BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Kyle Larson has a new most embarrassing moment in his racing career. Fortunately, the NASCAR Cup champion who moonlights in Dirt Late Models was able to laugh about it — in victory lane.
The Elk Grove, Calif., driver swept around Ricky Thornton Jr. with three laps remaining in the 50-lap Super Bowl of Racing main event for a $12,000 victory, then firmly planted his car into the turn-four wall in an ill-fated attempt at celebratory donuts.
"I'm an idiot. I was way too excited, obviously, so I feel really bad that I tore up a perfectly good race car," Larson said when he finally made it to victory lane with a flat tire, no hood and bent sheetmetal on his K&L Rumley Enterprises Longhorn Chassis.
He'd been asked earlier in the week about the most embarrassing moment of his career, and he agreed that "this takes the cake" among his boneheaded moves. "That was very embarrassing. I don't know what to say, but sorry."
Larson, the third leader of the race that became a dramatic duel with fellow leaders Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., and Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., notched his fourth career Lucas Oil victory by taking the checkers 0.921 of a second ahead of Thornton as he raised his left arm out the driver's side window.
Thornton, who led laps 30-47 after sliding under Overton past the midway point, settled for a disappointing second while the third-finishing Overton saw his three-race Golden Isles winning streak snapped. He'd won Thursday's $10,000 opener after a pair of Super Bowl of Racing victories last January.
Four-time series champ Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., was fourth at his de facto home track while Rocket Chassis house car driver Hudson O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., was fifth after running second in the early laps.
In the first half of the race, it appeared Overton might extend his Golden Isles dominance to four consecutive races as he jumped into the lead from his pole position to take command. But Thornton got underneath the leader to take over on the 30th lap.
Thornton's time out front was anything but easy with Overton (low) and Larson (high) hot on his heels for several laps, but with his pursuers struggling to hit their marks — especially in the high groove — the SSI Motorsports driver maintained control until the final laps.
With Overton slipping back to third on lap 46 after a position-swapping duel with Larson, the eventual winner gave it one last shot on the high side and went around Thornton, who was hung up behind the slower car of Ross Robinson.
Larson was lousy at his postrace donuts, but he was masterful in overtaking Thornton in the final laps.
"What a race," Larson said when he finally reached victory lane. "Like I said, I was so excited after the race because that was awesome."
Larson thought he'd blown chances to win multiple times while dueling with Thornton and Overton in their groove-swapping battle. The last time he dropped to third he believed he'd lost.
"I thought that was the end of the race and was just kind of kicking myself already, like 'I just took the best car and I'm gonna run third with it.' Thankfully we caught traffic and Ricky just was content, you know, being the leader, running the bottom," Larson said. "It was definitely clean down there and a lot of grip, but he was stuck behind that (lapped car).
"I just knew I needed to get clear him. And I was able to run the bottom in (turns) three and four, get by (Overton) and just rip the top and the last few laps and get by Ricky. What a phenomenal race. Every Late Model race I've ran this year has been exciting. Gosh, that was so fun."
Thornton tried not to show his disappointment during his postrace interview on the frontstretch, but he was subdued after failing to notch his first 2023 victory after his fourth consecutive top-five finish to start a promising season. Even knowing Larson made the winning move on the outside, Thornton said that, given a second chance, he wouldn't have don't anything different
"I was talking to my (signal) guy, and it's like one of those deals if I move up and screw up. we run fifth or we gotta junked race car," Thornton said. "I did the best I could. I didn't want to move Ross off the bottom, just because, I mean, really you don't need to have these deals. So we'll take a second. We're happy."
Overton was right in the mix until he got too high in turn four with four laps remaining, but he still got to watch an exciting finish.
"That was a hell of a race. It was cleaned up around the bottom and I kept seeing Kyle stick his nose up there, and then I seen him get kind of hung in (turns) one and two. And I said '(Shoot), I'll get up there and give it a whirl.' Anyway, I jumped the cushion right there and I seen (Larson) got, and I said, 'Hell, (Thornton) better move up or he's gonna get get him too," Overton said. "Hey, it is what it is. It was a hell of a race. Like I said, you win some you lose some. We'll take it. It was fun and we'll see if we can't give 'em hell tomorrow."
With $25,000 on the line in Saturday's finale, Overton may be giving it his best shot, but Larson isn't expected to be competing. An invitation to NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick's 50th anniversary beckons.
"I don't think you can postpone his 50th anniversary, so I'm going to be there," Larson said. "I wish I could be here racing tomorrow night but some things are more important than racing. So get to go there and celebrate an awesome life that Rick and Linda have had. So (I'm) excited to hang out with everybody there and catch the race on Flo later."
Notes: The first of two cautions flew on the 11th lap for a slowing G.R. Smith, who parked with electrical problems. Wil Herrington slowed and pulled to the infield on the 15th lap with a broken right-front shock. ... Track co-owner Kyle Bronson pitted twice early and retired after 21 laps. ... Logan Roberson took a provisional starting spot and drove his father Greg's car in the main event after damaging his primary No. 89 Brodnax Shaker Motorsports entry in his heat-race rollover. ... Besides Kyle Larson, Dalton Cook of Smiths Station, Ala., also joined Friday's program (its Larson's only expected Golden Isles Start). ... South Carolina driver Kale Green dropped the 604 Crate Late Model division after competing Thursday in Lucas Oil action. ... Home-state driver Shane Clanton skipped racing for the second straight night because he's not feeling well. ... Watch all Lucas Oil's action during Speedweeks on FloRacing.
Row 1: Brandon Overton, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 2: Hudson O’Neal, Kyle Larson
Row 3: Earl Pearson Jr., Daulton Wilson
Row 4: G.R. Smith, Tyler Erb
Row 5: Mason Zeigler, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 6: Devin Moran, Carson Ferguson
Row 7: Kyle Strickler, Spencer Hughes
Row 8: Steven Roberts, Tyler Bruening
Row 9: Tim McCreadie, Brian Shirley
Row 10: Jonathan Davenport, Tanner English
Row 11: Ross Robnson, Brandon Sheppard
Row 12: Garrett Alberson, Kyle Bronson
Row 13: Wil Herrington, Logan Roberson
(10 laps, top two transfer)
First consolation: Jonathan Davenport, Ross Robinson, Payton Freeman, Max Blair, Garrett Smith, Kyle Bronson, Boom Briggs, Robby Hensley, Christian Thomas, Wil Herrington, Blair Nothdurft, Jordan Koehler, Mike Benedum, Blake Spencer, Jack Riggs, Danny Snyder. DNS: Jeff Choquette.
Second consolation: Tanner English, Brandon Sheppard, Mark Whitener, John Henderson, Ryan Gustin, Jimmy Owens, Matthew Brocato, Chase Hunghans, Logan Roberson, Garrett Alberson, Jimmy Sharpe Jr., Jason Garver, Dustin Walker, Allen Murray.
Heat race recap
Georgia's own Brandon Overton picked up where he left off in victory lane on Thursday, setting sail from the pole in heat one to start from the pole in Friday's 50-lap feature. ... Overton eyes his fourth straight win at Golden Isles dating back to last January. ... Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., went an uncharacteristic second to fourth in the first heat and relegated to the first B-main. ... Hudson O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., won his heat race for the second night in a row and will start third in the feature. ... Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., outran polesitter Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, to take the third heat. ... Ricky Thornton Jr. of Martinsville, Ind., won the fifth heat by dispatching early leader Logan Roberson of Waynesboro, Va. ... Roberson flipped hard in the battle for the lead with Thornton, who squeezed by the Virginian off the fourth turn via a slide job. Roberson ran out of room exiting the corner, clobbering the outside wall that sent hi barrel rolling down the frontstretch. He exited the mangled race car OK. ... Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., and Daulton Wilson of Fayetteville, N.C., won the remaining heats.
Heat race results
(Eight laps, top three transfer)
First heat: Brandon Overton, G.R. Smith, Kyle Strickler, Jonathan Davenport, Max Blair, Wil Herrington, Robby Hensley, Jordan Koehler, Danny Snyder.
Second heat: Hudson O'Neal, Mason Zeigler, Steven Roberts, Ross Robinson, Garrett Smith, Boom Briggs, Mike Benedum, Christian Thomas, Blake Spencer.
Third heat: Earl Pearson Jr., Devin Moran, Tim McCreadie, Payton Freeman, Kyle Bronson, Jeff Choquette, Jack Riggs, Blair Nothdurft.
Fourth heat: Ricky Thornton Jr., Tyler Erb, Spencer Hughes, Tanner English, Ryam Gustin, Brandon Sheppard, Matthew Brocato, Logan Roberson. DNS: Jason Garver.
Fifth heat: Kyle Larson, Dennis Erb Jr., Tyler Bruening, Jimmy Owens, Mark Whitener, Chase Junghans, Garrett Alberson, Dustin Walker.
Sixth heat: Daulton Wilson, Carson Ferguson, Brian Shirley, John Henderson, Jimmy Sharpe Jr., Rece Vaught, Dalton Cook, Allen Murray.
Ricky Thornton Jr. of Martinsvlle, Ind., cruised to Friday's overall fast time honors from the second flight qualifying with a lap of 14.859 seconds — which is also the quickest lap turned in two nights at the 4/10-mile oval.
Last night's winner Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., kept the good times rolling by posting the fastest lap in the first group of qualifying at 14.932 seconds. Hudson O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind.; Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio; Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif.; and Daulton Wilson of Fayetteville, N.C. join Thornton and Overton on the poles of their respective heat races.
Among the qualifying performances that went amiss was Brandon Sheppard's lap of 15.578 — 19th of 25 cars in Group B — and Brian Shirley's lone lap of 21.296 seconds. With an apparent mechaical issue, Shirley's Chris Ferguson-backed Team Zero Race Car slowed as he completed his first lap before returning to the pits.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
- Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 14.932
- Hudson O’Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., 14.952
- Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 15.032
- Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 15.039
- Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.188
- Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.202
- Wil Herrington (19M), Cochran, Ga., 15.210
- Steven Roberts (111), Sylvester, Ga., 15.224
- Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.274
- Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., 15.278
- Ross Robinson (7), Georgetown, Del., 15.282
- Payton Freeman (22), Commerce, Ga., 15.344
- G.R. Smith (2), Cornelius, N.C., 15.356
- Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.371
- Jeff Choquette (89J), Loxahatchee, Fla., 15.391
- Jordan Koehler (114), Mount Airy, N.C., 15.392
- Mike Benedum (25), Salem, W.Va., 15.403
- Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.408
- Max Blair (111v), Centerville, Pa., 15.420
- Garrett Smith (10), Eatonton, Ga., 15.452
- Jack Riggs (81J), Nolensville, Tenn., 15.539
- Robby Hensley (21H), Walton, Ky., 15.555
- Christian Thomas (773), Wake Forest, N.C., 15.572
- Blair Nothdurft (76), Renner, S.D., 15.678
- Danny Snyder (4), Green Lane, Pa., 15.862
- Blake Spencer (6s), St. Augustine, Fla., 15.982
- Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 14.859
- Kyle Larson (6), Elk Grove, Calif., 14.952
- Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., 14.988
- Logan Roberson (89), Waynesboro, Va., 14.996
- Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 15.063
- John Henderson (2x), North Augusta, S.C., 15.089
- Spencer Hughes (11), Meridian, Miss., 15.201
- Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.222
- Carson Ferguson (93), Lincolnton, N.C., 15.235
- Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 15.246
- Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.283
- Jimmy Sharpe Jr. (26jr), Vidalia, Ga., 15.306
- Ryan Gustin (19r), Marshalltown, Iowa, 15.385
- Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 15.402
- Rece Vaught (20V), Aurora, Neb., 15.518
- Tanner English (96v), Benton, Ky., 15.521
- Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.544
- Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, 15.553
- Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.578
- Mark Whitener (5), Middleburg, Fla., 15.630
- Dalton Cook (44D), Columbus, Ga., 15.723
- Matthew Brocato (78), Muscle Shoals, Ala., 15.835
- Dustin Walker (14W), Polk, Mo., 16.012
- Brian Shirley (8), Chatham, Ill., 21.926
- Jason Garver (01), Starka, Fla., no time
(All times local)
2 p.m.: Pits open
3 p.m.: Grandstands open
5 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
5:30p.m.: Hot laps
- Super Late Models
- 602 Late Models (group qualifying)
- Super Late Models (2 laps)
- 604 Late Models (group qualifying)
- Super Late Models (8 laps)
- 602 Late Models (8 laps)
- Super Late Models (10 laps)
- 604 Late Models (8 laps)
- Super Late Models (50 laps)
- 602 Late Models (20 laps)
- 604 Late Models (25 laps)