIANA MIDGET WEEK PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Kyle Larson-32, 2-Justin Grant-20, 3-Logan Seavey-14, 4-Chris Windom-13, 5-Shane Golobic-13, 6-Thomas Meseraull-10, 7-Zach Daum-6, 8-Tanner Thorson-5, 9-Jake Neuman-5, 10-Rico Abreu-5.
NEW OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-43, 2-Chris Windom-36, 3-Andrew Layser-31, 4-Tanner Thorson-28, 5-Justin Grant-27, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-25, 7-Daison Pursley-22, 8-Brady Bacon-20, 9-Mario Clouser-19, 10-Tyler Courtney-18.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 19, 2020 - Lincoln Park Speedway - Putnamville, Indiana - 5/16-Mile Dirt Oval - Indiana Midget Week
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Chris Windom
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Jason McDougal
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Clinton Boyles
AutoMeter Third Heat Winner: Thomas Meseraull
Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner: Cannon McIntosh
Indy Metal Finishing Semi Winner: Tyler Courtney
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Andrew Layser
KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart/Irvin King Hard Charger: Kyle Larson (15th to 1st)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Tanner Carrick
ProSource Hard Work: Maria Cofer