The kid does it; Kyle Larson becomes youngest winner ever at Placerville Speedway
15-year-old Elk Grove sensation wins high caliber Civil War feature in just his 10th event
by Bill Sullivan
PLACERVILLE, CA – History was made at Placerville Speedway Saturday night. Before a near sold out crowd, 15-year-old Kyle Larson of Elk Grove became the youngest driver to ever win a feature event at the foothill speedway.To top it off, the accomplishment didn’t come easy for Larson and his trip to victory lane was one of the most exciting races in recent memory.
“This is awesome,” we the first words from Larson, after he climbed from his Parker Stores/Vertullo Racing owned #83v on the front stretch of the speedway and was surrounded by members of his family, fellow drivers and many spectators that pushed their way past security officers and flooded victory lane in celebration. Saturday’s event was just Larson’s 10th start in the Civil War series.
Larson started the feature event in the fifth position behind Marc Mackay of Shingle Springs, Mason Moore of Princeton, Placerville’s Jimmy Trulli and Stephen Allard of Chico. The first pair of green flags were followed by caution flags. The first pause was a red flag when point leader Andy Forsberg of Auburn rolled over on his side in turn three after a collision in traffic. After a three car collision in turn two involving Billy Wallace, Brad Bumgarner and Trulli, the third attempt at the official start was followed by 30-laps of the most exciting racing by two of today’s youngest open wheel stars.
Second place starter Mason Moore of Princeton drove from his outside front row starting position to immediately take the lead from pole sitter Marc Mackay. Once in front, Moore muscled his family owned Moore Insurance/Blue Shield of California #22 to a lead several car lengths over Mackay. Much like Larson, Moore is also a graduate of the outlaw karting ranks this season. The well spoken 16-year-old is one of Larson’s good friends and the duo spent many of their younger years together racing side by side in the smaller cars.
For the first 19-laps of the event, Moore maintained a moderate lead over Mackay who felt the pressures of Larson since the opening lap. Just prior to completion of the 20th lap, Larson brought the capacity crowd to it’s feet when he overtook Mackay for second place and set his sights on his friendly rival, Moore, for the lead. Shortly after Larson moved into second place, three time Marysville champion Colby Wiesz of Colfax advanced into the third spot to begin chasing the two drivers that are less than half his age.
With Wiesz running the low line consistently, Larson was forced to drive up on the risky high side of the track for the final half of Saturday’s race. With the feat, Larson proved to the critics that say Placerville is a one lane track to be very mistaken. Once up on the top side of the track Larson began to reel in Moore for the lead, lap after lap and restart after restart.
On lap 26, the spectators rose to their feet as Larson went to the risky high side of of turn four and pulled beside Moore to make the pass that put him the lead and eventually become the youngest to do so in the 42 years of operation at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds. For the final laps Moore remained within striking distance of Larson, awaiting the slightest error which never took place. Wiesz pulled to the inside of Moore on several occasion to bid for the second position with little success. At the finish line it was Larson with the win, followed by Moore, Wiesz, Mackay and Dan Menne of Fort Jones.
With his victory, Larson not only becomes the youngest driver to win at Placerville Speedway. He also is the youngest to ever wuin a feature event in the Civil War Series and joins Alissa Geving of Penngrove in the category of youngest winning drivers in California. Just two weeks ago, Geving won her first feature event at Petaluma Speedway. Saturday night, Geving was one of the first drivers to greet Larson when he climbed from the car and was greeted by more than a thousand screaming fans.
“Mason and I have raced together for a long time in the karts,” said Larson, who was greeted by third place finishers Wiesz as well as defending track champion Greg DeCaires who ran all the way from the pit area to shake his hand. Recently retired two time Civil War champion David Robinson Jr. even surfaced on the track to show his support.
“He was running a good race and I wasn’t sure I was going to catch him. When I had to go up high to stay ahead of Colby the car worked really well up there so I stayed up there. This is really great, I want to do the best I can in this sport because my goal is to eventually get to NASCAR.”
For the past several years, car owners David and Debbie Vertullo have had their share of success with young talented drivers in their Elk Grove based sprint car. Names such as Brad Sweet, Chuck Gurney and Mike Henry have all driven to victory with the team. This year, Vertullo gave Larson the opportunity to drive a full size sprint car and its has paid off for both parties.
“He’s a great kid and I am glad to have him in the car,” said Vertullo. Unfortunately I know I don’t have him for very long but I’m sure he’s going to go places.”
Amidst the victory lane pandemonium Saturday night war Moore, who was just as excited for Larson’s success as if he had one the feature event. The driver known as “Primetime” to his counterparts was eager to complete his front stretch interview so he could give Larson a respectful handshake.
“I’m really happy for Kyle tonight, he did a great job,” said Moore. “We raced some really clean laps out here tonight. When I saw him pulled to the outside of me in the fourth turn I was pretty surprised. I’ve heard not many people can do that here but he’s been running well up here all year long and he figured it out. This is our best finish so far and I’m really happy to be here with Kyle and Colby tonight.”
For Wiesz, the third place finish assured his second place status in the point standings on Saturday. The veteran driver chose not to talk about his night, but gave all the credit to Larson for his win.
“These guys are getting younger every year,” said Wiesz. “Younger and faster. The kid has an incredible amount of talent behind the wheel of a race car. I had a great view of it all tonight and both Kyle and Mason deseve credit for a great race out here. I can’t complain about a third place tonight that’s for sure.”
Next Saturday the Civil War returns to the famed Calistoga Speedway for the annual “Napa Valley Challenge.” Placerville Speedway will host a totally wingless event including the BCRA Midgets, Midget Lites, Wingless Sprints, Pro Stocks and Pure Stocks.