LARSON, HINES AND CLAUSON SHARE 31st ANNUAL FOUR CROWN NATIONALS WINS
Larson’s Bid for History Derailed During Sprint Car Feature
ROSSBURG, OH (Sept. 22) – Tracy Hines (Sprint Car) and Bryan Clauson (Silver Crown) returned to Eldora Speedway’s victory lane in Saturday’s 31stFour Crown Nationals just after Kyle Larson (Midget) had scored his fourth straight feature victory of the prestigious annual USAC (United States Auto Club) sanctioned event. Larson’s incredible day and run for a continuation of that record was derailed by a vicious night-ending accident during the Sprint Car finale.
Celebrating 4-Crown victories on stage were (L to R) Bryan Clauson (Silver Crown), Tracy Hines (Sprint), and Keith Kunz (accepting the Midget trophy on behalf of Kyle Larson)
Earlier in the afternoon Larson had won the K & N Series Pro East in Loudon, NH and flew into Rossburg upon completion of victory lane ceremonies. His late arrival did not allow for any practice or time trial laps in the Midget or Sprint Car, but he hopped into the Silver Crown car and promptly set quick time over the field.
Larson – who in 2011 joined Jack Hewitt as the only drivers to sweep the USAC portion of the Four Crown Nationals – had moved into fourth place on the event’s all-time win list with his Midget triumph.
Hunter Schuerenberg time trialed the Keith Kunz owned Midget; with Larson taking over in the qualifying heat race. With his finish, he lined up ninth in the feature on Eldora’s .500-mile clay oval. After weaving his way through traffic with a variety of slide jobs he slipped into second with 12 laps completed. He then reeled in race-leader Jerry Coons Jr., by erasing the half-straightaway lead that had been built up, three laps later and pulled up to Coons’ bumper. Larson then rocketed past Coons to lead the final 10 laps of the 25-lap race.
“Once I got to second I chased down Jerry pretty quick and got by him,” Larson said. “The cushion kept getting closer to the wall and I actually hit it a couple times coming off of two. I just had to make sure I kept it off the fence.”
With Larson dominating the field the only remaining drama – besides the dogfight between pole-sitter Brad Kuhn and fellow front-row starter Coons – came out of Turn 4 when Larson’s engine let go. Even with smoke billowing from the power plant, Larson was able to coast across the finish line by a comfortable margin.
“I got pretty lucky getting the checkered right there. There was no sign of it blowing up at all off of four. Luck is with us again this year,” Larson said.
Kuhn finished second and Coons was third. Bobby East and Darren Hagen rounded out the top five. Larson, meanwhile, joined J.J. Yeley, Tracy Hines and Steve Butler in fourth place with those four victories.
His bid for a move up the win list a fifth win came to a devastating end in the Sprint Car feature. Starting ninth, and again moving up through the field, Larson’s ride climbed the wall in Turn 2. The contact found his Hoffman Brothers owned mount barrel rolling and came to a stop upside down before taking a direct hit to the cage from another Sprint Car that was unable to avoid him. The contact sent parts from Larson’s sprint car flying and turned him over a couple more times.
He was checked and released by medical personnel at the track; but elected to park his ride in the Silver Crown feature where he would have started on the pole.
In that Sprint Car feature, Hines had led all 30-laps for his fifth career Four Crown victory. That win tied him with Rich Vogler for the third-most wins in Four Crown history. The New Castle, IN veteran pulled away from the field for a straight-away lead 14 laps into the 30-lapper. Dave Darland had started closing in on Hines, when a caution flag incident with seven laps left bunched up the field and put him on the leader’s tail. The determined Darland tagged the wall on the backstretch off the restart, which concluded any chance of a turn three slide job: allowing Hines to take the win.
“I knew Dave was behind me and I remember at the beginning of the year when I passed him on the last lap. I kind of expected a slide job,” Hines said. “I felt like I was really good through turns 3-4 and when he tried (the slide job) in turns 1-2 I said, ‘Thank you,’ because I knew what line I was going to run in the next corner.”
Chris Windom, Chase Stockon and Bryan Clauson completed the top five in the Sprint Car rundown.
It was the Silver Crown feature that concluded the chilly evening. Direct from his fifth place finish in the Sprint Car portion, Bryan Clauson continued his pace and wrestled the lead from fellow front-row starter Bobby East on a drag race down the backstretch 10 laps into the 50-lap chase
Despite tagging the concrete outer wall several times, Clauson was able to build a comfortable lead and wasn’t challenged en route to his second career Four Crown victory.
Behind him the battle was intense for positioning in the top-five. A spirited battle was being engaged between the eventual finishing order of Robert Ballou, Coons Jr., East and Bud Kaeding.
“That’s what it took to be fast tonight getting right up on the wall. This is as vintage Eldora as it gets,” Clauson said.
Capturing the $750 Larry Rice Hard Charger awards were Larson in the Midgets (from 9th to 1st), Wes McIntyre in the Sprint Cars (from 24th to 9th) and Kody Swanson in the Silver Crown (from 14th to 9th).
Eldora Speedway returns to action with the UMP DIRTcar National Championship on October 5-6. Tickets for that, and the UNOH Sprintactular the following week (October 13) are available through the speedway box office during normal business hours at (937) 338-3815 or online 24 hours a day atwww.eldoraspeedway.com. Fans can also like Eldora Speedway at Facebook.com/EldoraSpeedway and follow on Twitter: @EldoraSpeedway.