By Gary Thomas
Marysville, CA – July 24…With the summer in full-gear and temperatures hovering around triple-digits the hottest thing in Northern California sprint car racing recently has been young Kyle Larson and the talented 17-year-old from Elk Grove continued his blistering pace on Saturday night at the Marysville Raceway Park by charging to his third Golden State Challenge 410 Sprint Car Series victory in the past four events.
The triumph was good enough to move Larson into the Golden State Challenge point lead for the first time in his young career and also tied him with Chico’s Jonathan Allard and San Jose’s Tim Kaeding for the most series wins this season, with each of them now having five victories apiece.
“It feels great to get another win tonight and I really have to thank Rich Stadelhofer of Stadelhofer Construction, my whole crew and everyone that helps us out,” said Larson, who is less than one week away from his 18th birthday. “The track was tricky tonight with the rough spots, but we’ve been on a pretty good roll lately and hopefully we can keep this lead the last two races and bring home the title.”
The night of racing was the first time 410 sprint cars had been in action at the Marysville Raceway Park since 1999 and when the green lights came on in the feature it was new daddy Jason Statler of Grass Valley jumping into the lead. During Statler’s most recent start with the Golden State Challenge Series on July 4 in Chico he had scored a season-best third place finish and on Saturday looked to bring home his first win of the year.
With extremely thick traffic looming ahead on the tight bullring however, Larson closed in quickly and made it a battle for the lead with a handful of laps completed. As the leaders clicked off lap-seven Larson looked to the inside of Statler off turn four, before making a beautiful move to change lanes and shoot to the outside in the first and second corners to take the lead heading down the backstretch. Once in front the defending GSC Rookie of the Year picked his spots wisely as drivers bounced around lap-after-lap on the rough and tumble quarter-mile.
While navigating through traffic with the race winding down Statler closed the gap between himself and Larson and tried to make it a race for the lead, but things came to a stop on lap 26 when the lapped car Korey Lovell came in contact with the left side of Larson’s machine, which resulted in Lovell getting upside down to bring out a red flag.
When going back green Larson checked out from the field and appeared to be headed for victory, but just as he was accepting the white flag the red lights came on once again for a multiple car pileup in turn two. After getting everything cleaned up the final restart of the night went green and this time Statler stayed close to Larson’s bumper and tried desperately to make something happen with the leader.
“The Big Guy” gave it a hard run on last corner, but came up just shy and Larson crossed under the checkered for his sixth career Golden State Challenge 410 Sprint Car Series victory, tying him with Randy Tiner, Paul McMahan and Bobby McMahan on the all-time win list. Dating back to his win at the Southern Oregon Speedway in June, Larson has now claimed victories in four of the last seven events with GSC at the helm of his Stadelhofer Construction, Peppermill Resort-Spa-Casino-Reno No. 99 mount.
With two events remaining in the season the 17-year-old now holds an unofficial six-point lead at the top of the Golden State Challenge standings, with next weekend being an off week for the series. Larson however, will celebrate his birthday next Saturday night July 31 by going back to his roots and competing at the Cycleland Speedway in an outlaw kart.
Statler capped off a strong night by claiming the runner up spot to tally his best finish of the Golden State Challenge 410 Sprint Car Series year aboard the DF Rios Construction, D&D Roofing No. 00 machine. The former King of California also won the dash during the evening and looked solid all night, just a handful of days after he and wife Stephanie became parents for the second time when baby Cody entered the world on Tuesday.
“We had a good car tonight so I have to think all my guys for working their tails off and helping to get us up here on the front stretch again,” commented Statler after the race. “We caught up to Kyle there on the last lap and it was one of those things where I wish we could have had one more lap, but he did a heckuva job so we have to congratulate him and his team. Those guys are really tough right now and have been the class of the field out here over the last month.”
Crossing the stripe in third and having a good run for the second straight week was Scotts Valley’s Evan Suggs behind the wheel of the Suggs Racing, Lucas Oil Products No. 33e sprinter. The 23-year-old had an entertaining race long fight for position having moved to third on lap-nine getting around Campbell’s Brent Kaeding, before dropping a spot to Elk Grove’s Bobby McMahan on lap-14. Suggs then charged to the high-side in turns three and four making an impressive move to re-take third from McMahan with just 10-laps to go.
“We had a little bit of a tough time in traffic during the race, but we were really fast and made the most out of the night so we’re happy to get on the podium again,” said Suggs. “Kyle and Jason were really quick in the feature, but I think we could have run with them if we would have gotten close enough in traffic. I don’t know if we would have been able to get by them, but it would have been interesting, because Richard Brown and my guys had our car working really well.”
After losing a spot to Suggs on lap-20 McMahan hung on to finish the race in fourth and pick up his fifth top-five effort of the Golden State Challenge Series season aboard the World Environmental, C&H Veteran Enterprises No. 26b. Rounding out the top-five was Brent Kaeding in the Al’s Roofing Supply, High Five Pizza No. 69, who now finds himself second in the GSC standings going into his home track of Ocean Speedway on August 7.
Having a fine run during the night and finishing sixth in the main event was the Chicko Motorsports, Pit Stop USA No. 3x of Penngrove’s Alissa Geving. The 18-year-old began the night by tallying her first ever fast-time award with the Golden State Challenge Series and also scored a runner up finish in her heat race. After having some tough luck recently it was very nice to see Geving have a solid night on Saturday in Marysville and the sixth place finish in the feature tied her career best result with the series.
Completing the top-10 in the main event were Fremont’s Brent Bjork, Sacramento’s Billy Strange Jr., Reno, Nevada’s Mark Tabor Sr. and Grass Valley’s Pat Harvey. The night’s b-main was captured by Reno, Nevada’s Mark Tabor Jr. with Jason Statler winning the dash and the three ten-lap heat races being picked off by Kyle Larson, Bobby McMahan and Santa Rosa’s Brett Rollag. Alissa Geving carved her way around the Marysville Raceway Park quarter-mile in a time of 12.455 to record fast-time.
Full results can be found at http://www.mylaps.com/results/showevent.jsp?id=568806
A-main finish: Kyle Larson, Jason Statler, Evan Suggs, Bobby McMahan, Brent Kaeding, Alissa Geving, Brent Bjork, Billy Strange Jr., Mark Tabor Sr., Pat Harvey, Matthew Davis, John Michael Bunch, Mike Monahan, Brent Dothage, Mark Tabor Jr., Korey Lovell, Danielle Simpson, Andy Gregg, Matt Sherman, Brett Rollag, Colby Wiesz, Jim Richardson
With no race this coming weekend the Golden State Challenge 410 Sprint Car Series will head next for the Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, California on Saturday night August 7. Following the event in Watsonville another week off will be seen, before drivers and teams get set for championship night at the Placerville Speedway on Saturday August 21. For more information on these final two upcoming events stay glued to http://www.goldenstatechallengeseries.com