2024 Kubota High Limit Racing at Lawrenceburg Speedway

Kyle Larson Back To Winning Form, Reality At Lawrenceburg Speedway

Kyle Larson Back To Winning Form, Reality At Lawrenceburg Speedway

Kyle Larson is back to reality — and swiftly back to winning form with Kubota High Limit Racing — after his Indianapolis 500 debut.

Jun 1, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Kyle Larson woke up Monday having to manage an emotion he never quite considered when initially dreaming up the biggest day of his career to date.

His first Indianapolis 500 and therefore attempt at The Double this past Sunday had all the makings to further his ever-growing legacy or, at the very least, provide an experience only four drivers before him can associate with. Then he arose the following morning with a feeling contrary to those expectations.

“Obviously I was pretty depressed,” Larson started Friday following a far more enjoyable result at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway. “I mean, not (depressed) … well, I guess a little bit depressed. Just more sad that it didn’t go exactly how we all had planned and hoped for (when a pit road speeding penalty backslid his rain-delayed Indy 500 finish to 18th before he jetted to Charlotte only for the Coca-Cola 600 to rain out).”

Larson first made known his sadness by crafting a pretty lengthy post to X (formerly Twitter) that started with “what I thought could be one of the best days of my life quickly turned into one of the most disappointing ones I’ve ever experienced” and that signed off with the downcast emoji.

Standing inside Paul Silva’s transporter Friday night at Lawrenceburg following a much-needed and fitting Kubota High Limit Racing victory to cap his touted Month of May, the 31-year-old superstar only dwelt on Monday’s conflicting emotions for a moment. Other than that, he freely smiled upon his most dominant Sprint Car victory since last August’s Knoxville Nationals and smiled in the photos of many — fans and track workers alike — who requested photo ops.

Kyle Larson takes a photo with a Lawrenceburg track worker following victory lane celebrations.

“We just needed a win because we haven’t been very good this year in the Sprint Car,” Larson said. “And I’ve been making a lot of mistakes as well. No, it’s good just to come to a place we’re always really fast at and hopefully build some confidence. We go to Eagle (Raceway in Nebraska) next week, so another track pretty similar to here. Hopefully we can have another good run.”

Larson’s last Sprint Car win, for those keeping score at home, came Feb. 13 in the High Limit opener at East Bay Raceway Park outside Tampa, Fla. It’d been 10 races since, Larson’s longest so-called drought in a Sprint Car in five years when he went 15 races between victories August 2018 through May 2019.

Coincidentally enough, the high banks of Lawrenceburg that Larson very much loves snapped the slump then, too.

“I love it here … always been fast here,” Larson said. “You love tracks that you’re good at. And Paul’s package is really strong here as well. Yeah, I mean, I knew — or at least I hoped — we’d have a good run tonight, you know? We haven’t been great at many places this year, so I didn’t know what to expect. But I thought if there was a place we’d be fast at, it’d be here. So I felt really good about it coming in and it’s good to just execute a good night.”

Larson’s night wasn’t entirely smooth-sailing. During the seven-lap dash that decides the front-six starting positions of the 30-lap main event, he misjudged turn one on lap three, accidentally running off the berm that then shot the Silva-owned No. 57 machine up the banking and to a halt.

Other than momentary embarrassment, Larson emerged from the dash without damage and salvaged third, which proved vital in outrunning polesitter Rico Abreu for the win.

Larson completed his race-winning move in one lap — a slider on lap eight through turns one and two that shuffled Abreu to the bottom lane and gave Larson the preferred the high groove for good into turns three and four — but from the outset he strategically sized up the maneuver.

“I just knew I needed to be patient and show my nose here and there, get him worried and thinking,” Larson said. “We were able to do that and catch traffic. I think he went slide somebody. I can’t remember. He tried to slide someone and I got a big run, slid him through one and two, and was able to kind of set sail from there.”


WATCH: Highlights from Friday's Kubota High Limit Racing event at Lawrenceburg Speedway.

Larson didn’t necessarily need Friday’s win to rid any possible remnants of emotions that could be lingering from Monday’s rude awakening that his Double attempt wasn’t some bad dream.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup champion said that Tuesday’s tire test at Iowa Speedway “kind of helped forget about things for sure” and that Thursday’s meetings at Hendrick Motorsports put him in a better frame of mind.

He more so needed Friday’s victory, however, for his confidence in a Sprint Car, which might be hard to believe considering he’s won in the discipline 67 times since the start of 2020 after Friday.

Recent races haven’t gone his way, particularly High Limit events on April 23 when he flipped out of the running at Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, Ark.; when he couldn’t win from the pole May 4 at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.; and May 13 at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway when he failed to qualify — one of the worst nights in a Sprint Car he recalls, on the night before Indy 500 practice no less.

The emotions Larson experienced in May are, retrospectively, quite wide-ranging. He started what had been touted as the biggest month of his life by prevailing in the closest finish in NASCAR Cup history — a door-slamming, 0.001-second victory over Chris Buescher at Kansas Speedway.

Then came “probably the worst night I think we’ve ever had sprint car racing” on May 13 at Kokomo, where he barrel-rolled five times in a heat race crash that ultimately doomed the evening. At Indy, he went from limited practice time to advancing into the 500’s highest qualifying honors, the Fast Six, but not without overcoming a plenum event during initial qualifications.

Indy 500 race day had been no different: Freight-trained from fifth to 14th by lap nine because of a single missed shift ... tumbling down the leaderboard again from fifth to outside the top-20 when a pit road speeding penalty on lap 130 put him off race-contending pace ... then to riding out his offbeat strategy to lead laps 180-184 and praying for a caution (that never came) to maybe change his fate.

After finishing 18th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he jetted to Charlotte Motor Speedway to presumably finish out the Coke 600 and his highly anticipated Double, but NASCAR called the race at lap 249 because of rain and Larson could never log a lap.

Now he's in a precarious position for missing a Cup Series race: Needing waiver approval from NASCAR so he can become eligible to compete for the series title again. Even missing a race, Larson's third in the standings and only six points behind Denny Hamlin from the lead, but it'd be for naught if denied his request for a waiver.

In the face of every emotion and what remains to be seen, Larson's sure of himself when it comes to one thing as he comes back to reality from his pressure-packed Indy 500 experience. It's that he doesn't let much slow him down.

“It’s pretty easy for me to get back into the flow of things,” Larson said through a smile.