Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Kyle Larson Wins, Wrecks in Late Model Stunner at Golden Isles

Winning Moment: Kyle Larson blew past Ricky Thornton Jr. on the high side with three laps to go to prevail in a pitched three-way battle between himself, Thornton and Brandon Overton that lasted the final 20-plus laps of a wild Friday night (Jan. 27) at Golden Isles Speedway.

Dramatic Moment: Larson, who was visibly ecstatic about his first super late model win of 2023, revving his engine up and down on the cooldown lap, wrecked his No. 6 car in turn 3 attempting to do a victory burnout after clearing tech.

Said the driver in victory lane, “I’m an idiot.”

In a Nutshell: First Vado, now this. After a 2022 season of routs and angst over the droop rule, super late model racing is white-hot one month into 2023.

What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

First things first, apologies to any readers hoping to hear anything about the Southern Sprint Car Challenge at Volusia. Between the end of the heat races and the end of the feature at Golden Isles, I didn’t have enough bars in the stands to load DirtVision, much less stream Friday’s racing. To be fair, as good as the show was at Golden Isles, I’d have lost track anyhow.

My hotel Friday night was approximately 40 miles from Golden Isles Speedway, and it took every one of those 40 miles to get my jaw off the ground. The battle for the lead and the win between Larson, Overton and Thornton Friday night was motorized poetry, an absolute slobberknocker of a battle that saw all three drivers make bold moves, and mistakes, in pushing their cars to the ragged each for the win. Larson got the trophy, but all three drivers deserve applause for their efforts.

Larson’s victory Friday night was worth $12,000. Looking at the damage done to his racecar post-race, maybe the Kevin Rumley race team will break even on the night?

I don’t disagree with the criticism of the “droop rule” being too imprecise a measurement to literally determine a pass/fail of an inspection in late model racing, but after hearing that rule blamed for everything from boring races to the war in Ukraine I hope is in the past. Everything I’ve seen in super late model racing so far this year suggests that teams have gotten a year of this rules package under their belt and are learning to get racier with it. Go figure.

That Is, everyone driving a Longhorn chassis at least. If there’s an issue facing the sport right now, it may well prove to be lack of parity by year’s end. Right now, Longhorn cars have won every super late model race in the country in 2023 sans the Ice Bowl at Talladega, and not being associated with that farce of a race may as well go in the win column for Longhorn.

See also
This Day in Dirt: Brandon Overton Dominates Super Bowl of Racing Opener at Golden Isles

Friday was my first ever visit to Golden Isles Speedway, and man, tip of the cap to Kyle Bronson and crew for what they’ve done with the place. I will openly admit I’m biased towards the facility because it has an upper deck, a real rarity among dirt tracks, but there was ample parking, good food, an awesome racing surface and viewing areas along nearly every inch of catchfence around the track. More tracks are shifting to the model of allowing trackside tailgate parking (the newly constructed Buckshot Speedway in Alabama is another example) and I hope it keeps up because that type of in-your-face experience will absolutely bring fans back.

Of course, have to offer some form of constructive criticism. There was a wreck during crate late model qualifying Friday night that saw one of the cars (it literally had no number) all but destroy itself running headfirst into a tractor tire. Those tires, all of which were caked with mud, I can honestly say were hard to distinguish from the racing surface based on my grandstand seat. Either the tires need to be washed or painted, because between Thursday and Friday they claimed more than their share of racecars.

One other note. Despite being in the state of Georgia and featuring a field of cars that included Overton, 2022 Eldora Million winner Jonathan Davenport and 2022 Dirt Track World Championship winner Garrett Smith, it was Californian Larson that had the entire crowd on its feet when he made his race-winning pass. Larson’s claim to dirt racing royalty is very very real.

Hero of the Day

Overton gave a great post-race interview in defeat Friday night and Larson’s antics have already been discussed, so tonight’s shout out goes to Thornton for the masterful race he drove at Golden Isles. No matter how it’s done, passing Overton under green is an accomplishment, one that Thornton pulled off on Georgia clay. That Thornton led 17 laps Friday means he held off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion and the nation’s top money winner from 2021 for nearly 20 laps. 

The 2021 LOLMDS Rookie of the Year has come a long way.

Villain/Victim(s) of the Day

There was almost another driver besides Larson to get the better of Thornton Friday night, and that came in his heat race in the form of Logan Roberson. Roberson, a crate racing ace and a fixture at my home track in Winchester, Va., took part in a thrilling side-by-side battle with Thornton and led laps in the heat. However, Thornton got the best of Roberson with a well-timed slide job, leading Roberson to overdrive turn 4 in a catastrophic manner.

Roberson was not seriously injured in the incident as he got out of the car under his own power, though he did have a limp as he walked to the side-by-side that took him off the racetrack.

Notables

  • Hudson O’Neal did bounce back from his Thursday night troubles, finishing fifth as the highest-finishing car not running a Longhorn chassis and scoring his first top-five finish of the 2023 campaign.
  • Davenport earned hard charger honors for going from 19th to 10th at Golden Isles Friday night after a rare heat race saw him lose positions and forced to contest a B-main (which he won).
  • Defending LOLMDS champion Tim McCreadie finished 11th, snapping a streak of three consecutive runner-up finishes to start his 2023 late model campaign.

Numbers Game

5

Dirt tracks that ran oval track racing programs Friday night in the U.S.

177

Nation’s largest car count Friday, the Super Bowl of Racing at Golden Isles.

$919

Winner’s share of the 50/50 raffle Friday at Golden Isles.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (Jan. 30) with the finale from the Super Bowl of Racing at Golden Isles, the Southern Sprint Car Challenge at Volusia and the annual Cabin Fever at Boyd’s Speedway. Coverage can be found on Flo Racing, DirtVision and RaceXR, respectively. 

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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