INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Larson can indeed take a bump.
The driver who has dominated U.S. motorsports over the past three months handled the competition again Thursday night on The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, surviving late-race contact in a battle for the lead to win the third Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink.
The USAC Midget National Championship race honoring the late Bryan Clauson, tested Larson completely, particularly in the final couple of restarts. The NASCAR Cup Series star was running second and on the turn-four cushion with five laps to go when Thomas Meseraull slid into him.
The contact was hard enough to break Meseraull’s right front wheel, ending his night after leading much of the race.
Larson, who was unscathed, still had work to do – he had to get around and then hold off Justin Grant and a charging Brady Bacon in what he described as “chaos” on the 38th of 39 laps.
Larson said he almost gave away the race trying to hold off Grant in a side-by-side battle, but a solid final lap rescued him.
“I had a thought of what I wanted to do, and I kind of screwed it all up on that last restart,” he said. “I slid myself (high) a few times, and I shouldn’t have been doing that, but I knew Justin was on top in (turns) one and two there.
“I slammed the curb every time in (turn) four, and then Brady got to my inside and Justin was there. It was just wild. I did not do a good job there on that restart but thankfully put a decent last lap together and snuck through for the win. I’ll take it.”
Larson earned $15,000 for the victory, and it continued his run of success since winning NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 30. Since then, he has won four additional Cup races, the Kings Royal and Knoxville Nationals in a sprint car and the Prairie Dirt Classic in a late model. Larson opened the year by winning the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
Larson also won Wednesday night’s IMS preliminary race, known as the Stoops Pursuit, which came with a $3,000 prize. He also won that event in 2019, but this was his first main event win at IMS.
Larson said it was “cool to win this race and honor Bryan,” the Noblesville, Indiana, driver who lost his life five years ago this month following a crash in the Belleville Midget Nationals.
“This event has grown into something really big, and I’m glad to be part of it,” Larson said while thanking IMS management, including owner Roger Penske, who was on hand for a second straight night. “Putting a little bullring here in the infield is really cool.
“These midgets are so much fun and so fun on a little track like this. This is the perfect midget track. (IMS) did such a good job building this place — the size, the dimensions, the banking, the dirt, everything. The track build is great, so hats off to the whole crew here.
“That was so much fun.”
Grant didn’t completely agree with Larson.
“Man, I hate running second to this guy,” he said, smiling. “He’s good; I don’t have to tell you guys. But man, he’s good playing the slider game and doing that (high line) in (turn) four. He does it as good or better than anybody.
“We had a couple of chances there (to beat him) and didn’t get him played quite right. I had to take a pretty big bomb to get out in front of him there in three and four … just a ton of fun.”
Meseraull finished 24th in the 25-car field despite leading much of the 39-lap race. The race distance is in honor of Clauson, who often carried that number on his race car.
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