Kyle Larson’s win streak continues with an Outlaws sweep at Knoxville

Kyle Larson Knoxville Nationals
Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Kyle Larson scored his fifth sprint car victory in seven days, sweeping the World of Outlaws weekend at Knoxville Raceway.

Larson passed Brian Brown for the lead with 17 laps remaining Saturday night, cruising to his second consecutive NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series triumph at the historic dirt half-mile oval in Knoxville, Iowa. Defending series champion Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother-in-law, finished second, and Logan Schuchart was third.

It was the third victory in nine Outlaws feature races this year for Larson, who broke through for his first career win at Knoxville a night earlier.

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“Another good car, just sweet to have five in a row in a sprint car now feels pretty awesome and in front of a great crowd, too, makes it feel even better,” Larson, whose winnings totaled $20,000 for the weekend, told DirtVision in victory lane after his 11th career Outlaws victory. “I wish it was August already. I feel really good.

“It just means a lot to be out here having fun and challenging for wins every night.”

August traditionally is the month for the Knoxville Nationals, among the most prestigious races in sprint car racing. Larson nearly won the race three years ago but failed to qualify for the feature race last year.

But since focusing on racing Paul Silva’s sprint cars over the past five weeks while on an indefinite suspension from NASCAR for using a racial slur, the Elk Grove, California, native, could be emerging as a favorite to knock off Knoxville as he did the iconic Chili Bowl (which he finally won in January after years of trying).

“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to win,” Larson said of the Knoxville Nationals. “I’ve been close once, really close. Now with me getting to run more sprint car stuff, we’re showing we can get our car even better. We struggled here bad last year and were terrible. We’ve just gotten better and better, and now we’ve hit on something.

“Just proud of Paul and Doug and Jeremy and everybody who has worked on this car, especially this weekend and this week. It’s been a lot of hard work but looking forward to it and looking forward to a ton of more racing here coming up.”

Larson has been unbeatable since his June 7 victory in the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions at Park City, Kansas. He again won in the 410 sprint car series owned by Tony Stewart on June 8 in Lawton, Oklahoma and on June 10 in Mesquite, Texas.

He then continued his winning run the past two nights with the Outlaws.

With his 10th career Outlaws sprint car victory, Larson moved into a tie with Danny Smith and Joe Gaerte (the crew chief on Kyle Larson Racing’s No. 2 car for Carson Macedo, who finished fourth Friday) on the series’ all-time win list.

Larson started fourth but inherited the lead on Lap 10 when pole-sitter Daryn Pittman spun after making contact with David Gravel in lapped traffic.

Kyle Larson’s No. 57 won for the third time in seven starts this season on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car circuit (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).

After another caution flag, Larson briefly lost the lead to Brian Brown on a restart and slipped to third behind Sweet a lap later. But he quickly recovered on Lap 14, zooming past both into first. He comfortably led the final 17 laps.

“I took a glance at the big screen on that restart and seen (Brown) was right on me,” Larson said. “I knew he was going to run the top in (turns 3 and 4) and thought if I could get a good 3 and 4, he might not slide me. But I I didn’t get through there like I needed to, and he got the run and got by me. But I knew my car was really good, so I just stayed patient behind him.

“And then Brad, he got to my inside, and thankfully, I cleared him off of 2, otherwise that could have been the deciding factor of the race. But I was able to block him into 3 and nail the bottom for a couple of laps there and get back to Brown and slide him. From then on, my car just felt really, really good.”

Sweet, who won the Knoxville Nationals in 2018, stayed in striking distance of Larson over the final 10 laps.

“He did a really good job,” Sweet said of Larson in a DirtVision interview. “He’s driving really hard. He’s a great race car driver. He runs the car on the ragged edge and makes it work and gets by lapped cars. We’ve just got to pick up our game a little, but we had a great race car tonight, so a lot of great notes moving forward here.”

NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series will race a June 19-20 doubleheader at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana, before limited crowds. The races can be watched live online at www.DIRTVision.com, and the June 20 feature also will be on CBS Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET.

RESULTS

NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps) – 1. 57-Kyle Larson [4][$10,000]; 2. 49-Brad Sweet [2][$5,000]; 3. 1S-Logan Schuchart [8][$3,000]; 4. 2-Carson Macedo [13][$2,700]; 5. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [10][$2,500]; 6. 21-Brian Brown [6][$2,200]; 7. 2M-Kerry Madsen [12][$2,000]; 8. 24-Rico Abreu [5][$1,800]; 9. 18-Ian Madsen [11][$1,600]; 10. 39-Sammy Swindell [20][$1,450]; 11. 15-Donny Schatz [17][$1,300]; 12. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [16][$1,200]; 13. 17W-Shane Golobic [15][$1,100]; 14. 7-Tim Kaeding [18][$1,000]; 15. 39M-Anthony Macri [22][$950]; 16. 17A-Austin McCarl [23][$900]; 17. 7X-Justin Henderson [14][$850]; 18. 83-Daryn Pittman [1][$750]; 19. 41-David Gravel [21][$725]; 20. 14-Parker Price-Miller [3][$700]; 21. 1A-Jacob Allen [7][$700]; 22. 56N-Davey Heskin [19][$700]; 23. 55-Hunter Schuerenburg [24][$700]; 24. 83R-Lynton Jeffrey [9][$700]; Lap Leaders: Daryn Pittman 1-9; Kyle Larson 10, 14-30; Brian Brown 11-13; KSE Hard Charger Award: 39-Sammy Swindell[+10]

Qualifying Flight-A – 1. 2-Carson Macedo, 15.09; 2. 1A-Jacob Allen, 15.097; 3. 24-Rico Abreu, 15.26; 4. 55M-McKenna Haase, 15.31; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri, 15.392; 6. 18-Ian Madsen, 15.414; 7. 21-Brian Brown, 15.505; 8. 56N-Davey Heskin, 15.625; 9. 83R-Lynton Jeffrey, 15.648; 10. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 15.715; 11. 15-Donny Schatz, 15.721; 12. 20-A.J. Moeller, 15.747; 13. 5-Brent Marks, 15.763; 14. 71-Shane Stewart, 15.785; 15. 44S-Trey Starks, 15.79; 16. O9-Matt Juhl, 15.824; 17. 41-David Gravel, 15.85; 18. 55-Hunter Schuerenburg, 15.879; 19. 2KS-Chad Boespflug, 15.921; 20. 33M-Mason Daniel, 15.929; 21. 35-Zach Hampton, 15.943; 22. 9-Kasey Kahne, 15.962; 23. 17W-Shane Golobic, 16.005; 24. 6-Bill Rose, 16.027; 25. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 16.052; 26. 56-Joe Simbro, 16.075; 27. 14K-Tori Knutson, 17.114

Qualifying Flight-B – 1. 14-Parker Price-Miller, 15.679; 2. 57-Kyle Larson, 15.734; 3. 5X-Gio Scelzi, 15.871; 4. 49-Brad Sweet, 15.896; 5. 83-Daryn Pittman, 15.901; 6. 2M-Kerry Madsen, 15.925; 7. 7X-Justin Henderson, 15.96; 8. 39-Sammy Swindell, 15.986; 9. 2C-Wayne Johnson, 16.003; 10. 17A-Austin McCarl, 16.049; 11. R44-Jeff Swindell, 16.099; 12. 3-Jac Haudenschild, 16.128; 13. 4-Terry McCarl, 16.158; 14. 7BC-Tyler Courtney, 16.162; 15. 7-Tim Kaeding, 16.217; 16. 15M-Bobby Mincer, 16.217; 17. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 16.236; 18. 3P-Sawyer Phillips, 16.274; 19. 49J-Josh Schneiderman, 16.326; 20. 7TAZ-Tasker Phillips, 16.333; 21. 13-Mark Dobmeier, 16.357; 22. 27-Tucker Klaasmeyer, 16.381; 23. 7S-Jason Sides, 16.445; 24. 44-Chris Martin, 16.466; 25. 9W-Ryan Giles, 16.543; 26. 50-Mike Ayers, 17.228

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”