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Larson Sparking An Evolution In Sprint Car Racing

Larson Sparking An Evolution
Kyle Larson (second from right) in victory lane with the Weikert family at Port Royal Speedway. (Dan Demarco photo)

PORT ROYAL, Pa. – Toting his HANS device and a look of frustration, Brent Marks stormed out of his car and into his massive hauler, through the glass sliding doors in the very back.

He and crew chief Barry Jackson went into debrief, a confidential conversation on what they could’ve possibly deployed to fight back and not become the latest victim of a Kyle Larson victory attack.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Marks said after finishing second to Larson on Saturday in night one of the Bob Weikert Memorial at Port Royal Speedway. “We were just as fast. He was just able to work his way around me.

“We’re really good right now and it’s a little frustrating.”

This is, quite simply, a snippet of the aftermath over these last few weeks in central Pennsylvania.

On the very weekend that happens to honor legendary car owner Weikert, as well as his storied drivers like Doug Wolfgang, Larson and Paul Silva are pressuring teams to evolve, or at least act similarly to what Weikert and Wolfgang did all those years ago.

While the paths are incomparable, the streaks and win percentages are. In 1985, Weikert and Wolfgang won 53 races together in more than 100 races, with some guy named Davey Brown as crew chief.

On Saturday night, with a pair of Weikert trophies in hand, Larson won his 19th race in his past 32 starts. That’s roughly 50 percent versus 59 percent, with Larson as the latter.

Larson’s doled plenty of exhilaration and headaches since his first stop in Pennsylvania on June 24, and Marks hasn’t been the only one left vexed in this wake.

On Friday at Williams Grove Speedway, Anthony Macri had everything go his way until Larson rushed in like a bat out of hell. Two weeks before that, Larson started his Pennsylvania Speedweek title runaway by blitzing Freddie Rahmer at Grandview, his home track, prompting Rahmer’s accomplished father to say, “Son, you need to match that.”

Larson then denied Lance Dewease of win No. 100 at Williams Grove, flipping the script for his first victory at the speedway. He capped it all off by bettering one of the Posse’s finest in Danny Dietrich by 323 points in the final Pennsylvania Speedweek standings.

“I watched Doug Wolfgang come in and changed the way people did things,” Fred Rahmer said in a recent phone interview. “Now, style wise, it looks to me like Kyle Larson is doing it again.”

Doug Wolfgang (Ken Simon Photo)
Doug Wolfgang. (Ken Simon photo)

Weikert, Wolfgang, and Brown forged their place in sprint car racing royalty through unmatched grit and their revolutionary mechanical approach.

Larson, however, is as distant as one could be from having such knowledge.

While Silva and crew toil away at the race car in between on-track moments, Larson sits inside the trailer, on a bench behind one of the white cabinets, hunched over and watching maintenance from afar.

“He’s not burdened with the knowledge of what it takes to fix car if it’s not right,” Fred Rahmer said. “He just finds a way to drive it.”

In a way, it’s probably one of the reasons behind this dominant run, that Larson has simply made do with what he’s been given.

Wolfgang, according to his mechanic Davey Brown, built “everything and anything” behind Weikert’s race shop walls, often housed with cars that were lighter than most and engines more powerful than any other team around.

“We were just ahead of everyone else,” Brown said. “But Kyle, I wish he would’ve stayed in NASCAR.”

Brown laughed, and then carried on with his assessment.

“He’s hard to beat,” he said. “He’s a heck of a driver. There’s nobody that can’t be beat, but we’ll have to try a little harder. Everyone’s trying harder to catch him, I guess.”

Thirty some years later, after competitors relentlessly chased Brown, Weikert, and Wolfgang, everyone else, including Brown in a way, is now chasing Larson and Silva in an age where sprint cars seem so equal to one another.

“It’s pretty impressive when in a time people say, ‘You can’t have a dominant car,’” Fred Rahmer said. “Yeah, well somebody tell him. Hopefully a group of us will learn from it.”

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