Larson Celebrates 19th Birthday With Victory In POWRi’s Money Midget Week Finale

CAMERON, Mo. (July 31, 2011)-Kyle Larson celebrated his 19th birthday Sunday by winning the feature in the finale of the Speedway Motors Money Midget Week presented by RevHoney Energy Drinks at U.S. 36 Raceway.

“This was a heck of a birthday present,” Larson said. “It’s kind of a tradition. It seems like I’m always winning or on the podium on my birthday. It was good.”

Larson, driving a Toyota-sponsored and -powered Bullet chassis for Keith Kunz Motorsports, started on pole and led all 30 laps on the 3/8-mile track to take his first victory in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series. Larson earned $3,000 for the win.

“Keith gave me a great car and I felt good driving it,” Larson said.

This is Larson’s first season driving in the Midwest’s major series. The Elk Grove, Calif., resident was hired by Kunz in February.

“They said they had been watching me when they went to California to race and he (Kunz) called me right after the Chili Bowl (in January),” Larson said. “They had Toyota as a sponsor. I had nothing going on. I’m glad they called. I needed to get out of California. You can’t go anywhere racing in California.”

Larson was never challenged for the lead, taking command on the opening lap and running comfortably in front. He was able to put lapped cars between himself and second-place finisher Jerry Coons Jr. for the last two restarts, on laps 15 and 25.

“The Toyota really took off on the restarts,” Larson said.

Coons, driving his first event for car owner Kenny Brown in a Toyota-powered Spike, started on the inside of the second row. The veteran from Tucson, Ariz., passed Chris DeShon for second on a lap six restart, but never was able to close the gap to Larson.

“I’m happy to be second in my first time in Kenny’s car,” Coons said. “I have no complaints. We were a second-place car. We’re putting ourselves into position to win and that’s what you need to do.

“He (Larson) was fast. The car was on a string. It was a great race car and he’s a great race car driver. Every three or four years, a young driver comes into play that is an exceptional talent. He’s one of those kids.”

Zach Daum closed out a rough week on a high note by finishing third. The 20-year-old from Pocahontas, Ill., didn’t have an easy time of it Sunday after starting on the outside of the fourth row.

“We got all the way up to third and (Brad) Kuhn slid me and got into me pretty good,” Daum said. “It knocked me back to sixth. The groove was at the top and I just went where they weren’t to get back up there. I got quite a few cars on the restart (lap 25) with all the lapped cars at the front. I just picked a line and got lucky.

“We sucked at IRP (Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis) and got rained out at the Speedrome (Indianapolis) and missed the setup Saturday (finishing 14th in the POWRi Midget feature at Junction Motor Speedway Nebraska). I’m happy to finish out the week good and take some momentum to Belleville (Kansas for the Midget Nationals).”

Nick Knepper went airborne and cart wheeled out of the track in Turn Three half after making wheel-to-wheel contact with another driver halfway through the feature. The Belleville, Ill., driver, the POWR Midgets points leader going into Midget Money Week, was banged up in the spectacular crash, but wasn’t seriously injured.

The event at U.S. 36 Raceway was the fourth of Midget Money Week. It began Thursday at Solomon Valley Raceway in Beloit, Kan., with the second Chad McDaniel Memorial, which ran heats and a semi before rain forced the feature to be canceled. Kuhn, of Avon, Ind., earned $3,000 for his win Friday and $10,000 for his victory Saturday at Junction Motor Speedway. Purse money in excess of $100,000 was paid for the four events.

POWRi co-sanctioned the four events with Badger Midgets, Rocky Mountain Midgets and Southern Open Wheel Series.

POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series results: 1. Kyle Larson, 2. Jerry Coons Jr., 3. Zach Daum, 4. Brad Kuhn, 5. Mario Clouser, 6. Brad Loyet, 7. Austin Brown, 8. Chris DeShon, 9. Chett Gehrke, 10. Tyler Thomas, 11. Caleb Armstrong, 12. Andrew Felker, 13. Jake Blackhurst, 14. Tim Siner, 15. Don Droud Jr., 16. Dalton Armstrong, 17. Kyle Neal, 18. Will Pierce, 19. Terry Goodwin, 20. Nick Knepper, 21. Bryan Clauson, 22. J.D. Black.

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