Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Steve Kinser among those taking part in this week’s Winter Heat Showdown

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A pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars and the “King of the Outlaws” will serve as marquee names for this week’s inaugural running of the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown in Arizona.

Hendrick Motorsports veteran Kasey Kahne, reigning Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson, and World of Outlaws icon Steve Kinser will be among those racing at the Cocopah Speedway.

The five-night run begins tomorrow and Saturday, then resumes next Tuesday (Jan. 6), and then closes out next Friday and Saturday (Jan. 9-10).

“This is going to be a treat,” track director of operations Greg Burgess told the Yuma (Ariz.) Sun. “I mean, watching Kasey and Kyle in a sprint car…That is going to be special. That’s where they got their start; it’s what they love to do. And they are going up against the best of the best in Steve Kinser, not to mention a bunch of other drivers who are also top tier talent.”

Due to testing commitments with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Rolex 24 program at Daytona International Speedway, Larson will only be competing on three of the five days (tomorrow, Saturday, and next Tuesday). He’ll be racing for the sprint car squad he co-owns, Larson Marks Racing, with this little Plan B Sales/Target-backed beauty:

Not to be outdone is Kahne, who will carry the Great Clips colors into the desert for his own Kasey Kahne Racing outfit:

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2015 @GreatClips car ready for AZ #kkwinterheat

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Then there’s Steve Kinser, who finished full-time driving last season but will continue on a part-time schedule in 2015 for Tony Stewart Racing:

Sneak Peak: The King's 2015 ride. Debuting with the Winter Heat Series on Jan. 2,3,6,9,10 at Cocopah Speedway!!

Posted by Tony Stewart Racing on Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Speaking of Stewart, Burgess says that the three-time NASCAR champion is expected to be in attendance for the event. According to Burgess, Stewart first raised the possibility of a winter series at Cocopah to him back in the spring of 2013.

Stewart initially planned to be part of Winter Heat as a driver but that was before his involvement in the Aug. 9 sprint car accident in New York State that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

“We are not expecting to see Tony in a sprint car,” Burgess notes. “Yes, it’s an unfortunate circumstance, but everyone understands and respects Tony’s position, and we are moving forward with the show he wanted to see happen.

“This was his idea, and we are going to do our best to make it an event everyone will remember and can’t wait to get back to in 2016.”

Other top sprint car drivers set to race this week at Cocopah include Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Christopher Bell, reigning USAC midget series champ Rico Abreu, former Outlaws champ Danny Lasoski, and more.

‘One and Only’ Kyle Larson wins Outlaws opener at Knoxville Raceway

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Paul Arch/World of Outlaws
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The magic of dirt racing wins for Kyle Larson continued Thursday night at Knoxville Raceway, where he scored his third consecutive World of Outlaws victory at the famed half-mile track to open “The One and Only.”

After starting 10th, Larson sliced through the field and passed pole-sitter Logan Schuchart to lead the final eight laps in the No. 57 of car owner Paul Silva.

“Just an awesome race,” Larson said after earning $10,000 for his second consecutive NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory (after winning at Pevely, Missouri, last Saturday), his sixth Outlaws victory this season and 14th of his career.

LARSON ON NASCAR‘I’d love an opportunity if it came’

“I was able to track Logan down and hit the bottom really well in (turns) 1 and 2 and got a run on him.  It felt like I needed to take advantage of that before we got to heavier traffic and slid him and felt some contact. So, glad to see him not in the wall or anything like that. Just, hard work there. Heartbeat is up again.”

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson scored his sixth World of Outlaws victory Thursday (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).

It was the fourth Knoxville victory this year for Larson, who swept a World of Outlaws doubleheader weekend June 12-13 at the Sprint Car Captial of the World. He has more than 30 victories this year in sprint cars and midgets.

The One and Only continues Friday night with another $10,000 feature race that will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Brownells Capitani Classic, which pays $50,000 to win.

The event is the Outlaws’ richest purse of 2020 and subs in for the annual Knoxville Nationals, which was canceled for COVID-19 concerns. Larson, a two-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up, has said winning The One and Only would be on the same as Knoxville’s signature event because of its tough three-day format.

Through the first of three nights, Schuchart and Larson are tied for second in The One and Only points standings, which factor in qualifying, heats, dash and feature races. Aaron Reutzel, an All Star Circuit of Champions stalwart who finished third Thursday, leads with 430 points.

A crash in Thursday’s 25-lap feature eliminated past Outlaws champions Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz after Cory Eliason spun in front of Sweet in Turn 1 to start the wreck, which also collected Sweet’s teammate, James McFadden. Sweet and Schatz finished outside the top 20, which moved Schuchart into the points lead for the 2020 season.

Schuchart still seemed slightly miffed after finishing second to Larson.

“As the race went on, I felt like I wasn’t hitting my marks as good,” he said. “I would have liked to of had a little bit better of a race with Kyle there. I wish his slide job was a little better there, but he’s got a reputation to live up to. That’s where you let other people make the rules and maybe we’ll get him next time.”


RESULTS

NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 57-Kyle Larson [10]; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart [1]; 3. 87-Aaron Reutzel [2]; 4. 2-Carson Macedo [24]; 5. 41-David Gravel [6]; 6. 21-Brian Brown [7]; 7. 71-Spencer Bayston [3]; 8. 18-Gio Scelzi [15]; 9. 12N-Joey Saldana [5]; 10. 5-Ian Madsen [19]; 11. 17A-Austin McCarl [21]; 12. 1A-Jacob Allen [11]; 13. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [16]; 14. 7S-Jason Sides [20]; 15. 24-Rico Abreu [22]; 16. 4-Terry McCarl [13]; 17. 2KS-Brooke Tatnell [18]; 18. O9-Matt Juhl [23]; 19. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [25]; 20. 83-Daryn Pittman [9]; 21. 11K-Kraig Kinser [17]; 22. 15-Donny Schatz [8]; 23. 26-Cory Eliason [4]; 24. 49-Brad Sweet [12]; 25. 9-James McFadden [14]; Lap Leaders: Logan Schuchart 1-17, Kyle Larson 18-25; KSE Hard Charger Award: 2-Carson Macedo[+20]

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson celebrated with his family and team after the first night of The One and Only (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).