Kyle Larson estimated that it had been the longest he’d gone without winning a midget race in his illustrious career.
As it turned out, the ingredients that made up his last victory just two days shy of two years ago turned out to be the same mix that led him to victory lane during Friday night’s Hangtown 100 opener at California’s Placerville Speedway.
Although Larson’s time spent behind the wheel of a midget is fewer and far between these days with all his other obligations, this was one he had long coveted, and of course, winning never becomes old hat, even for Larson.
“It was a lot of fun and it’s cool to get back into victory lane in a midget,” Larson stated. “Not that I race them a lot, but it’s been a couple years since I’ve won a midget race. I’ve run 10 or 12 midget races over the last couple of years and that’s probably the longest I’ve gone without winning a midget race.”
In fact, the most recent USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship dub for the Elk Grove, Calif. native came at the very same racetrack and in the very same racecar on this very same weekend in 2021, just less than two weeks after wrapping up that year’s NASCAR Cup Series title.
This time around, utilizing a decade-old Eagle chassis, Larson seemed to be in a class of his own as he raced from his sixth starting position and into the lead just six laps into the feature, then proceeded to glide his way through heavy traffic throughout the duration to win a non-stop, green-to-checker 30-lap main event that ran to completion in a staggering six minutes and 14.69 seconds in his Kyle Larson Racing/HendrickCars.com – FloRacing/Eagle.
“It was fun to go 30 laps non-stop,” Larson acknowledged. “That was pretty intense from my seat. Traffic was crazy and I was watching the board and trying to peek back when I could. I felt like I was putting together good laps. You just don’t know for sure when you get stuck like that.”
Larson’s win was the 26th of his USAC National Midget career, moving him past Darren Hagen, Parnelli Jones and Dave Strickland for sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list.
With that said, it took quite an effort just to even get to the point of celebrating his latest triumphant performance. Three separate rain delays disrupted the evening, and to boot, another visit by Mother Nature arrived not too long after the completion of the feature, making for a juiced up 1/4-mile dirt oval.
The driver who has been the most unstoppable on the USAC National Midget circuit all year long is series point leader Logan Seavey who earned the pole and led the initial five laps of the feature ahead of fellow front row starter Taylor Reimer.
A bit further back, Larson slung his ride to the outside and kept his wheel affixed there as he paraded around the outside of Justin Grant, Gavin Miller and Buddy Kofoid in rapid-fire succession. Encountering daylight on the bottom, Larson took the opportunity to drive underneath Taylor Reimer at the exit of turn four on lap five to take second.
All it took was one more lap for Larson to sail around the outside of Seavey in turn two for the lead, and from there, the war was focused on lapped traffic as Larson set a torrid pace, building a full straightaway lead by the halfway point as he powered around the back half of the field at will, a tone he set from the start of the night when he set quick time in qualifying.
“I knew my car was going to be good and I felt really good in the heat race too,” Larson acknowledged. “I just needed to clean some things up. The track was in-between, and we didn’t know what it was going to do with all the rain coming and going and tilling it and all that. When they reworked it before the semi, I could tell that the bottom wasn’t quite that good early, so I was just going to commit to the top and try and get some momentum built. The car just got through the holes well compared to everybody else. That allowed me to move around.”
Larson’s execution was just as perfect in the second half of the race as it was in the first, slicing through the chunky cushion with precision, which gave him the confidence he needed to enter with speed up there. Seemingly, every driver in front of him throughout the race had to enter slower and straighter than he did. Meanwhile, he could just bury it into the cushion and harbored no worries about biking or flipping. When you have a car you’re confident in, you can do a lot with it regardless of the lane, and Larson had exactly what he needed.
As he caught traffic, he was able to get by the first handful with relative ease because they were all running the bottom. Once he got into the thick of the back markers, the task became as tough as two-dollar steak due to this portion of the field running everywhere he wanted to be and making it more difficult to maintain that momentum.
Nonetheless, it didn’t deter Larson much, if at all, as he finished off his trouncing of the 24-car field by a 2.564 second margin over Logan Seavey, Buddy Kofoid and Jade Avedisian with Taylor Reimer rounding out the top-five.
Despite Larson’s victory in the same chassis a couple years prior, by and large, the car was a handful and didn’t produce the type of results night-in and night-out that they expected at the time. In 2023, it’s “so far, so good” with the car handling to perfection and ably maneuvering around every encounter on his way to victory with a crew led by ace wrench Paul Silva.
“We struggled with this thing a couple of years ago when we ran the west coast swing, the Chili Bowl and all that,” Larson recalled. “My car felt really good there; I could get through the holes really good, and I felt like we improved on it each time we hit the racetrack. It feels special after struggling with this thing a couple of years ago to come out and be that much better than the field. Logan’s been dominating the season, and I was able to pass him for the lead. Buddy, Grant, Reimer, everybody up there, they’re really good midget racers. To come in and win the first night out, it feels really great.”
The top-four finishers all represented the state of California at their home state track. Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) led the opening five laps and finished as the runner-up in his Abacus Racing/Honest Abe Roofing – Indy Custom Stone – Laura Kopetsky Tri-Ax/Spike/Stanton SR-11x. The USAC National Midget point leader is now one step closer to clinching the title. And get this. In his past 19 series starts, he’s accumulated 19 top-tens and 18 top-five finishes.
Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) took a third-place finish in his Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – TRD – Curb Records/Lynk/Speedway Toyota. While the result did end his two-race winning streak with the USAC National Midgets at Placerville, he did continue another run. He’s now finished on the podium in his last five Hangtown 100 event starts dating back to 2021.
In such a quick race that seemingly ended in just a few blinks of an eye, it was imperative for any driver to be up on the wheel from the get-go. In that slim time frame, Jade Avedisian (Clovis, Calif.) was the biggest mover, advancing from 12th to finish fourth in her Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Peelz Citrus – Fowler Packing Co./Lynk/Speedway Toyota.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 17, 2023 – Placerville Speedway – Placerville, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Hangtown 100
FIRST HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.212; 2. Logan Seavey, 57, Abacus-12.234; 3. Chase Johnson, 31, Beilman-12.293; 4. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, Engler-12.300; 5. Mitchel Moles, 19T, Reinbold/Underwood-12.308; 6. Emerson Axsom, 68, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.453; 7. Mariah Ede, 71E, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.495; 8. Jake Andreotti, 00, Davis-12.691; 9. Caden Sarale, 14T, Graunstadt/Streeter-12.731.
SECOND HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. Buddy Kofoid, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.296; 2. Corey Day, 4, Kahne-12.388; 3. Braden Chiaramonte, 14J, Graunstadt/Streeter-12.407; 4. Daison Pursley, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-12.425; 5. Jade Avedisian, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.469; 6. Cannon McIntosh, 86, CBI-12.945; 7. Shannon McQueen, 7, McQueen-13.148; 8. Blake Bower, 9, Boscacci-13.275; 9. Kyle Beilman, 31B, Beilman-13.554.
THIRD HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. Justin Grant, 2, RMS-12.198; 2. Jacob Denney, 25, Malloy-12.262; 3. Gavin Miller, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.299; 4. Carson Macedo, 99AU, Dyson-12.406; 5. David Gasper, 73, Ford-12.438; 6. Ryan Timms, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.552; 7. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.584; 8. Bryant Wiedeman, 81, CBI-12.684; 9. Landon Brooks, 57w, Wood-12.753.
FOURTH HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. Kyle Larson, 1K, Larson-12.107; 2. Spencer Bayston, 9AU, Dyson-12.158; 3. Tanner Carrick, 98, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.172; 4. Jesse Love, 84, CBI-12.187; 5. Chris Windom, 89, CBI-12.218; 6. Tanner Thorson, 88, Thorson-12.299; 7. Brody Fuson, 51, Carlile-12.485; 8. Shane Golobic, 17w, Wood-12.568; 9. Chance Crum, 68w, Six8-12.679.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, winner + top-4 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom (T), 2. Mitchel Moles (T), 3. Thomas Meseraull (T), 4. Jake Andreotti, 5. Logan Seavey (T), 6. Taylor Reimer (T), 7. Chase Johnson, 8. Mariah Ede, 9. Caden Sarale. 2:06.71
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, winner + top-4 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Cannon McIntosh (T), 2. Jade Avedisian (T), 3. Blake Bower, 4. Daison Pursley (T), 5. Buddy Kofoid (T), 6. Braden Chiaramonte, 7. Corey Day (T), 8. Shannon McQueen, 9. Kyle Beilman. NT
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, winner + top-4 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Jacob Denney (T), 2. Ryan Timms (T), 3. Gavin Miller (T), 4. Hayden Reinbold (T), 5. Justin Grant (T), 6. Landon Brooks, 7. Bryant Wiedeman, 8. Carson Macedo, 9. David Gasper. NT
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, winner + top-4 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Shane Golobic (T), 2. Tanner Carrick (T), 3. Tanner Thorson (T), 4. Brody Fuson, 5. Kyle Larson (T), 6. Spencer Bayston (T), 7. Jesse Love, 8. Chance Crum, 9. Chris Windom. 2:03.09
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Braden Chiaramonte, 2. Brody Fuson, 3. Jake Andreotti, 4. Carson Macedo, 5. Chase Johnson, 6. Chris Windom, 7. Bryant Wiedeman, 8. Jesse Love, 9. Mariah Ede, 10. Chance Crum, 11. Landon Brooks, 12. David Gasper, 13. Shannon McQueen, 14. Kyle Beilman, 15. Caden Sarale, 16. Blake Bower. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Larson (6), 2. Logan Seavey (1), 3. Buddy Kofoid (4), 4. Jade Avedisian (12), 5. Taylor Reimer (2), 6. Gavin Miller (3), 7. Jacob Denney (8), 8. Justin Grant (5), 9. Tanner Carrick (7), 10. Spencer Bayston (14), 11. Shane Golobic (18), 12. Cannon McIntosh (13), 13. Ryan Timms (16), 14. Emerson Axsom (11), 15. Mitchel Moles (10), 16. Tanner Thorson (17), 17. Carson Macedo (23), 18. Brody Fuson (24), 19. Daison Pursley (15), 20. Jake Andreotti (22), 21. Corey Day (21), 22. Braden Chiaramonte (20), 23. Hayden Reinbold (19), 24. Thomas Meseraull (9). 6:14.69
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-5 Logan Seavey, Laps 6-30 Kyle Larson.
**Blake Bower flipped during the semi.
(T) represents a heat race transfer
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-1539, 2-Justin Grant-1309, 3-Bryant Wiedeman-1255, 4-Daison Pursley-1235, 5-Ryan Timms-1228, 6-Jade Avedisian-1212, 7-Jacob Denney-1163, 8-Gavin Miller-1101, 9-Cannon McIntosh-1072, 10-Taylor Reimer-1031.
OVERALL USAC NATIONAL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-188, 2-Logan Seavey-152, 3-Justin Grant-120, 4-Emerson Axsom-117, 5-Shane Cottle-106, 6-Matt Westfall-105, 7-Robert Ballou-100, 8-Chase Stockon-95, 9-Brady Bacon-92, 10-Mitchel Moles-91.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: November 18, 2023 – Placerville Speedway – Placerville, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Hangtown 100
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Cannon McIntosh (12.052)
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Kyle Larson (12.107)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Emerson Axsom
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Cannon McIntosh
T.J. Forged Third Heat Winner: Jacob Denney
Car IQ Fourth Heat Winner: Shane Golobic
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Braden Chiaramonte
Green APU Green Flag Challenge First Lap Leader: Logan Seavey
Hard Charger: Jade Avedisian (12th to 4th)
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