Larson talks about his hectic 2012 and how tough it is to win at Kokomo.
Last Friday night, nearly 48 hours before Jeff Gordon pulled his best Cole Trickle imitation during the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Phoenix International Raceway, young Kyle Larson showed why he is considered by most in the business as being the next dominant driver.
In just his third career start aboard a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride, Larson was just a caution away from scoring yet another victory, which would add to his growing resume that is matched by a very select few, if any.
In the truck race, Larson seemed to have things under control until a caution in the last few laps closed the field and allowed Brian Scott to get a strong run and take home the win. Larson showed his versatility a night later in the Western Classic for the USAC Mopar National Midget Series at the Canyon Raceway Park, getting by Zach Daum on the sixth lap, then waltzing to a convincing 30-lap win.
Talking to Larson late in the summer at the Kokomo Speedway, the well-spoken youngster touched on a myriad of things, including his goal of setting a record for the most races competed in during a season.
“With all of the rainouts early on this season it kind of set my goal back a little,” he explained. “Originally my plan was to participate in 132 races over the summer. Now, it looks like it might be around 120 or so, but it sure has been tough.
“There have been many times that I have raced in California then as soon as the race was over, I would get cleaned up and head to the airport to catch a red-eye flight back to Indianapolis. Once I got there, someone from my team would pick me up then we would load up the sprint car and head here to Kokomo.”
Larson admitted that he has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the local oval.
“Without a doubt, Kokomo Speedway has the toughest weekly program of any track in the country,” he stated. “The talent that comes to that track week in and week out is tough to top. The thing is, any driver can win there on any given night. I know that of all the tracks I have raced at, running around the top at Kokomo is probably the most intimidating of them all, especially in turns one and two. The cushion is right up on the fence and you have to talk yourself into running up there but you about have to do it because that is the fastest way around.”
“That’s the thing that was so special when I won there early in the season,” he said. “I’ve won a lot of big races at a lot of the bigger tracks across the country, but to win a weekly show at Kokomo will always stick out in my mind as one of the biggest highlights of my racing career.”
Larson had a year in 2011 which most could only dream about and even with that, it would seem to be a bit far-fetched. Last year alone he scored wins in USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series competition as well as the Mopar National Midget Series and the Traxxas Silver Crown Series. If that wasn’t enough he also picked up a win aboard a winged World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series as well as an ASCS Series event. To put the icing on the cake, at the annual running of the 4-Crown Nationals at the Eldora Speedway, he simply stole the show, scoring wins in all three of USAC’s portion of the 4-Crown, nearly matching Jack Hewitt’s feat when he won everything in one night, including the U.M.P. Modified feature.
His non-wing sprint car career looks to be on hold now, however. At the 2012 version of the 4-Crown, while competing in the sprint car main event, he was involved in one of the more scary looking crashes seen at the track in years. He jumped the turn two cushion in his Hoffman Racing No. 69, and flipped directly into the path of another car which literally destroyed both machines. Although he walked away under his own power, Chip Ganassi, who has signed him to a developmental contract, pretty much let it be known that he no longer wanted his prized up-and-coming star wrestling around in a sprint car without a wing.
Although that is bad news for us traditional sprint car fans, Larson probably cares less than us fans do since he noted that winged sprint cars are really his passion anyway.
“If I had to choose,” he said while sitting on a right rear tire in the pits at Kokomo prior to the finale of the Sprint Car Smackdown. “I would rather race the winged cars. They are really a lot of fun to drive and they are just so fast. Ideally, I would like the opportunity to chase the entire World of Outlaw circuit and compete in all the races on their schedule. They race a few times each week and that’s exactly what I would like to do. But, I have some races lined up in the truck series and the K&N Series [NASCAR K&N East Series, which he clinched the title in a couple weeks back] so I’m just going to see what happens and go from there.”
Having proved that he can win in anything he climbs aboard, it’s just a matter of time before we’ll be pulling for him each Sunday afternoon with the likes of Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.
Just a follow up on what Ken de la Bastide noted in his column this week on the penalty handed down to Jeff Gordon after he intentionally blasted Clint Bowyer with two laps to go at Phoenix, thus ruining any hopes that Bowyer may have had of leap-frogging Brad Keselowlski and Jimmie Johnson.
NASCAR takes away 25 points from Gordon. So what?
He had no chance of competing for the title this year anyway and his temper tantrum nearly collected Keselowski as well, which would have all but assured Johnson of a sixth title. If NASCAR truly wanted to make a statement, deduct 50 points at least and apply the loss to the start of the 2013 season at the Daytona 500. That would make any driver think twice about doing something like Gordon did Sunday.
The thing I noticed while watching numerous replays of the incident in question was that Gordon looked to crash himself. The initial contact with Bowyer was minimal, something that you see just about every lap somewhere on the track. When Gordon crashed though was when he was trying to clip Bowyer’s right rear quarter panel and failed which resulted in him getting sideways and into the wall.
Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Gordon’s, I always respected his ability. Now though, I hold him only slightly above Kurt Busch on my list of NASCAR drivers. As for NASCAR, although publicly they are saying and doing all the politically correct things, it’s a safe bet that the brass is pinching themselves behind closed doors realizing that chances are pretty good that television ratings will definitely go up for this Sunday’s final race of the season.
Brett Bowman may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the sports department.
Larson talks about his hectic 2012 and how tough it is to win at Kokomo.
10 area athletes advance to boys track state finals
Austin Roark’s first season as the head boys track and field coach at Eastern High School just keeps getting better and better.
A week after guiding the Comets to their first sectional title since 1998, Roark will join six of his athletes at next weekend’s IHSAA state finals after advancing out of Thursday’s Kokomo Regional at Walter Cross Field.
Eastern dominates Taylor in softball
GREENTOWN — The third time turned out not to be the charm for the Taylor softball squad as Eastern improved to 3-0 on the season over its backyard rival Wednesday night, ousting the Titans from the Class 2A Eastern Sectional 15-0 in five innings.
Barnes sets Taylor's career hits record
Taylor baseball standout Logan Barnes made his final game at George Phares Field one to remember.
Barnes pitched four solid innings to lead Taylor past Monroe Central 9-3 Tuesday. In addition, he went 2 for 3 at the plate, pushing his career hits total to a school-record 142.
Kats drop heartbreaker
When the postseason arrives, emotions surge like a roller-coaster. One minute, it’s a long uphill, then a wild series of events offer a barrage of frights and thrills. And then, for one team, the ride ends and there aren’t any more tickets for another go around.
After two days of chills and thrills, Kokomo’s softball team ran out of tickets Tuesday night in the Class 4A Harrison Sectional. The Kats dropped a 4-3 decision to Harrison in eight innings, giving up a run in the top of the extra frame, and having a runner tagged out at home in the bottom of the frame.
“It was a great game,” Harrison coach Dick Mitchell said. “It’s always nerve-wracking to coach in one of them, but both teams played their hearts out. Nobody deserved to lose that game, but unfortunately somebody does.”
Comets turn heads at track regional
Heading into Tuesday’s IHSAA girls track and field regional at Fort Wayne Northrop High School’s Spuller Stadium, event workers alike weren’t sure of Eastern High School’s location.
After the dust settled, they may feel compelled to get a map out and find out where Greentown is located.
Led by seniors Sarah Wagner, Brittany Neeley and Bethany Neeley, the Comets qualified for the state finals in six separate events to finish fourth as a team with 55.5 points, behind host and champion Northrop (78), Bellmont (68) and Carroll (Allen) 66.
GASKINS: Hibbert’s block was thing of beauty
For the better part of the NBA season, ESPN devoted all kinds of time on SportsCenter episodes to replays of two dunks. Anyone who watches any ESPN at all surely knows the two to which I’m referring: 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers posterizing 6-3 Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons, and 6-8 LeBron James of the Miami Heat hammering home a dunk over 6-2 Jason Terry of the Boston Celtics.
Day after day, ESPN commentators lavished endless praise, which quickly grew tiresome. The dunks were strong, but Jordan and James were much taller and heavier than Knight and Terry and the dunkers also caught perfect alley-oop passes with the defenders in poor positions to defend. Still, ESPN commentators loved these plays.
I kept wondering if a great defensive play would receive the same kind of love.
Coons, Walker, Glassburn reach Victory Lane
When the dust settled Sunday evening at the Kokomo Speedway, a pair of drivers who have visited Victory Lane in the past at the local oval found themselves there once again while a talented up-and-comer hit the hallowed ground for the first time.
Jerry Coons Jr. had his way in the sprint car feature and Craig Walker seemed to get faster as the laps wound down to win the Street Stock main event, however Kokomo High School sophomore Kory Glassburn had to scratch and fight before scoring the first feature win of his career in the Thunder Car A-main.
Field is set for Indianapolis 500
After being bumped from the starting field while sitting on the qualifying line on pole day, Josef Newgarden turned the fastest time on bump day, assuring himself a spot in the Indianapolis 500.
The field of 33 cars will have one final opportunity to practice on Friday before next Sunday’s 97th running of the 500.
One year ago the Sarah Fisher Racing Team withdrew Newgarden’s entry on the first day of qualifying and had to qualify on bump day. This year the team decided not to make another qualifying run and got bumped.
Athlete of the week
Cole led the small-school Comets to the Kokomo Sectional title, their first title since 1998.
Kats regain tennis throne
At 10:51 a.m. Saturday morning, the bulk of Kokomo’s girls tennis team sprinted from the viewing hill to the east entrance of the tennis courts to mob No. 1 singles player Morgan Mohr as she came off the court following her 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Eastern’s Courtney Clark.
The No. 3 singles match was still raging, but the team match was already won. The Wildkats had reconquered the throne from two-time defending champion Eastern and were once again champions of the Kokomo Sectional.
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