PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. – Though Kyle Larson’s three-race winning streak has dominated the headlines during Indiana Midget Week, one driver who has quietly made waves is Kaylee Bryson.
The 19-year-old from Muskogee, Okla., has earned two feature starts in the first three rounds of the six-night stretch, running with some of the most tenured racers in the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series and serving notice that, given some more time to learn, she looks to be a contender with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports.
Bryson earned her maiden top-10 finish in USAC national midget competition on Wednesday at Gas City I-69 Speedway, finishing 10th, and backed it up with a runner-up heat finish Thursday at Lincoln Park. She started the feature 20th and finished 16th.
However, racing with some of the drivers she has been able to has been a major confidence booster, Bryson said.
“Racing with USAC and especially here during (Indiana) Midget Week, you’re racing against the best of the best competition. These are the best drivers in the sport and I think (racing against them) is changing me as a driver,” said Bryson. “I’m out here racing with people like Kyle Larson and Rico Abreu; it’s really cool. Kyle and I threw some sliders on one another at Gas City and it’s just making me better.
“The more you race around this level of competition, the more it’s going to make you raise your game and keep pushing higher,” she added. “I’ve been more excited about this week than nervous; I think my dream has always been to race with the people I am right now, so it’s cool to be out here racing against people that I admire.”
Bryson added she hasn’t been listening too hard to those that didn’t expect her to be in the mix this week, instead choosing to focus on the things she’s learning each night and how she can maintain her recent momentum.
“A lot of people were saying they didn’t expect me to make the A-mains like I have been, let alone to start in the second row like I did Wednesday night,” Bryson noted. “I’ve always believed I could do this; I’ve just needed the laps with all these guys to figure out what it takes, and now I’m starting to put some of those pieces together here with KKM.”
— Thursday’s Gas City event was a tough one on tires, with two notable drivers suffering flats during the 30-lap feature.
Thomas Meseraull was fourth after starting deep in the field when he had a right-rear tire go down under caution with three laps left, while fifth-running Buddy Kofoid suffered a left-rear flat thanks to contact with another car that softened the tire.
In Kofoid’s case, the 18-year-old came back through the field from outside the top 20 to ninth, while Meseraull did not return from the work area and was scored 20th at the checkered flag.
“It’s just one of those things that’s sometimes out of your control,” Kofoid said. “You just have to deal with the cards you get dealt and bounce back when you have a bad night.”
— While Larson set a record by becoming the first driver in Indiana Midget Week history to win three races during the mini-series on Thursday night, he doesn’t hold the all-time consecutive wins record in USAC national midget competition — at least not yet.
Currently, that honor is held by the late Rich Vogler, who set the bar with five consecutive feature victories in 1978 during his first of five championship-winning seasons.
Vogler took victories at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Salem (Ind.) Speedway (twice), Rockford (Ill.) Motor Speedway and Ohio’s Columbus Motor Speedway during the incredible run in late May and early June of that season.
If Larson sweeps Indiana Midget Week, a feat that was once thought impossible but now seems feasible, he would rewrite the record books with six USAC national midget wins in a row.
— Oddly enough, despite Larson’s third win in three nights on Thursday, he actually gave up a point in the Indiana Midget Week standings to Tanner Thorson due to the latter’s strong preliminary runs.
Thorson trails Larson by 10 points in the updated IMW points. Both drivers are seeking their first Indiana Midget Week titles — Larson with Tucker/Boat Motorsports and Thorson with Hayward Motorsports.
— Friday night’s program at Lincoln Park will mark the first time that one venue has hosted multiple races during Indiana Midget Week, after Bloomington Speedway could not reopen for its traditional date due to COVID-19 restrictions in Monroe County.
Joe Spiker, who promotes both Bloomington and Lincoln Park, realigned the Friday race as a result to allow for fans in the grandstands and the crowd that turned out Thursday night was arguably the best of the week so far, despite limited ticket availability due to social distancing.