Winter Heat: NASCAR’s Kyle Larson hangs on for Night 2 win (VIDEO)

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A entertaining, three-way battle between NASCAR’s Kyle Larson and dirt-track veterans Danny Lasoski and Stevie Smith ended in favor of the Sprint Cup rookie of the year as he won the A-Main on Night 2 of the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown at Cocopah (Ariz.) Speedway.

Larson, whose journey to NASCAR’s top level began with success in the sprint car ranks, qualified third for the feature but had to fight hard to earn the win on Saturday night.

He first jumped to P1 shortly after the halfway point of the 30-lap race, when leader Aaron Reutzel’s top wing appeared to buckle and forced him to stop.

But former World of Outlaws champion Lasoski and Smith (both of whom are among the Top-10 on the Outlaws’ all-time wins list) would not let Larson get away. On the restart following Reutzel’s problem, Lasoski shot to the lead and Smith began to close in from behind.

Eventually, Smith took second from Lasoski and the fight was on between him and Larson. As they maneuvered through traffic, they swapped the lead multiple times around the 3/8-mile dirt oval.

With three to go, Larson took control but Smith remained in striking distance and on the white-flag lap, he pulled one last slide-job on the inside. But, riding the cushion, Larson was able to power past Smith in the final turn and beat him to the stripe.

“It ranks right up there mainly because I haven’t been in a sprint car in a long time,” Larson said in a track release. “To beat Danny Lasoski and Stevie Smith in a duel like that was pretty amazing. I think [the Showdown’s] a great event. It’s a great race track. The purse is really good. I think this event will grow each year.”

Said Smith: “We really wanted to win that race, but Kyle just, he didn’t give up and he earned it. We were just going back and forth and kinda just going where the other car wasn’t. When you get down to those last couple of laps and everybody is side by side, you’re just going where the opening is and just feeling your way around.”

The win was especially thrilling for Larson, who tweeted that Saturday may have been the most exciting race he’s ever been a part of:

Lasoski ended up in third position, while Joey Saldana and David Gravel completed the Top 5 on Saturday. Other notables included Friday winner Paul McMahan in ninth, and Larson’s fellow NASCAR star, Kasey Kahne, in 11th.

Saldana and Smith are now tied for the Winter Heat points lead after two nights of racing, with Lasoski three points back of them in third position. McMahan slipped to fourth in the standings but is still just 10 points out.

The five-night Winter Heat run will resume next Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. ET. Tuesday will be Larson’s final night at Cocopah, as he’ll be needed for next weekend’s Roar Before The Rolex 24 test sessions at Daytona International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race the No. 3 vs. IndyCar stars in Michigan iRacing

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).