Senior staff writer
Popular NASCAR driver Kyle Larson, a graduate of USAC midget and sprint cars, said he believes that the Driven2SaveLives BC39 midget car race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will grow into something special. But he is passing up the inaugural dirt track race Thursday after recently racing four nights in winged sprints in Pennsylvania.
The winner will take home $15,000 of the $75,000 purse. The two-day event has attracted a series record 118 entries and will precede three days of NASCAR events on the 2.5-mile oval.
“For Indy to put up a purse like that is very special; hopefully it will allow them to build something huge at the Speedway,” Larson said. “I would like to see this race grow into something bigger and better. “Short tracks like this are good for midget racing. The dirt track has a good surface and is wide. Anytime you put midgets on a small track, it’s a good race. It will be fun to watch.”
The Chip Ganassi driver is hopeful of snapping a 34-race winless drought by winning the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at the Brickyard. Larson, 26, has five runner-up finishes this season and has confidence heading into the Brickyard 400.
“We are solidly in the playoffs,” he said. “Our game plan hasn’t changed; we’re going out and trying to win.” Larson is known for his bold rim-riding style on pavement, a style that was developed on various dirt tracks.
“Racing on dirt in all sorts of different race cars has helped me to adapt on pavement and get up to speed quickly,” he said. “Dirt track change lap after lap, so I never considered running the same line lap after lap. That has helped me because racing on pavement changes during each race too.”
Larson was in Indianapolis Aug. 22 to hang a street sign with his name at the corner of Georgia and Illinois streets.
The 25th running of the Brickyard 400 unfolds Sunday at 2:09 p.m. Defending winner Kasey Kahne will take the green flag at Indy for the last time as he is retiring at the end of the season. Former winners in this year’s field include Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick.
The race is the final event to determine the 16 drivers in NASCAR’s playoffs. Johnson and Denny Hamlin were expected to qualify for The Chase at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway Saturday night. However, Newman and Kahne are among many drivers who need a win at the Brickyard to make it into the playoffs
Boles said the track needs more banking in the corners. Some of the Musco LED lights used at the U.S. Nationals will be moved to the track for temporary lighting tonight and Thursday. The track, slightly under one-quarter of a mile, utilizes part of the ground where a smaller dirt track was developed for Tony Stewart. Bryan Clauson was part of that special day.
The race (BC39) is named for Clauson, who was killed last year in a midget car accident in Belleville, Kansas. Boles made his remarks after watching former 500 driver Sarah Fisher, who raced USAC midgets, take the first official laps around the track. Fisher is married to Beech Grove native Andy O’Gara, and they reside in Franklin Township.
Team owner Fisher has entries for twotime USAC national midget champion Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind., Kyle O’Gara of Beech Grove and Ryan Smith of Pennsylvania. J.J. Yeley, who has raced in the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Landon Cassill, Xfinity series driver Christopher Bell and Eldora Speedway truck series winner Chase Briscoe are among NASCAR drivers in the dirt race.