PLACERVILLE, Calif. — The Kyle Larson victory tour resumed on Friday night at Placerville Speedway.
After finishing sixth in his return to NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship competition on Thursday, Larson turned in a dominant drive to victory on night two of the Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100.
Larson started seventh in the 30-lap feature and passed Emerson Axsom for the lead with nine laps remaining. It was his second series victory in only three starts this season.
The triumph elevated Larson to the top of the overall Hangtown 100 standings as well, which the accumulation of will ultimately set the lineups for Saturday night‘s $20,000-to-win, 100-lap main event.
The combination of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion behind the wheel and his Kyle Larson Racing Silva chassis with a Speedway engine required some ironing out on night one, but on night two, the combination had already proven itself as a winner.
“Thanks to everybody who took the time to build this car,” Larson praised. “Nobody‘s got a car like it in the field, so it‘s neat to win out in our second race.”
Larson spoke of the ability to be confident enough in the car to drive it deeper into the corner than his competition, a characteristic that certainly aided in his rapid advancement throughout the second half of the race.
“I was finally able to carry speed on entry and have grip and be confident with it,” Larson explained. “That helped me kind of stay low in the center of three and four and when I could hit it right in one and two and exit low. My car got better and better throughout the race. I didn‘t want any cautions there at the end, but we were able to get good launches and kind of pull away a little bit.”
Series point leader Chris Windom was on a relatively easy street early in the going as he spurted out to a six-car-length lead from the outside of the front row.
However, lap three was the base of the first feature stoppage of the evening when Maria Cofer flipped in turn four and collected Caden Sarale.
On the sixth lap, Windom spun to a stop between turns one and two. He restarted 15th.
Bryant Wiedeman inherited the lead, but Axsom raced around him two laps after racing resumed.
By midway, Larson had moved his way into third, using a variety of attack angles, first up top above the cushion, then a slice toward the bottom, which he used to carve his way past Wiedeman for second on lap 17, slotting himself squarely between the now third-running Wiedeman and Axsom.
Lap-after-lap-after-lap, Larson swung to the top side of turns one and two, then made a beeline from the top of turn two to the bottom of turn three where he slid side-by-side with. However, time and time again, Axsom got enough of a drive in three and four to thwart Larson‘s exhaustive pursuit. Persistence paid off.
“It was difficult,” Larson acknowledged. “The track was so fast there. I got to third by a couple cars at the top of three and four. The momentum of the yellows, and when they fell, kind of helped me out. I found the line there in three and four right before one of the cautions and was able to really use that to my advantage with Emerson and Bryant running the top. That worked out, and I was thankful that Emerson didn‘t move down after I‘d showed my nose so many times.”
On the 22nd lap, Larson‘s constant hounding of Axsom paid dividends when he got the drive he so desired through turns three and four to slide up across and clear the chrome horn of Axsom at the exit of the fourth turn.
Cannon McIntosh flipped with two laps remaining bringing a two-lap dash to the checkered flag.
Larson raced away on the restart and beat Axsom to the checkered flag by .663 seconds.
Wiedeman, Jason McDougal and Budd Kofoid, who regained the point lead by 12 markers over Windom, rounded out the top five.
Axsom led a race-high 14 laps in his Petry Motorsports Spike-Toyota.
“This is a backup car and it took us a minute to get used to it, but I think we got it figured out after running second to Kyle. It‘s pretty cool, and I‘m kind of out there fan-girling when the 1K goes by, but not really,” Axsom said. “It‘s pretty cool because it‘s my dad and I working on this car. We got our speed back and now we‘ve got one more night.”
Wiedeman led the first two laps of his USAC National Midget career early in Friday‘s feature aboard his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Spike-Toyota.
“It was definitely a good run for our team,” Wiedeman noted. “I goofed up last night pretty bad on my part. I had a chance at Bakersfield for a podium but made a couple mistakes there at the end. I‘m glad to be on the podium, especially with a couple of the best USAC Midget drivers there are. I didn‘t really know where to run early on and let Axsom by me, then Larson got me on the restart. We‘re just going to keep clicking off these nights and keep working towards that first win.”
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