knoxville nationals

Kyle Larson Knoxville Nationals
Trent Gower/World of Outlaws

No Nationals this time, but Knoxville still remains special for Kyle Larson

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A different name but the same motivation for Kyle Larson, who is heading to Knoxville Raceway treating this weekend just as he would the prestigious Knoxville Nationals.

Because the annual event was canceled for COVID-19 concerns, it’s been rebranded as “The One and Only” for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, which will race for its richest purse of the season.

“If I won it, I would probably still consider myself a Nationals winner,” Larson said in a World of Outlaws release this week. “The format is a little different, but it’s still tough, if not tougher than the regular Nationals format. You’re racing against extremely competitive cars every single night instead of splitting the field in half. In ways, it could be tougher and mean more.”

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Larson certainly will enter the three-day competition as among the favorites to win a $50,000 first-place prize Saturday night at the vaunted short track in Iowa.

The event will include $10,000 feature races Thursday and Friday that will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Brownells Capitani Classic.

Larson is a two-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up, and he already has three victories at Knoxville this season, including a sweep of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car doubleheader June 12-13.

It’s been a sharp turnaround from last season when he failed to qualify while trying to win his first Knoxville Nationals main event, but it’s been on par for a summer tear in which Larson has been largely untouchable in dirt racing.

After wrecking his special No. 57 in South Dakota (and ending a record seven-race winning streak in the All Star Circuit of Champions), Paul Silva’s team built a new car that Larson took to a victory at Pevely, Missouri, last Saturday.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Larson said about a season with more than 30 victories in sprint cars and midgets. “I think maybe if I ever start struggling really bad, I can look back to how successful we’ve been.Kind of the hot streak we’ve been on for the past few months now.

“But I just take it week to week. Really race by race because we’ve been running so much. It’s been good. Just fun to be in contention every night.”