NASCAR driver Kyle Larson returns to Cycleland in 2nd annual Kart Showcase
By Sharon Martin, Chico Enterprise-Record
Chico >> The eighth-mile oval clay track that sits behind a grove of trees off Highway 99 just south of Chico continues to be a special place for Kyle Larson.
Larson, the Elk Grove native and driver of the No. 42 Target car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, returned to Cycleland Speedway, the track that sparked his racing career. Tuesday night, two days after Larson finished third at the Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina, he was racing in the second annual Kyle Larson Outlaw Kart Showcase at Cycleland. The packed crowd spilled out of the bleachers.
“Cycleland has always been my favorite track growing up and I always enjoy coming back out here,” Larson said. “I’m trying to make an effort to come back as often as I can. I should be back hopefully every year.”
The second installment of the showcase featured more than 136 drivers, including many Cycleland regulars, World of Outlaws drivers and others who traveled across the country to compete in one of the biggest Outlaw kart races.
“It’s definitely the toughest Outlaw kart race in the country. The field is huge,” Larson said.
Logan Seavey, the 19-year-old from Sutter, won the second annual race after passing race leader Chase Majdic moving into turn three. Seavey, driving the No. 51 QRC kart, took the lead and powered through to finish the race at the front.
Tuesday night, the Larson faithful were out in full force with many fans still sporting old merchandise from his sprint car days and others representing his time in NASCAR.
Larson notched his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race victory on Aug. 28 at Michigan International Speedway, leading 41 laps to beat out second-place Chase Elliot and third-place Brad Keselowski. After plenty of close calls, grabbing that first win was a relief for the 2014 NASCAR Rookie of the Year.
“That was awesome — finally getting the monkey off my back,” Larson said. “To get locked in the chase was very important. It’s going to be a fun chase. Those are really good tracks for me.”
The win secures Larson into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s playoff bracket.
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve contended for wins each year, each of my first two years. Just could never quite get the job done,” Larson said. “I knew I could do it. Just had to be perfect. At Michigan we were good enough to get it done.”
Larson said the experience in victory lane was a bit of a marathon, but for a win, it’s worth it.
“It took us about two hours to get through all the interviews and the pictures,” he said. “It’s worth it. As you win more, they probably get shorter.”
Larson securing a spot in the chase nixed any chance of the two-time Gold Cup champion to race a 360 sprint car this weekend at Silver Dollar Speedway.
“I was going to but since I won and I’m in the chase, I just want to keep it safe,” he said.
On Sunday, Larson competed in South Carolina before catching an early-morning flight to make it out for Monday’s Prelude to the Showcase at Cycleland. He continues to fly out to Chico in order to give back to the sport that started it all for him and hopefully inspire young racers to continue driving.
“Other fans have kids come out who don’t have a kart yet and they see how great of a sport this is and it’s something cool to get your kid involved in,” Larson said. “If they can get their kid in an Outlaw kart in the future, that means this race is a success.”
Through the course of Tuesday night’s race, Larson tossed T-shirts into the grandstands, interacted with plenty of fans and even watched qualifying races from the infield while occasionally playing fetch with Peanut, track owner Lowell Moural Sr.’s dog. It’s clear that Larson enjoys giving back to the Cycleland community.
“I just try to do my part to help this sport. And I feel like I’ve done a good job at that so far,” he said. “I love this place. It’s a great race track. It taught me how to race. Everything I’ve learned is from this place. This place holds a very special place in my heart.”