Dsc 0101
Kyle Larson won in his return home Friday at Placerville Speedway. (Joe Shivak Photo)

Kyle Larson’s Celebrated Return Home

PLACERVILLE, Calif. – Back in 2009, Gary Thomas received a text while announcing a weekly race program at Placerville Speedway.

It was from blossoming racer Kyle Larson who happened to be making his pavement sprint car debut that evening elsewhere in the state.

“The first time he got on pavement in a sprint car at Roseville, he was texting me at Watsonville for updates and then up here [at Placerville] we had a Civil War show, and he wanted updates from this race,” Thomas said of the interaction. “He was more interested in the dirt stuff. It’s always going to be that way.”

Fast forward to 2021, and it’s only fitting 11 days after winning the NASCAR Cup Series championship Larson returned to Placerville Speedway to pilot a midget in this past weekend’s Hangtown 100.

Larson won Friday’s preliminary feature for his 31st win of the year across four disciplines. He also finished sixth and 18th on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

“A lot of first times for me here,” Larson said Thursday. “Ran my first sprint car race here and won my first sprint car race here.”

Larson’s care for the sport began at a young age and was influenced by his parents, Mike and Janet. The Larson family went to races at West Coast dirt-tracks where Kyle eventually honed his skills. Countless photos circulate social media to this day of a young Larson smiling next to the sprint car stars he admired.

Once Larson began racing sprint cars, he built a fan base from his home state that has followed him to the pinnacle of American motorsports.

“There’s a lot of drivers that make it to NASCAR, and they don’t have that following that Kyle has,” Thomas said. “His parents were dirt track fans. They went to sprint car and midget races. Kyle, as a kid, went to sprint car and midget races and continues to be a fan.”

Though Larson cut his teeth on many of the Golden State’s bullrings, the El Dorado County facility occupies a special place in his heart.

The quarter-mile clay oval in the Sierra Nevada foothills is just an hour drive from his hometown, Elk Grove, Calif.

“It’s neat to come back and run a midget,” Larson said.

The Hangtown 100 was the ideal event for Larson to continue his victory tour since winning the Cup title.

Though just two editions old, the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget event has enriched the California calendar.

Over the weekend, Larson debuted a new-look midget and stayed long after the races for fans that have watched him use every inch of the race track to fight for wins.

“The first night here [Placerville] he actually got in a bit of a fender bender with another driver,” Thomas said through a laugh. “Well, after a handful of races, it was like this kid is the real deal.”

Larson’s Hangtown 100 experience was up and down, but his legions of fans remained constant.

“We end the season with a lot of midget racing out west,” Larson said. “So, I can do that and kind of roll into the Chili Bowl, so I kind of knock it all out in a month and a half period or so.”

Larson also gets to work alongside his sprint car crew chief and fellow Californian, Paul Silva, as the duo continue their joint midget endeavor.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Larson said. “I get to race with Paul a lot in the sprint car, but it just works out really nice that his shop is here in Sacramento, and he can build the cars. … Paul builds the nicest stuff out there. This car here is pretty much all his ideas.”

Today Larson will enjoy another moment with his fans in a homecoming parade through Elk Grove. 

Larson then returns to the dirt Tuesday at Merced Speedway to wheel both a midget and a sprint car for two nights. Then he plans to travel to Ventura Raceway this weekend in search of his fourth Turkey Night Grand Prix triumph. 

“Kyle enjoys NASCAR like we all do,” Thomas said. “But his heart is on the dirt, and I think that’s why people flock to him.”

error: Content is protected !!