CHICO, Calif. — The Gold Cup Race of Champions is back, and back in a big way.
On Thursday, Silver Dollar Speedway kicked off the 68th edition of the iconic event with new promoters bringing back old traditions and injecting a much-needed boost as they return to crown jewel status with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.
The first of two preliminary programs delivered a thrilling 30-lap feature. Three different drivers combined to offer five official lead changes throughout a breathtaking race on the choppy, tricky and treacherous quarter-mile.
Ultimately, Kyle Larson chalked up the win in his one and only night at Gold Cup this week. He won’t be back for Saturday’s finale with NASCAR obligations taking precedent, but he had the time for Thursday’s opener and made the most of it; returning to victory lane at the same place where his first World of Outlaws win came in 2011.
Leading the final six laps, the 30-year-old was forced to fight off the new kid on the block. At 16 years old, Ryan Timms has become arguably the hottest topic in sprint car racing this year. He nearly won his second World of Outlaws race in August and he almost beat Kyle Larson on Thursday at his own game.
The duo exchanged the lead several times through the middle stages, but it was the final restart on lap 24 that decided it all.
Timms had survived an attack before, but this time Larson chucked the Kevin Kozlwoski-owned No. 57 through turns one and two to clear the Randy Timms-owned No. 5t and drove off to a 1.983-second victory.
“I knew my only opportunity was going to come if Ryan didn’t get a great launch on the restart,” Larson admitted. “I knew that I would have to slide across quicker that second time, and thankfully it stuck. This place was awesome tonight, it was treacherous. It made sliders really sketchy and you’d be off the throttle sliding across super fast. It felt great when I hit it right, but it was tricky every single corner.
“He is really, really good,” Larson added about Timms. “I know most of these young kids nowadays can rip a cushion like that. I saw him on the front row of the lineup and figured he would be a tough guy to beat tonight. It was crazy coming through the pack. I think if he hit those restarts a little better it was his to win.”
A second-place finish gives Ryan Timms already two runner-up finishes in World of Outlaws competition through three weeks against The Greatest Show on Dirt. He’s locked in for Saturday’s $25,000-to-win finale of the Gold Cup Race of Champions, where a victory would make him the youngest winner in the Series’ storied 45-year history.
“I really thought when he slid me and I got around him that it was my break,” Timms said. “It seemed like it was just better to be in second than first in some way tonight, so you could attack differently. It stings, but losing to him isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s a lot better than I expected, really.”
Closing out the podium after a ferocious drive from 11th to third was James McFadden in the Roth Motorsports No. 83.
“Even by yourself you had your hands full tonight, “McFadden said. “It was so treacherous up there. I wish we didn’t get those restarts because I felt like I was way better all bunched up in traffic. We sucked early and dug ourselves a hole, but these guys worked really hard and got this Roth No. 83 back where it belongs.”
Brad Sweet, who finished fourth and collected 386 points on the night, is the unofficial high point man with brother-in-law Kyle Larson (395) not returned for Saturday. Sweet will have a chance at the pole position on Saturday as he continues to pursue his first-career title at the Gold Cup.
Kalib Henry, in his sixth-ever World of Outlaws Feature, led a lap while mixing it up with Timms and Larson after he started on the pole. He finished fifth.
Feature (30 Laps) – 1. 57-Kyle Larson [$10,000]; 2. 5T-Ryan Timms [$6,000]; 3. 83-James McFadden [$3,500]; 4. 49-Brad Sweet [$2,800]; 5. 17M-Kalib Henry [$2,500]; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,300]; 7. 92-Andy Forsberg [$2,200]; 8. 83V-Sean Becker [$2,100]; 9. 21-Mitchell Faccinto [$2,050]; 10. 83T-Tanner Carrick [$2,000]; 11. 29-Willie Croft [$1,600]; 12. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$1,400]; 13. 14-Corey Day [$1,200]; 14. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$1,100]; 15. 53-Jessie Attard [$1,050]; 16. 2K-Kaleb Montgomery [$1,000]; 17. 33-Dylan Bloomfield [$1,000]; 18. 12J-John Clark [$1,000]; 19. 20G-Noah Gass [$1,000]; 20. 5V-Landon Brooks [$1,000]; 21. 55D-Dawson Hammes [$1,000]; 22. 18T-Tanner Holmes [$1,000]; 23. 19-Colby Thornhill [$1,000]; 24. 2X-Justin Sanders [$1,000]