PORT ROYAL. Pa. — Like he had done so many times before, Kyle Larson shot off the cushion and into the night, leaving his competitors scrambling to keep up with this torrid pace.
The summer of Larson reached a new level of madness on Saturday night, as Larson led all 50 laps to win the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rumble by the River finale at Port Royal Speedway in only his second start in a late model.
Larson scored a .499 second victory over Brandon Sheppard and made it 35 victories on the season with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, All Star Circuit of Champions, USAC Midgets, USAC Silver Crown, and now the Lucas Oil Late Model Series.
“This is probably one of, if not, the biggest wins ever,” Larson said. “I thought we’d be OK. But I definitely did not expect to win a race. To climb into something that’s way different that I’ve never been and to have success with such a great team, it means a lot.”
Going into this three-day swing against the top late model drivers and teams on the planet at Port Royal, Larson made sure to mow down all expectations. After his late model debut on Thursday aboard Kevin Rumley’s No. 6, when he went quickest in hot laps, won his heat by five seconds over Jonathan Davenport, and battled fiercely with Jimmy Owens to eventually finish third, a win making things seem more realistic.
“After the first night, I had a lot of confidence,” Larson said. “I felt like I could win if I started up front. It just all worked out tonight.”
Larson took advantage of a good pill draw and won Group B quick time with a lap of 19.430, which set him up for his heat win. Everything after that electrified, as Larson ripped the fence in turns one and two from the onset to take the lead for good from Sheppard.
A lap-10 caution for Colton Flinner bunched them back up, and as Sheppard and Hudson O’Neal battled hard for second, Larson’s lead grew to 1.2 seconds by lap 18. That’s when Sheppard put on his typical charge and pulled to just three tenths behind Larson, finding something extra in turns three and four, the slickest part of the track.
Another caution flew, this time for Jonathan Davenport on lap 23, and during the stoppage Larson’s crew signaled to him to move up a lane in turns three and four.
From there, Larson survived four restarts as the feature ended on a 20-lap non-stop run. He built a straightaway lead with 14 laps to go until Sheppard cut that down to just 1.1 seconds with eight laps left and then 0.6 seconds with three to go as Larson navigated lapped traffic.
Sheppard hounded Larson the rest of the way, perhaps trying to induce a mistake from the man on one determined mission in 2020, but he never cracked.
“I want my legacy someday to be known as one of the greatest, all-around race car drivers there ever was,” Larson said. “This definitely helps the cause. I just want to continue to run good and win a lot of races.”
Gregg Satterlee finished on the podium in third. Chris Ferguson charged from 16th to fourth, with Tim McCreadie fifth.
Kyle Larson, Brandon Sheppard, Gregg Satterlee, Chris Ferguson, Tim McCreadie, Earl Pearson Jr., Jimmy Owens, Kyle Strickler, Mason Zeigler, Rick Eckert, Josh Richards, Tanner English, Stormy Scott, Hudson O’Neal, Shane Clanton, Kyle Bronson, Tyler Erb, Tyler Bruening, Trent Ivey, Devin Moran, Billy Moyer Jr., Jason Covert, Bobby Pierce, Jonathan Davenport, Colton Flinner.