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Kyle Larson Recalls One Win That Gives Him Indy 500 Hope

Kyle Larson Recalls One Win That Gives Him Indy 500 Hope

Kyle Larson's winning his Dirt Late Model debut weekend August 2020 at Port Royal Speedway gives him Indianapolis 500 inspiration.

May 24, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Kyle Larson’s most impressive accomplishment to date might not be his 2021 NASCAR Cup championship nor his multiple event titles in the prestigious Knoxville Nationals and Chili Bowl Nationals.

No, the Elk Grove, Calif., superstar’s most impressive feat is a victory that mirrors the dynamic he faces this week — and has faced over the last week — at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Four years ago this August, he hopped in a Dirt Late Model for the first time and ended that maiden weekend with a victory against the discipline’s best.

Of Larson’s ever-growing list of exploits, his Aug. 2020 victory at Port Royal Speedway with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series has perhaps the strongest case to stand as his most impressive to date as a 31-year-old.

“I think that was the night that really opened people’s eyes,” Mike Larson, Kyle’s father, told FloRacing last week, recalling the race that his son led all 50 laps and kept four-time World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series champion Brandon Sheppard behind him.

In terms of significance, Larson that night after the win ranked it as “definitely in the top-three for sure.”

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The fundamentals of Dirt Late Model racing are, needless to say, no way comparable to that of IndyCars. The circumstances that Larson found himself in that memorable debut weekend, however, does evoke a sense of familiarity for him at this year’s Indy 500. Actually, it’s more than a sense of familiarity.

That night Larson became an overnight Dirt Late Model touring winner gives him hope that he can flattened the learning, too, in IndyCars and perhaps contend for Sunday’s Indy 500 win.

Kyle Larson in Port Royal Speedway victory lane Aug. 22, 2020, to celebrate his first Dirt Late Model win. (Kyle McFadden)

“It’s not comparable with it being two different race cars. But I had zero expectations to do anything good that weekend and went there and ran like fifth the first night and then won the final night,” Larson told FloRacing. “So, yeah, going through that experience gives me added confidence that I can learn something new and be competitive. Yeah, I don’t put too much stock into that either because this is way different.

“Yeah, I don’t know. I think that experience is good.”

While he’s yet to see his first official IndyCar race laps, there are already parallels to draw between his current Indy 500 experience and his Dirt Late Model debut weekend.

On his debut night in a Dirt Late Model, Larson had been the fastest in warmups. During Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he, too, led the practice charts until Colton Herta displaced him from the top of the leaderboard late in the session.

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Finishing fifth in his true Dirt Late Model debut (he won in his second-ever start on the Saturday portion of the debut weekend) also ties into the fact that he’s starting fifth in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

That fifth-place start accompanies Indy 500 royalty — Fernando Alonso, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Rick Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Tony Stewart — in that the Elk Grove, Calif., megastar is one of the rare rookies throughout the event’s 108 installments to start inside the top-five.

Looking back more on Larson’s words from his Dirt Late Model debut weekend and there’s even more to gain as Indy 500 race day nears.

“I want my legacy, someday when I’m dead, to be known as one of the greatest all-around race car drivers there ever was,” Larson said then. “This definitely helps the cause. We’ll see. Just wanting to continue to run good and keep winning a lot of races.”

Since then Larson’s delivered a historic 42-win season (2020), a second Chili Bowl Nationals golden driller (2021), a NASCAR Cup championship (2021) and two Knoxville Nationals titles (2022 and ’23).

At this year’s Indy 500, this isn’t the first time Larson has turned into a contender at the discipline’s highest level virtually overnight. And in these coming days, he might not be done adding to his ever-growing legacy.

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