MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Kyle Larson blasted around Lance Dewease on lap nine and won Friday night’s Tommy Hinnershitz Classic at Williams Grove Speedway.
From the outset, the legendary Dewease seemed on his way to win No. 100 at the track. But when Dewease happened to try the bottom navigating lapped traffic, Larson roared into the night.
On an evening where the Pennsylvania Posse faced its first true test of the year against the All Star Circuit of Champions, Larson stole the show and raced to victory.
The driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series pocketed the $6,000 winner’s purse in his first sprint car race of the year.
It’s Larson’s third win at Williams Grove Speedway in his past seven starts. Before last year, Larson went nearly a decade without a win at the tricky half-mile. Now, two of those recent victories have come against the track’s winningest driver, Dewease, who finished second, 2.707 seconds back.
“I used to hate this place, to be honest. … Now, I love it,” Larson said. “Once I came here with [car owner] Paul [Silva], I don’t think I’ve finished outside the top three or four. … I feel like I charge the corner hard enough that I can pass people fairly easily, especially when you get to traffic.
“I know he’s going to win No. 100 here in the next few weeks,” Larson added. “It’s cool to beat him for pride’s sake, I guess. I don’t want to be here when he wins No. 100. I want to watch it from home and not be here. I put pressure on myself to beat him. Like I said, he’s the best, I think, there’s ever been in central Pennsylvania.”
It marked Larson’s fifth overall win of the year. Two of those wins are in a midget, highlighted by the Chili Bowl Nationals in January. His other victories are with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at All-Tech Raceway and NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Larson’s growing fondness of Williams Grove and his energetic driving style shined Friday.
Larson started the night second in time trials with a lap of 16.515 seconds, .199 seconds off Dewease’s quick time mark. In the dash, he started fourth, but a series of opportunistic moves sprung him to the win and ultimately on the outside of the front row of the 30-lap feature.
Dewease established footing early, then a lap-three red flag for T.J. Stutts changed the complexion. On the restart, Dewease reestablished a nice lead, beating Larson off turn four in the early going.
“Definitely a little rusty to start,” Larson said. “I just had to remember how to handle traffic.”
Then lapped traffic came, and Dewease’s 1.5-second advantage quickly vanished. Larson had closed in, and Dewease knew he was in trouble.
“After that red [flag] we were no good,” Dewease said. “I don’t know what happened to it. We’ll figure it out. Against [Larson] you can’t be half ass. We weren’t very good after that red [flag]. I might have come down [the track] a little too soon after that lapped car but I can say he was better than us.”
Dewease failed to find comfortability on a track that changed faster than what he could adapt to or envisioned, opening the door for Larson to drive by on the top without much resistance.
“It kind of shocked us how much [the track] changed,” Dewease said. “I don’t know. I think we got off guard.”
A caution on lap 10 for Robbie Kendall stacked things back and set up the final 20-lap green flag run. Larson built a two-second lead shortly after, but that was cut to just three cars once he reentered traffic.
Larson soon pushed the lead back to over a second, taking advantage of a car that could work most of the racetrack while Dewease and company couldn’t keep up.
“My car could move around, run the middle, run a lane off the bottom if I needed to, and rip the top really good,” said Larson, who will continue his busy weekend today in Kevin Rumley’s late model at Hagerstown Speedway. “In turns three and four, I could rip it good, but get tight off exit sometimes and had to be off it. … Overall, it was good.”
Freddie Rahmer finished third, while Ian Madsen and Anthony Macri completed the top five.
Feature (30 laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson ; 2. 69K-Lance Dewease ; 3. 51-Freddie Rahmer ; 4. 11-Ian Madsen ; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri ; 6. 14-Tony Stewart ; 7. 72-Tim Shaffer ; 8. 24-Kerry Madsen ; 9. 7BC-Tyler Courtney ; 10. 23-Paul McMahan ; 11. 10-Zeb Wise ; 12. 13-Justin Peck ; 13. 5-Brent Marks ; 14. 26-Cory Eliason ; 15. 91-Kyle Reinhardt ; 16. 35H-Zach Hampton ; 17. 5C-Dylan Cisney ; 18. 39-Chase Dietz ; 19. 17-Steve Buckwalter ; 20. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg ; 21. O7-Lucas Wolfe ; 22. 11T-TJ Stutts ; 23. 12-Brent Shearer ; 24. 4-Cap Henry ; 25. 8M-TJ Michael ; 26. 17B-Bill Balog ; 27. 48-Danny Dietrich ; 28. 55K-Robbie Kendall