PORT ROYAL, Pa. — For days, years and decades to come, sprint car followers in central Pennsylvania and beyond will talk about the mesmerizing onslaught put on by Kyle Larson during this year’s nine-day, nine-race Pennsylvania Speedweek grind.
They’ll talk about how he cut right through the teeth of the stiffest field in Pennsylvania Speedweek history, on the turf owned by the Pennsylvania Posse, and exploited his generational talents to rip through the highest stakes this series has ever seen.
They’ll talk about how he extended his tear of 17 straight podiums in their state, only to see it halted with an uncharacteristic sixth-place finish. And they’ll talk about how they teased him for starting his stay oh-for-five, and then how he rattled off four wins in five days to go from 43 points back to winning the series championship.
Larson wrapped up the 30th annual Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek Saturday night at Port Royal Speedway with another unassailable march to victory lane, this time as the winner of the 30-lap, $10,027-to-win Greg Hodnett Classic.
Larson led the final 20 laps on Saturday and beat Brent Marks by 1.556 seconds.
“A long week, but cool to win the championship and cool to get it with a win,” Larson said. “Pennsylvania is as tough as it gets as far as a local scene goes. It definitely means a lot to us, being a team that doesn’t race a whole bunch and being from California where the tracks are polar opposite. It’s special.”
Larson started third, but by lap three, he’d powered his way past Marks for second. In that moment, it became clear he and Paul Silva pieced together another indomitable machine.
On lap seven, leader Logan Wagner had caught the tail-end of the field and it didn’t take long for Larson to pounce. That’s when, on lap 10, Larson overtook Wagner as the two rolled into turn one, with Larson getting to his inside and sliding across his nose for the top spot.
From there he held off a mid-race charge from Marks and remained in control to close the week out in some fashion.
Larson joins Stevie Smith and Greg Hodnett as the only two drivers in Pennsylvania Speedweek history to win four or more races in one week.
Smith won five races in 2015, while Hodnett notched four in 2003.
“That’s special to me,” Larson said.
In what shaped to be an epic battle between the California invader and Danny Dietrich, destined to be decided in the concluding moments of this grueling week, Larson shifted into his otherworldly self and raced away with the entire thing.
At the beginning of the week, Larson’s deficit grew for the second night in a row at the hands of Dietrich, one of the Posse’s finest.
But once Dietrich swung the title fight his way after back-to-back wins at Lincoln on Saturday and Selinsgrove on Sunday, Larson activated kill mode.
“I wasn’t worried, but Danny put the pressure on me earlier in the week,” Larson said. “I knew I needed to win.”
And, boy, did pressure make diamonds. Starting Monday at Lincoln, he timed the rest of the week like this: first, second, first, first, third, third.
For the week, Larson only qualified outside the top three twice – sixth in the opener at Williams Grove and seventh at Selinsgrove – which happened to be two of the first three races.
Over the last six nights, Larson outscored Dietrich by 79 points in time trials alone, upstarting his title runaway that ended in a gap of 323.
While practically every team encountered some sort of mechanical hiccup along the way this week, Larson and Silva’s machinery had zero blemishes.
“That definitely says a lot and shows how strong a team is during Speedweek, when stuff doesn’t fall apart,” Larson said. “He’s very meticulous. He’s a perfectionist. It goes all the way down to the maintenance. He’s the best out there, no doubt.”
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