Kyle Larson Eldora Kings Royal 37 July 17 Julia Johnson Photos 429
Kyle Larson en route to victory in the 37th Annual Kings Royal at Ohio's Eldora Speedway. (Julie Johnson Photo)

From Mess To Kings Royal Glory

ROSSBURG, Ohio — Surveying the mess he left his crew, Kyle Larson was stone-faced in the throes of a Kings Royal quest that had been shipwrecked on a sundrenched afternoon at Eldora Speedway.

He junked the only race machine Paul Silva and crew hauled the historic half-mile oval, when he overstepped his limits in Saturday afternoon’s Last Chance Showdown trying to make the 38th running of the mega event and right a week’s worth of struggles.

It started July 11, when a pit-road speeding penalty erased a top-five effort in the NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It spilled into his busy week with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series, first at Attica Raceway Park on Tuesday when he broke out of the feature and then in the Jokers Wild at Eldora on Wednesday when more issues relegated him to the B Main.

And when he went tumbling in another B Main trying to punch through a closing window along the wall to make the grand event on Saturday afternoon, how else was there to respond?

“It’s probably one of the worst weeks I’ve had in the states,” Larson said.

By midnight, the 37th Kings Royal trophy sat to his right on the table in the media center designated for the winner’s interview. 

He had emerged from adversity as King Kyle the XXXVII.


“I didn’t know if I’d get to race … I didn’t feel good anytime I hit the race track,” said Larson, who was slow all week until the green flag for Saturday night’s 40-lap feature, when he instantly raced from ninth into the top five.

If there’s anything to be learned from the blossoming story of Larson, it’s to never write him off. 

In a sense, Saturday came full circle for Larson, winning the Kings Royal that was supposed to be run last year, the year he won practically everything on dirt. He needed another lifeline from the man who’s given him a second chance in NASCAR, Rick Hendrick, to do it too.

On Thursday night, when persistent rain set the stage for two Kings Royals on Saturday, Larson sent his boss a text. He asked Hendrick if he could stay in Eldora to fulfill his Kings Royal quest through Saturday and use one of his planes to get to New Hampshire Speedway early Sunday morning for the Cup Series race. 

Once Larson raced from ninth to lead the final 21 laps and fulfill his quest, and once he finished reflecting on it all in his post-race interview, he swung open the media center door to a pool of fans shouting his name.

“I’ll sign at the trailer, all you guys,” he said as he pointed and veered left, donning the royal crown. “This way, let’s go!”

Larson basked in perhaps his most rewarding victory of them all.


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