Kyle Larson was there at the end, but fell one spot short in the prestigious Knoxville Nationals sprint-car classic on Saturday night.
A final attempt at a pass on eventual winner and sprint car legend Donny Schatz didn’t materialize, and Larson settled for second place at sprint-car racing’s most prestigious event at Knoxville (Iowa) Speedway, a half-mile banked dirt track.
Saturday night’s race was the culmination of a week-long social media discussion, and campaign of sorts, for NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi to sign off on Larson entering the race.
Larson, third in the Monster Energy Series standings amid a breakout campaign that has seen him collect two wins this year, won the Wednesday night feature to clinch a spot in the championship race.
— Chip Ganassi (@GanassiChip) August 13, 2017
— Donny Schatz (@DonnySchatz) August 13, 2017
A frequent competitor in the sprint-car world with a set annual allotment of extracurricular races pre-arranged with Ganassi, Larson said earlier this week that he has competed in 24 events in his 25-race maximum, and that his agreement with Ganassi typically precludes him from racing sprint cars one day before he’s scheduled for on-track activity in NASCAR.
The A-Main championship race got underway shortly after 11 p.m. ET on Saturday; Larson had been at Michigan International Speedway Friday and earlier Saturday, and will start ninth in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“The last few days, my phone and my Twitter account were blowing up,” Ganassi said in a video posted earlier this week on NASCAR.com. ” ‘Let Kyle race’ … I’ve been hearing all the comments. OK, OK, OK … we’re going to let him race at Knoxville.”
The payoff, though, is that dirt fans who watched Larson on Saturday night should tune in on Sunday when he climbs into his No. 42 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet.
Larson told media members that he’s never been as good in sprint cars as he’s been this year. He won six consecutive dirt races from mid-June through early July earlier this year.
“I know my fans really appreciate it, all my sprint car fans and NASCAR fans,” Larson said Friday after opening practice at the 2-mile Michigan track. “So Chip is a hero today and this weekend. I appreciate it.”
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) August 13, 2017