After 13 tries, Kyle Larson has won the biggest race of his career
The NASCAR Cup Series season is set to begin mid-February with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Just weeks ahead of that event, Kyle Larson has already won his superbowl race.
The NASCAR race in Daytona is seen by millions. The tiny bullring dirt track in Tulsa, Oklahoma has a crowd attendance of around 15,000 and a digital subscription broadcast.
In his 13th attempt at the Chili Bowl Nationals, 27-year-old Kyle Larson parked it in victory lane. He battled Christopher Bell to take the famed dirt midget victory.
Last year, Larson and Bell banged bars as they fought for a Chili Bowl Nationals win. Bell came out on top that time. This year, both of them surfaced to the front once again. This time, Larson got him with an outside pass.
Larson claimed 2nd in 2019 and 3rd in 2012 event. Beyond that, it’s several DNF’s and heartbreak. This has been an event that’s eluded the California driver, until last night.
Late in 2019, Larson started his own dirt midget team. After leaving Keith Kunz Motorsports, Larson returned to the 2020 Chili Bowl in his own equipment. He’s is now running a King Chassis that was built in New Zealand.
In late December, Larson went for a wild ride in his dirt midget. He barrel rolled multiple times, down the stretch at a dirt track in New Zealand. He returned for the first time since the crash and drove it right to victory lane.
Kyle Larson after winning his first Chili Bowl Nationals
“It’s a pretty different range of emotions, 365 days later. I feel like I’m gonna pass out,” Kyle Larson said from victory lane.
“I’m sorry NASCAR. I’m sorry Daytona but this is the biggest f’ing race I’ve ever won.”
“I hope to win Daytona in a few weeks. But, this is badass.”
“We worked on this thing all week long. There in the feature I finally felt good. I could get down the straight-away, it had grip and I could lean into the cushion and be confident.”
“I can’t believe it. It took me 13 years. That’s almost half my age, I’ve been coming down here. 13 years to win this race, it feels better than I could have imagined.”
Keith Kunz Motorsports picked up 5 straight Chili Bowl Nationals victories leading into last night’s event. With the win by Kyle Larson, he breaks the streak held by his former car owner.
Kyle Larson on the race with Christopher Bell
Early in the race, Bell drove right to the front. He then proceeded to check out on the field, opening a multi-second gap.
A caution bunched them up and gave the field another shot at him. Larson attempted to slide him but couldn’t clear him.
Larson remained in his tracks. As Bell ran the middle, Larson was able to work to his outside and squeeze into a hole between Bell and the outside wall.
They ran even into the next corner, Larson drove it deeper and came out with the race lead.
“Obviously, we were all nervous for sure, to see Christopher [Bell] get the lead in the outside lane and check out like he did. I was doing all I could to keep up with him through traffic. I felt like I was doing a good job,” Larson said in victory lane.
“Then, we had that one restart, I stayed close to him and made runs on him on exit. I knew that was going to be important.”
“I knew I wanted to get by him quick. Once he figures these things out, he’s the best.”
“We were able to get by him quick. Then, not make too many mistakes there. I was getting a little sloppy there at the end, my nerves were kicking in.”
Larson knocked a rut with under 5 to go. With less than 2 to go, he scraped against the outside wall as the cushion was pushed to the very edge of the track.
“I had nightmares run through my end again.”
“It feels great to finally win it and win it in my own car. It’s crazy,” Larson concluded.
NASCAR vs dirt racing
After the comment in victory lane, Kyle Larson entered the media center. He elaborated on the comment as he’s taken heat from NASCAR fans for similar comments in the past.
“It will be fun to watch the dirt fans and the NASCAR fans go at it,” Kyle Larson told Bob Pockrass after the win.
“Maybe get a text from [Steve] O’Donnell and Doug Duchardt ‘n shit,” Larson says with a laugh. “No, I think they understand the energy that this race brings to me and how much I want to win it.”
Steve O’Donnell is the executive vice president and chief racing development officer for NASCAR. Doug Duchardt is the COO at Chip Ganassi Racing, the team that fields Kyle Larson’s NASCAR entry.
“Obviously, I’ve said in the past that the Chili Bowl is bigger than the Daytona 500. Obviously, it’s not, just because of the size of the fans and the crowd. The purse in the Daytona 500 is… I mean nothing compares to it, that I’ve raced in.”
“But, on a personal level, just with how close I’ve been to winning this race. That’s where this race has meant more to me.”
“Now, after winning the Chili Bowl, maybe the Daytona 500 will be that next race that’s going to mean the most to me, that I want to win.”
Larson has never won a NASCAR Cup Series event at Daytona International Speedway. However, he has won a NASCAR Xfinity Series event at the track.