No matter what he climbs into, Kyle Larson keeps winning and on Wednesday, he added to his list of 2021 accomplishments with the Stoops Pursuit race prelude to Thursday night’s Driven2savelives BC39 at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the Stoops Pursuit race, if a driver was not moving forward, he was moving on.
The Stoops Pursuit is an innovative take on an Australian Chase Race in which cars are knocked out of competition, but instead of trimming cars from the back of the field, drivers are eliminated for simply losing positions on track. Divided into five lap increments, anyone with a net loss of position in each segment was waved off the track, so strategy came into play.
Passing his 15th and final car to take his first lead of the night with two laps remaining, Larson won his second consecutive Stoops Pursuit race. He took the checkers in 2019 after avoiding a flipping car and surviving a last-lap accident in Turn 4. Larson would go on to finish ninth behind Zeb Wise the following night.
“There’s a lot that happens in that race,” Larson said in a release. “It’s hard to keep track of where you’re running and where you need to finish and stuff like that and trying not to be too aggressive in those earlier rounds. (Justin) Grant was really good. I knew that if he just passed people, he was going to eliminate cars in front of us. It kind of worked out, and a couple mistakes in front of me allowed me to get the win.”
By now, the items Larson’s bucket list could fit into a child’s pail. Earlier this year Larson won his second Chili Bowl Nationals, his first Kings Royal and a major dirt late model race, the Prairie Dirt Classic.
Last week, Larson won his first Knoxville National a week after claiming victory at Watkins Glen International in the Cup Series.
Winning the Stoops Pursuit race gives him momentum to win his first Driven2savelives BC39.
Starting 16th, Larson timed his passes to insure he never lost position during a segment.
He was third behind Kyle Cummins, who led 18 laps, and Grant with two laps remaining, but for dirt track racers, the definition of pressure is hearing Larson’s engine closing in from behind. Grant tagged the wall and allowed Larson to slip by. Running hard to keep Larson at bay, Cummins looped into a lazy spin off Turn 4 just as the flagman reached for the white flag.
“It would’ve been tough to get by him with the line that he was running, but I put a couple good corners together there to track him down a little bit,” Larson said. “Then, he just over-rotated there.
“I got lucky, for sure.”
Jeff Gordon waved the green flag over the 25 lap event after making an exhibition run earlier in the night – the first time he climbed into a Midget in 30 years. And he enjoyed the race enough to stay near the flag stand, then climb back up and wave the checkers over Larson.
Larson races for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series, where Gordon will assume a larger leadership role beginning in 2022.
“This is a challenging racetrack,” Gordon said. “I have a whole different perspective for these drivers right now. That cushion is real.
“That’s not a cushion; that’s a wall. I wasn’t going to leave here if I didn’t put that right rear on the cushion.”
Earlier in the evening Gordon, the 1989 USAC National Midget Series rookie of the year, 1990 USAC National Midget Series champion and 1991 USAC Silver Crown Series champion, was inducted into the USAC Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
Tanner Thorson finished the Stoops Pursuit race second with the 2018 winner of the BC39, Brady Bacon in third.
Larson was second in his heat behind Grant. He chose to start eighth in Heat 5 to earn enough passing points to lock into Thursday night’s BC39, and if he scores the victory there, it will be his first in the three-year history of this event.
Chase Briscoe ran as high as second during the race before finishing eighth.
Other notables in the Stoops Pursuit race were JJ Yeley (seventh), Conor Daly (13th), Ryan Newman (21st) and Chase Elliott (26th).
Where it all started 💙 pic.twitter.com/bBhRwgEJMX
— Ingrid Vandebosch (@ivandebosch) August 19, 2021