For fans starved for racing in the middle the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana Midget Week more than satisfied the hunger.
Kyle Larson, in his first full-time IMW appearance since 2011, stole the show by winning the first three races and four events overall before wrapping up the title before taking the green flag in Sunday’s finale at Kokomo.
Larson’s fourth win tied him with the late Bryan Clauson for IMW victories with nine, the current record.
“Any time you’re anywhere near the same number of wins as Bryan on anything, it’s special,” said Larson, who ended the week with an average finish of 1.33. “To tie him in Indiana Midget Week wins is really cool. I got to race him a lot in 2011 and 2012. We became close friends after I stopped racing with him a lot. We became close with him and Lauren (Stewart, Clauson’s fiancée) and my wife (Katelyn).
“It’s just an honor to be tied with him right now.”
Although Larson’s eight-race winning streak—consisting of Midgets, World of Outlaws and All-Stars—ended on Friday night, the 27-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif., has finished first or second in his last nine midget starts. Over six nights, Larson amassed 468 points and ended with a record 73-point advantage over his Tucker Boat Motorsports teammate, Chris Windom.
The only victor more prolific than Larson was Tucker Boat Motorsports. With Larson leading the charge and Windom picking up the win on the second night at Lincoln Park Raceway, TBM claimed five of the six IMW features. In 2016, Keith Kunz Motorsports became the only organization to sweep Indiana Midget Week, but the number of races that year was five, after Lawrenceburg was rained out.
“The guys have done a great job,” Boat said. “We have great partners that make it all happen and our guys have gotten up on the wheel. Kyle’s been really tough to beat, but Chris stood up in the seat at Lincoln Park, so that was really cool.
“We’re a pretty small crew and we’re a young group, so we have a lot of fun, but we take it seriously. My guys have done a great job, and I couldn’t do it without them.”
The only organization to stop the TBM freight train was Hayward Motorsports and driver Tanner Thorson. The team overcame tremendous odds to win the IMW finale at Kokomo Speedway. After two blown engines in as many nights, Dave McIntosh came to Thorson’s rescue with a fresh power plant and put new life into the No. 19.
The 2016 National USAC Midget champion won his heat race on Sunday, started seventh and wheeled his way to his third win of the season and his fourth IMW victory.
“For some reason, I felt like it was going to be the day to win. I don’t know why,” said Thorson, who sits fourth in USAC National Midget points. “I went to bed about 4:30 or 5 this morning and got back up at 8.
“Dave McIntosh, Cannon Mcintosh’s father, is the reason why we were able to race tonight—he and Cody Cordell, who takes care of all of Cannon’s personal equipment. I can’t thank them enough for allowing us to borrow a motor and be able to race.”
While Thorson was able to recover on Sunday, he had a shot at Friday night’s win as well before his engine failed. After winning his heat at Lincoln Park, he was battling the leaders as his power plant expired. Thorson dropped from second to seventh on the last lap. On Saturday, he didn’t even make it out of his heat race, let alone the feature.
Still, Thorson more than made up for the pitfalls on Sunday night as he held off Larson for the win.
“It’s something I work really hard on—my whole team this week did,” Thorson said. “These guys deserve nothing but the best. I don’t know how to say it, but we finally wrapped it up.”
Like Thorson, Larson found redemption in the Hoosier State as well. The driver has enjoyed tremendous success after turning to open-wheel racing full-time following his departure from NASCAR. After winning USAC Midget Rookie-of-the-Year a decade ago, Larson continues to build his case as the best racer of his generation.
This Indiana Midget Week title is just the latest of his accomplishments.
“It means a lot,” Larson said. “I’ve only gotten one other opportunity to race for an Indiana Midget Week championship. That was almost 10 years ago in 2011.
“I’ve grown up a lot since then and am probably a lot smarter racer than I was back then. To be able to be as consistent as we’ve been and win lots of races, it’s awesome.”