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Larson leads NASCAR drivers' efforts on dirt

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 6, 2020 at 8:34 PM

NASCAR drivers stayed busy over the holidays in short track events in America and overseas. They raced both indoors and outdoors, and the largest indoor race of the year, the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, is coming up later this week.

Kyle Larson scored four of the biggest dirt track wins of the offseason, while Tony Stewart showed his retirement from NASCAR hasn’t slowed him down with a record-setting win in Indiana.

Larson began his holiday feast with his third win in California’s Turkey Bowl Nationals and Arizona’s Copper Classic around Thanksgiving.

Then on Dec. 21, he captured the midget-car portion of Gateway Dirt Nationals at The Dome at America’s Center, the former home of the St. Louis Rams. A one-fifth track was put inside the football stadium for an event that included dirt late model, dirt modified and midget car racing.

Several NASCAR drivers raced midget cars at the Gateway Dirt Nationals.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran as high as third, getting on two wheels to make it through one accident before finishing fifth. Christopher Bell, the two-time defending Chili Bowl champion, finished eighth, two spots ahead of NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe.

Ryan Newman missed transferring to the main event by one spot and finished behind three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell in the final B-Main.

Larson spent his Christmas and New Year’s racing in New Zealand. He was banged up, bruised and sporting a black eye after flipping multiple times in a midget race on Christmas Day at Western Springs Speedway.

A little while later, Bell, the defending champion of the World 50-lap classic, had a similar crash. Bell headed home after the accident.

Larson stayed in New Zealand and was rewarded by winning at Huntly Speedway in the first race on the 2020 calendar. Fellow American Zach Daum was second and Australia’s Hayden Williams third.

While Larson was winning Down Under, Stewart was making history back home in Indiana.

Stewart won the 22nd annual Rumble in Fort Wayne for an 11th time after sweeping both the A-Main and B-Main. It was his third sweep in the midget car event. Stewart also set the fast qualifying time for a record 14th time.

The three-time NASCAR champion surpassed the late Rich Vogler and now has the all-time record of 14 indoor midget car victories.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Stewart, a two-time Chili Bowl Nationals winner, has been in charge of track preparation at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race in recent years.

Several NASCAR drivers, including Larson, Bell, Alex Bowman and Justin Allgaier, are entered in the race. Other notables are Dale Earnhardt’s granddaughter, Karsyn Elledge; World of Outlaws winged sprint car champions Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet, Daryn Pittman and Swindell; and IndyCar driver Conor Daly.

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