FAIRBURY, Ill. — Kyle Larson emerged from a three-way battle for the lead to win Tuesday night’s World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series feature at Fairbury American Legion Speedway.
It was Larson’s second WoO victory in as many starts after a Memorial Day win at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway and the eighth of his career.
“Cool to get a win back-to-back with the Outlaws, I’ve never done that before,” Larson said.
The last time he won more than one World of Outlaws race in a season was back in 2013 — a year before he went full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing.
Larson had to duel with fellow NASCAR competitor Christopher Bell and 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz to claim the win at Lawrenceburg. This time around, he had to face the dominant Kasey Kahne Racing duo of McFadden and Sweet.
The KKR teammates started the FVP Platinum Battery Showdown event going first and second in practice with Sweet pacing the field. The No. 49 car then backed up its speed in qualifying by setting quick time. McFadden was third. Larson seventh.
Sweet then won his Drydene Heat race with ease. Larson and McFadden dueled for the win in the third Drydene Heat race of the night with Larson dominating the field.
McFadden came back with force, charging to the win in the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash. Sweet finished third, and Larson sixth – setting their starting position for the 40-lap Feature.
McFadden wrestled with his 900hp machine, taming it like a wild stallion at the start of the Feature to take the early lead. His run was cut short by a red flag on the first lap for Dylan Tuxhorn rolling over in turn one.
When the feature went back green, McFadden led. The two teammates traded lanes lap after lap, corner after corner. Sweet could power his way to either the inside or outside of the orange No. 9 car into the turn, but McFadden could launch off the exit with great speed.
While they dueled, Larson slayed the competition between him and the leaders with ease. By lap 13, he gave the KKR duo something else to fear. Going into turn three he forced his car under Sweet, making it a three-wide battle through the corner – a common theme throughout the next several laps.
Sweet built up a strong enough run to steal the lead from McFadden on lap 17. He couldn’t shake him, though. McFadden and Larson stayed on his bumper and the next time around they both snuck by him. McFadden threw his car low in turn three, while Larson squeezed his car between the outside of Sweet and the wall.
McFadden reclaimed the lead and now had a fierce Larson to contend with. The next lap, back in turns three and four, McFadden, again, went low and Larson high.
The two traded the lead for the next couple of laps with Larson eventually prevailing. McFadden still had fight left in him, though. And not far behind was Sweet, lurking. Waiting for another opportunity to strike.
In the closing laps, with the leaders having to navigate lapped traffic, Larson couldn’t lose McFadden. The Australian was building momentum lap after lap, inching closer and closer to Larson. But then, with eight laps to go, McFadden’s battle came to an end.
While stuck behind a lap car through turns one and two, McFadden hit the corner tire and spun to a stop.
“Really fun race track,” said McFadden, still with a smile, after the feature. “It was awesome racing with Brad and Kyle. They’re obviously a couple of the best guys in the country. I don’t know if I just misjudged the lap car. He got the tractor tire I think and slowed him a bunch. I just got into the back of him and when I did that, the tractor tire came out, after he hit it, and I got it and that was that. At the end of the day, it was a positive step for the team.”
In the remaining eight laps, Larson had to contest with Sweet.
Larson stuck to the bottom of the track – the least likely place for him to make a mistake, he said. Sweet took advantage of that, soaring around the outside of the speedway to find as much grip as he could to catch the white No. 57 Silva Motorsports car.
Coming to the checkered flag, Larson faltered. He slid off turn four, scrubbing speed and allowing Sweet the opportunity to strike one final time.
The distance between the leaders was still too much for Sweet, though. Like a warrior on a steed signifying his victory, Larson sprinted to the checkered flag with his front two wheels off the ground.
“That was just an exciting race from start to finish for me,” Larson said. “Shoot, 40 laps around this place was crazy. It felt like we swapped the lead a lot. Just an awesome race track. Short tracks are always a blast.”
Sweet’s runner-up finish helped him cut into Schatz’s points – now only 38 points behind the reigning champion.
“He’s crazy,” Sweet said about Larson with a grin. “He was bouncing off the wall in (turn) one and bouncing off the wall in three and four.”
Larson agreed with Sweet’s sentiment.
“I’m always all out,” Larson said. “I don’t even know how I would be if I was running for points with the Outlaws. It would be hard for me to change my driving style. I’m just crazy, yeah.”
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