Kyle Larson wins his first Knoxville Nationals crown

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Kyle Larson held off 10-time Knoxville Nationals champion Donny Schatz to win his first Knoxville Nationals crown Saturday night at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.

Larson’s celebration will be short. He’ll fly back to Indianapolis on Denny Hamlin‘s plane to compete in Sunday’s Cup race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (1 p.m. ET on NBC).

Larson and Hamlin enter the event tied in points in their duel for the Cup regular-season title.

This has been quite a week for Larson. He won last weekend’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International. During that race he made contact with Christopher Bell that spun Bell while they raced for second. Bell was critical of Larson on Saturday with Larson telling the media Bell didn’t respond to an apology text Larson sent.

None of that mattered Saturday night for Larson, whose best finish in the Knoxville Nationals was second in 2017. Schatz won his 10th Knoxville Nationals title that year.

Larson started Saturday night’s 50-lap feature third. He won $176,000. Schatz finished second. Brad Sweet placed third. Former Cup driver Kasey Kahne was eighth in front of a capacity crowd of more than 20,000.

The win was the biggest remaining bucket list win for Larson outside of NASCAR. He won the Chili Bowl Nationals (2020 and 2021) and King’s Royal (2021).

“I’ve always dreamed of winning this race,” Larson said in Victory Lane on Dirtvision. “The atmosphere this week was unbelievable. I felt the energy all week long from you fans. It kept me excited and pumped up. I hadn’t been this nervous leading up to a race in a couple of years. I had butterflies all day and during [NASCAR] Cup practice all I could think about is what I needed to do here at the Knoxville Nationals.”