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, an Indiana native who made three Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge starts on the oval track surrounding this quarter-mile stretch of dirt, tested Larson completely, particularly in the final couple of restarts. The NASCAR Cup Series star was running second and on the Turn 4 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) 1 and 2 there.
“I slammed the curb every time in (Turn) 4, 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.
— Indianapolis Motor Speedway —
After his second trip to victory circle in two days, @KyleLarsonRacin talks about how special it is to win at #IMS in honor of his good friend Bryan Clauson. #BC39 | @Driven2Save. pic.twitter.com/vZoOmZCqU4
— Indianapolis Motor Speedway (@IMS) August 20, 2021