Kyle Larson fends off Brad Loyet, takes 2nd victory in POWRi National Midgets in Tom Knowles Memorial
Larson led all 30 laps in the Tom Knowles Memorial on the fast, high-banked 3/8th-mile track, but Loyet ran less than a foot behind him for most it. On the 24th lap, Loyet got his Spike-Esslinger nearly side-by-side with Larson’s Toyota-powered and –sponsored Bullet on the inside exiting Turn Two, but wasn’t able to complete the pass. On the next lap, Loyet was halfway alongside Larson on the outside in the same place when a caution came out.
“I could hear him coming, but I didn’t know he was there until he showed his nose off Turn Two,” Larson said. “He was definitely faster than we were. I had been trying to save my tires and I had to get up on the wheel.”
Loyet had started next to Larson on the front row. Larson, on the outside, took the lead on the start in Turn One.
“That was pretty much the race when Larson got out front at the start,” Loyet said. “We had a pretty good car and we probably gave up having a chance having to chase him and using up the tires. But I didn’t need the yellows (at the end), they cost us the race. We were faster than he was.
“I guess I made him earn it. Finishing second to a guy who is winning a lot of races isn’t too bad.”
Larson, of Elk Grove, Calif., held off Loyet on restarts on the 26th and 29th laps and finished three cars lengths ahead of the 23-year-old from Sunset Hills, Mo.
Larson’s first POWRi victory was on his 19th birthday on July 31 at U.S. 36 Raceway in Cameron, Mo. He’s been almost unbeatable since then, winning on dirt and pavement, in Midgets, Sprint Cars and USAC’s Silver Crown division. Larson has victories in non-winged Sprint Cars and with wings in the World of Outlaws’ prestigious national touring series. He’s won so often he can’t keep count.
“Since my birthday, I’ve won 10 or 11 races,” Larson said. “The last six weeks have been awesome. I’ve won in everything I’ve driven. It’s been really good.”
Chett Gehrke of Broken Arrow, Okla., finished third, his best finish since taking second in the third race of the season on April 30 at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland,Mo.
“I’ll take it,” Gehrke said. “The track was rubbered down and it was hard to pass. We’ve been having problems and just not getting any breaks for the most part.”
Nick Knepper of Belleville, Ill., finished fourth and Thomas Messeraul of San Jose, Calif., was fifth.
Loyet and Knepper are in a tight battle for the championship. It will be decided in the two POWRi Midget events remaining this season, Sept. 24 at Macon (Ill.) Speedway and Oct. 1 at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series feature results (30 laps): 1. Kyle Larson, 2. Brad Loyet, 3. Chett Gehrke, 4. Nick Knepper, 5. Thomas Messeraul, 6. Austin Brown, 7. Andrew Felker, 8. Dave Campfield Jr., 9. Daniel Robinson, 10. Donnie Beechler, 11. Butch Middleton, 12. Kyle Neal, 13. Eric Johnson, 14. Leyton Kendall, 15. Tyler Thomas, 16. Darren Kingston, 17. Brad Kuhn, 18. Jake Blackhurst, 19. Davey Ray, 20. Danny Stratton, 21. Derrick Myers. Note: Christopher Bell’s car failed post-race inspection and was disqualified from third place.