Kyle Larson & Jack Dover conquer Eagle Nationalseagle
By Greg Soukup
If you didn’t come out to Eagle Raceway Tuesday evening for the long-anticipated return of the World of Outlaws at the 2017 Eagle Nationals, you missed one of THE best races in the past few years. The afternoon was in the mid-90’s with very gusty winds. In order to ensure that the racing surface would be top-notch, the crack track prep crew added some extra moisture, resulting in a late start.
But, the wait was more than worth it. The large crowd was treated to 2 and sometimes 3 racing grooves. For some, the highlight of the evening was having NASCAR up-and-comer Kyle Larson there to tackle the high banks of America’s Home Track, but for the true dirt track fan, it was watching the best of the best sprint car drivers in the world do battle.
Kerry Madsen set quick time for the night at 11.429 second with Kyle Larson coming in second, Jason Johnson third and Shane Stewart fourth.
There were 3 bad incidents in the preliminary features. Clint Benson flipped his #96 sprint in the World of Outlaws hot laps. Mike Boston’s #51 went for a ride in the 4th Sprint Series of Nebraska heat. Lastly, Stu Snyder flipped the 23S in the World of Outlaws B Feature.
The Craftsman Club Dash saw Darryn Pittman first, Donny Schatz second, Brad Sweet third and Shane Stewart fourth.
With bad weather approaching the facility, it was decided to run the World of Outlaws A Main first.
Darren Pittman took advantage of his pole position on the starting lineup to jump out to a lead followed by the 49 of Brad Sweet, Shane Stewart’s 2 and the 15 of Donny Schatz. However, Jason Johnson’s 41 and the 4 of Paul McMahan both spun in turn 4. The restart again saw Pittman the first back to the flag stand with Schatz second, Sweet third and Stewart fourth. Stewart got past Sweet on lap 4. Lap 12 saw Daniel Harding loop the 12 in turn 4. Kyle Larson used the restart to move up to fourth. At the half-way mark Logan McCarl’s 2KS and the 82 of Cap Henry both went up and over in turn 3. Stewart moved up to second on the restart but relinquished the spot back to Schatz the next circuit. Larson advanced to third the next lap and began his move to the front hammering the high side of the track. Larson passed Schatz for second with 9 to go and Stewart also passed
Schatz with 6 to go. 1 more lap saw Sweet get back to fourth as Larson and Pittman began their battle for the victory. Larson ran the high line while Pittman chose to stick to the low line. Back and forth they charged, first one then the other grabbing the lead. The clash wasn’t settled until 2 laps were left when Pittman stayed on the bottom and got held up slightly while Larson flew past him on the track’s rim as they reached the flag stand. Larson held on for the win by just 183 thousandths of a second.
Q: Was this your first time at Eagle Raceway?
Larson: This was my first visit.
Q: What did you think of our track?
Larson: I thought it was a really cool track. I’ve always wanted to race there because it seems like it fit my driving style. It’s a fairly short track and really aggressive.
Q: You usually drive the Silva 57 sprint. Was this ride for Stenhouse/Wood Racing a surprise deal?
Larson: Yes. It was just a 1-off deal. I was supposed to drive Silva’s car there, but he got really busy, preparing some race cars for the Calistoga race coming up next weekend. Tony Stewart is racing for him as well as Rickey Stenhouse, and Rico Abreu is running 2 cars also. So, he had a lot of stuff he had to get done there, so he told me he couldn’t run here. I called up a few different teams and Rickey said that I could run their car.
Q: You don’t get to do it too often, but what does it mean to get time off and run a sprinter at a dirt track?
Larson: I enjoy it. I love sprint car racing; more than anything really. It’s so much fun; especially when you can go back and be competitive. When you can drive good cars it makes it just that much more fun. It’s really cool that I can go and run with the toughest competition out there and still compete for wins. I don’t get to do it a whole lot, so I just get to study a lot and get better that way.
Q: I know it’s not your first win, but what does it mean to get a victory against the World of Outlaws?
Larson: Any time that you can win with the Outlaws, it a big deal! I think this was my fourth or fifth Outlaw win. I feel like I’ve been close to winning probably a dozen others, but I would get flat tires or just run out of laps. To win was big; especially passing a champion like Darryn Pittman on the last lap. That was cool.
Q: Speaking of Tony Stewart; one time he said that running a 30 lap Outlaw race was harder than running at Daytona.
Larson: Yeah. Daytona is the easiest race on our schedule. So, there’s a lot of things tougher than that. But, I was pretty out of breath after the feature. The car was pretty tough to drive, so I was working pretty hard and my heart rate was up there for sure.
Q: You were kind of loose, it looked like to me.
Larson: I was just not very balanced. I was loose and tight at the same time.
Q: Thank you for the interview, and we hope to see you at Eagle Raceway again.
Gene Ackland’s 14G was out front after lap 1 of the Sprint Series of Nebraska A Blurton. Clint Benson’s 100 spun out in turns 3 and 4 on lap 3 for a caution. Toby Chapman passed Blurton on the restart, putting the 7KX fourth and moved to third when Pointer spun out in turn 2, moving Blurton back to fourth. Terry Richards got by Blurton on the restart, moving the 18 into fourth. The 12N of Neil Nickolite went around and stopped in turns 3 and 4 after 2 more laps. Pointer’s woes continued on lap 6 when he went flipping in turn 2 and Blurton once again took fourth. Lap 8 saw him move to third. Dover snagged the lead on lap 15. Tyler Drueke entered the top 4 with 9 to go in his #12. He lost the spot to Chapman 2 circuits later. Blurton advanced to second with 4 to go and Chapman moved up to third the next time around. The final top 4 were Dover, Blurton, Chapman and Ackland.
Dover said “I like coming to Eagle Raceway and running the Racesavers, just because it’s so competitive. It’s like I tell everybody; the 360’s aren’t even this competitive. These Racesaver cars are so equal, that it has to be up to the driver and the set-up. If you don’t have a good set-up and a good driver, you’re never
going to go forward. I just love coming out here because it’s really competitive and I think it makes me a better driver. I started the A in fourth, got to third right away, then up to second and finally got around Gene with 10 to go. I think once we got around Gene we were pretty good. We found that line there in 1 and 2 in the middle. I was kind of hitting it going in and it would bring me up from the bottom of 2, so I think that was the winning move right there! I want to thank Steve, Dave, Alex, my girlfriend Lauren, my parents and especially Chris Roseland. He owns all of this and lets me come out and have fun in it. He gives me the best equipment and that makes it fun to drive for him. In fact, I’ve driven this car 9 times. I’ve gotten 7 wins, 1 second and 1 fourth”. Sponsors include Omaha WinWater and Backland Plumbing.