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.