It was just a few years ago that Elk Grove native Kyle Larson stood in victory lane of Placerville Speedway as the youngest sprint car driver (age 14) to ever win a main event here and said, “I want to go to NASCAR someday.”
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Now, as one of the newest competitors in the NASCAR Nationwide Series from Huntersville, North Carolina, Larson returned to the track where it all started Saturday night — winning before a standing room only crowd for the 2013 Red Hawk Casino season opener.
“We were planning on racing at Calistoga with the World of Outlaws and when it got cancelled I have to admit I was kind of glad it did. I really wanted to come back to Placerville,” said Larson, currently seventh in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Point Standings and a two-time California Gold Cup champion in addition to numerous accolades across the nation. “This has always been one of my favorite tracks. I got my first win here, it’s pretty much home for me.”
Driving the locally-owned Paul Silva No. 57 sprint car, Larson started the evening with the second-fastest qualifying time after a 10.280 second lap. Defending track champion Andy Forsberg claimed the ADCO Driveline and Custom Exhaust Fast Time Award with an impressive 10.195 second run.
In his heat race, a nail-biting last-lap pass on two-time Civil War Series Champion Sean Becker resulted in a fourth place transfer position into the A feature for Larson. With a zero inversion for the night, he started on the outside of the front row, aside Forsberg for the 25-lap feature event.
Taking the lead at the green flag, Larson never relinquished the point for the entire race. As he worked his way into lapped traffic, Forsberg closed in on several occasions early in the race but was challenged by Justin Sanders, Willie Croft and Andy Gregg, all of whom were slicing and dicing their way in traffic.
At the finish line, Larson brought the capacity crowd to its feet with the win. Sanders finished in second followed by Croft, Forsberg and Gregg. Earlier, Croft won the B main event. Heat race wins went to Matt Peterson, Mike Benson, Mason Moore and Charlie Cagle. Scott Russell won the inaugural Riebes Auto Parts Kids Dash during intermission.
In the Late Model division, defending champion Matt Micheli of Live Oak returned to successfully defend his 2012 championship. Micheli took the lead from the pole position in the 20-lap affair to post the victory. He was followed across the line by Marsyville’s Jeff Olshowka who raced door-to-door into the final lap with Tom Tilford for the bridesmaid position. Duane Zieder finished fourth over Danny Malfatti.
“It’s great to be back here and to get a win on opening night with a crowd like this is a great way to start the season,” Micheli said. “We’ve got some great competition in this class this year and I’m planning on running the full season and really looking forward to it.”
In the Pure Stock division, defending champion Matt Tilford returned to the driver’s seat to post his first win of the year. Tilford started fourth and advanced into second place early the race behind leader Les Friend. With 17 laps down, Friend’s dominate lead was relinquished in lapped traffic, allowing Tilford to power into the lead in the second turn.
“He had a really good lead and I was just being patient in the lapped traffic,” Tilford said. “It was a case of being in the right place at the right time so I guess we could say I pulled a Kyle Larson move on him and took the lead when he got caught up in traffic.”
The visiting Nor Cal Dwarf Cars had Shawn Jones dominating their event. Jones started fourth and charged his way to a healthy lead early in the race. Mike Grenert chased him to the finish line over Ryan Winter, Kevin Bender and Travis Dutra.
“It’s always nice to be able to get out in front like that and stay out of trouble,” Jones said. “This is a great track for us, it’s always fun and competitive and we look forward to coming here.”
Saturday’s championship opener was presented by Red Hawk Casino in conjunction with Hoosier Racing Tires, Pepsi, Coors Light, The Mountain Democrat and Thompson Auto Centers. Additional contingency awards were presented by ADCO Driveline and Riebes Auto Parts.
The exciting championship season continues this Saturday. For more information visit placervillespeedway.com.