TULSA, Okla. – Kyle Larson simply wasn’t going to let a win escape him twice on Tuesday night at the Tulsa Expo Center.
Mere minutes after Chad Boat escaped to win the Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions, Larson hopped into his No. 01 iRacing.com Bullet by Spike-Speedway Toyota entry and powered to the front of Tuesday’s 25-lap Warren CAT Qualifying Night A-Feature.
Larson edged polesitter Zach Daum on lap eight and then pulled away to a commanding gap over the field, leading the final 18 laps of the 25-lap main for his fourth career preliminary night win at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
The win was exceptionally special due to the fact that Larson is driving a car owned by his father Mike this year, though it is still being prepared by Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports.
“This is so cool to get a win for my Dad and Mag1k Motorsports,” said Larson. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say I won a race with him as the car owner … I think it goes back to when I was racing go-karts, so it’s really cool to win for him and iRacing and everyone who is onboard with our car.”
“I want to give a special thanks to Keith Kunz and team for all they’ve done for me and my career, as well. I’m extremely thankful for that. Man, it’s cool to be back here up on this stage.”
Larson’s fourth Chili Bowl preliminary win ties him for third all-time in qualifying night victories at the Chili Bowl, drawing him level with the late Bryan Clauson, one of his long-time friends and mentors.
He reminisced on Clauson giving him a special break, ironically enough at the Chili Bowl, after learning of the statistic on the podium.
” I can’t remember what year it was, maybe 2010 … but I was sitting in the grandstands on Friday night during the National Anthem and he (Clauson) gave me a shot to come down and fill in for one of his sick drivers. That’s something that I’ll always remember.”
“To tie him in prelim wins is pretty special, but I also want to match him and win a Saturday night feature as well.”
Daum got the jump over Larson when the initial green flag flew, jetting out to a four car-length lead before the yellow flag waved with three laps complete for a slowing Dustin Golobic.
Undeterred, Daum adjusted his line slightly when racing resumed, finding additional speed to pull away from Larson on the restart before another caution flew with five rotations complete, this time for a spinning R.J. Johnson in turn four.
The next restart was where Larson began to shine. He stalked Daum for two laps before blasting to the outside, edging ahead by .042 of a second on lap eight before clearing Daum and taking off on the ninth round.
A flipping Dillon Welch drew the caution one lap prior to halfway, but even Daum’s best efforts on the next green flag weren’t enough to keep Larson from slowly pulling away.
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