Larson Leads Wire-to-Wire to Wins Second Nationals Title

Kyle Larson in victory lane after winning the 2023 Knoxville Nationals. (Serena Dalhamer photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

KNOXVILLE, Iowa (August 12, 2023) – Kyle Larson put on another textbook performance in route to winning his second NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals title Saturday night at the Knoxville Raceway. Larson became the second driver to lead every lap since the feature was extended to 50-laps in 2015, with Donny Schatz being the other driver to accomplish this in 2015.

All week Larson, from Elk Grove, California, spoke about how much winning the pole position for the Nationals meant to him, and now he gets to be the only other person to join he 11-time Nationals champion Schatz on the list of drivers that have led all 50-laps of a Knoxville Nationals finale, but the second Nationals title trumped everything no matter how many laps he led.

“Donny’s was the only guy that’s done it and anytime I can join any list that he’s on is special and to be now one of two guys who’ve led all 50 is great,” said Larson of the accomplishment. “I just wanted to win. I didn’t really care how many laps I led if I could get beat on the start. All I cared about was leading the last one and thankfully you’re able to do that.”

Larson indicated earning the pole position was key in his victory on Saturday due to the track conditions during the feature.

“Getting the poll really helped tonight,” said Larson. “It was just so fast, such a fast pace the whole time that I felt like it was going to be tough for guys to to get by me. The cautions definitely fell at the right times. Track position is key and no matter what series or type of car you’re in, especially in a sprint car race for 50 laps.”

Larson took the lead on the opening lap as Schatz was able to get around Abreu for the second position. Abreu then found himself pressured by Carson Macedo in the fourth spot.

Opening over a 3.680 second advantage Larson was able to check out from the rest of the field. That advantage was erased as Schatz closed in to 1.444 seconds with 10 laps in.

Further back in the field David Gravel, who started 22nd after transferring from the “Hard Knox” program on Friday, was up to 10th spot 12 laps into the feature.

Abreu was able to take advantage of the traffic as well to drive around the outside of Schatz off turn four to take second position on lap 14.

The first caution flag appeared on lap 15 when Chase Randall slowed in turns one and two with a flat right rear tire.

During that caution period Rico Abreu also had a tire go down while running in third and was forced to the work area. Both drivers were able to restart at the tail of the field.

Larson continued to lead until the halfway break was called on lap 26 leading Schatz, Macedo, Logan Schuchart, and Kerry Madsen.

Larson was able to pull away after the halfway break from Schatz while Schuchart drove by Macedo for third.

Further back in the pack Gravel continued his march through the field taking over the sixth position, then had a tremendous drive off turn two drive past Giovanni Scelzi for fifth, then got into a daring exchange of slide jobs with Macedo for fourth. Gravel and Macedo traded the spot before Gravel over the position.

Just as it appeared Schuchart was starting to catch Larson in slower traffic, Schuchart slowed coming off turn four to bring out the caution flag with 10 laps to go. Schuchart was unable to continue.

Larson pulled away during the restart while Gravel drove to the top to pull along side Donny Schatz. After trading lines Schatz held the spot, but then tripped on the cushion in turn two and opened the door for Gravel to drive past in turns three and four to take second.

After the misfortune on his preliminary night, Gravel was pleased on how his team rallied for a second-place finish.

“This is a good second you know, last year was a frustrating second but this year was that play a good second acceptable second, that’s for sure,” said Gravel. “We just had a fast car all week long. We’ve been fast all year and just had an unfortunate deal on our prelim night and we just never gave up and luckily it was able to get in the show. If you’re in the show, we’re going to have a chance and I got a good start, got a couple of rows. From there, I found the top and really got by a bunch of guys there. And I knew that I was in the top 10. So, we’re happy with second tonight.”

While Schatz, Scelzi, and Macedo battled for third Gravel set out to catch Larson, but was unable to close the gap as Larson claimed his second Knoxville Nationals title. Gravel, Schatz, Scelzi, and Macedo rounded out the top five.

Afterwards Larson was open about what the victory and the Knoxville Natioanls event means to him.

“I do get to compete in a lot of big, massive events, you know, the biggest, biggest in our country, some of the biggest in the world. And I will say that the staff here at Knoxville does as good of a job if not better than a lot of the events I get to compete in as far as just building the overall atmosphere. When we were doing the four way that was sick. I was watching them on the big screen and the fireworks going off the lights, they’re flashing. They have really invested a lot of money into this facility, and it’s paid off and making the overall event a great experience for not only the fans but us competitors too. Knoxville is the event I look forward to the most. There may be one other event next year that I might look forward to a little bit more, but this is the greatest week of the year for me. I look forward to it all year long. I have FOMO when the 360 nationals is going on because I just can’t wait to get to this little town and see all my friends, see the race fans, to get to race on the best surface in the country, in the world. The Knoxville staff here does such a phenomenal job that they keep amping it up every year. I mean this is new, you know this year, and this is this is amazing as well, so they find a way didn’t make it cooler each and every year.”

62nd NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s
Knoxville Raceway
Knoxville, Iowa
Saturday, August 12, 2023

A Main (50 Laps)
1. 57-Kyle Larson[1]
2. 2-David Gravel[22]
3. 15-Donny Schatz[3]
4. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[9]
5. 41-Carson Macedo[5]
6. 49-Brad Sweet[16]
7. 24-Rico Abreu[2]
8. 83JR-Michael Kofoid[8]
9. 55-Kerry Madsen[7]
10. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[20]
11. 5-Spencer Bayston[13]
12. 14-Corey Day[10]
13. 2KS-Chase Randall[14]
14. 21-Brian Brown[19]
15. 4-Ian Madsen[11]
16. 8-Aaron Reutzel[21]
17. 3J-Dusty Zomer[12]
18. 9P-Parker Price Miller[18]
19. 13-Justin Peck[17]
20. 7BC-Anthony Macri[15]
21. 2M-Davey Heskin[24]
22. 10-Scott Bogucki[23]
23. 1S-Logan Schuchart[4]
24. 39-Hunter Schuerenberg[6]