Larson Is The Man In USAC Opener
NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Larson picked up 2013 just as he left off last season, winning Sunday night’s USAC Mopar National Midget Series season opener at New Smyrna Speedway.
It was Larson’s 11th career victory in the division and his fourth straight.
Bobby Santos jumped to the lead at the outset after utilizing a new format to capture the pole. After Larson set fast time while establishing the tack record, he spun the Oakley Fast Qualifier wheel, inverting the night’s two “Scrambles” by six. Santos passed Larson in their scramble to grab the pole and eventually lead the opening five laps.
Caleb Armstrong started alongside and assaulted Santos early in the race before moving underneath in turn-one on lap six. Larson followed suit and a race was on up-front for the win. After sixth-running Kyle Hamilton lost brakes and hit the wall on lap 15, a race-deciding restart saw Larson jump underneath Armstrong and complete the pass before getting to turn-one.
Armstrong fought back, moving in on Larson before hitting fluid and spinning on lap 22. From there, Larson was unchallenged and scored the win in his first night aboard the Rotondo Weirich — Fontana Automotive No. 17b Beast/Fontana.
“I didn’t expect to take off that well on the restart, but it did and I had him cleared easily. From there, I just tried to stay low and make him go around me because I thought he was better than me. RW showed last year that their pavement midgets are really strong, so I was really happy to get to run for them, and New Smyrna is a really fast, tricky place that’s a lot of fun,” Larson said.
After qualifying 13th to begin the night, defending USAC National Midget champion Darren Hagen rebounded to pass two cars in his scramble. He lined up ninth in the feature and came on strong towards the end, grabbing the runner-up spot.
“After the scramble, we put some stagger to it and threw something at it that worked for us a little last year. It woke up the car, and helped us turn the middle better. We were really good on restarts tonight, and there was plenty of room out there to get around guys. It’s a really racy place, and we got a pretty good start to the season,” Hagen said.
Tracy Hines also came from behind over the course of the night, starting the feature in seventh and dropping back over the first half of the race. In standard Hines fashion, the Parker Machinery – Turbines, Inc. No. 24 Spike/Stanton Toyota was on the move late in the race to grab the final podium spot.
“I fell back early on and we weren’t very good. We handled great, especially towards the end. I just want to thank everybody helping this Toyota-powered car, especially Parker Machinery, Turbines, Incorporated & Hansen’s Welding. I think we’ve got a better engine to run tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to it,” Hines said.