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Kyle Larson finishes 3rd to wrap up New Zealand trip; Chili Bowl next

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After feasting on New Zealand food – and midget car racing – for the last 11 days, Kyle Larson now has a hankering for chili.

As in the Chili Bowl, which runs from Jan. 13-18 at the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver leaves New Zealand after finishing third in the finale of his trip down under, Sunday’s World 50 Lap Classic at the .285-mile Western Springs Speedway dirt track.

Hometown product and eight-time New Zealand national midget champion Michael Pickens won the race (the 66th time in his career that he’s won at his home track), leading the final 24 laps and holding off American driver Tyler Courtney by a commanding 4.103 seconds.

 

But Courtney was victorious in another way: in the six races ran over the last 11 days, he won twice and totaled enough points to earn the 2019-20 United Trucks Parts International Midget Series championship.

Larson finished third to round out the podium of Sunday’s event, followed by Australian Kaidon Brown and another American, Zach Daum.

Larson did capture one win during the six-race slate, on Jan. 1.

But Larson will be back in the area again in a little over two weeks – he’s hoping after he wins the Chili Bowl. He’ll be heading back over the Pacific Ocean in his first trip to Australia since 2016 to take part in several sprint car races.

Larson’s schedule includes the President’s Cup at Avalon Raceway (Jan. 22), the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway (Jan. 23) and the biggest sprint car race of the year in Australia, the Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic at Premier Speedway in Warmambool, Victoria (Jan. 24-26).

In that finale, Larson will be teamed with a familiar face, Carson Macedo, who drives for Larson on the World of Outlaws Series and finished sixth in the points and won rookie of the year honors this past season.

Then it’s back to the good old USA for Larson to begin preparations for the Daytona 500.

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Kyle Larson wins his first midget race of 2020 in New Zealand

Kyle Larson
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A few days after flipping multiple times in the first race of the United Truck Parts International Midget Series, Kyle Larson kicked off 2020 with his first dirt win of the year.

On Wednesday, Larson won the International Midget Series 40 Lapper at Huntly Speedway in New Zealand, the fourth race in the six-round series.

Larson, who is in the midst of a busy dirt racing schedule prior to the start of the NASCAR season, showed off a black eye during interviews after the race.

On Twitter, Larson called the win “one of my coolest victories after all I went through last week.”

The fifth round of the series is scheduled for Friday with the King of the Springs at Western Springs Speedway.

Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell wreck in first night of New Zealand midget races

Kyle Larson
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Kyle Larson had an eventful day after Christmas down in New Zealand.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, as well as Christopher Bell, began a series of midget and sprint car races with Day 1 of the United Truck Parts International Midget Series at Western Springs Speedway.

Larson finished second in the third heat race and won the fifth heat race and the first United States vs New Zealand vs Australia Test Race. 

But both Larson and Bell’s night ended before they got a chance to compete in the midget feature race. Larson lost control and flipped multiple times with two laps left in another of the Test Races.

Larson had to lay on the ground after the incident, but his team announced on Twitter that he was OK.

Larson’s flip was quickly followed by Bell flipping as well, eliminating him and depriving the feature race of both of the NASCAR stars.

Round 2 of the United Truck Parts International Midget Series is Dec. 28 at Baypark Speedway with the 40 lap Gold Cup.

Christopher Bell wins World Midget 50 Lapper in New Zealand

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Christopher Bell beat out Michael Pickens Saturday in the World Midget 50 Lapper at Western Springs Speedway in New Zealand.

Bell started first but quickly lost the lead to Pickens.

Bell overtook Pickens for the lead on Lap 20 and led the rest of the way.

Kyle Larson, who won a 39-lap feature two nights ago over Bell, wrecked on Lap 43 and did not finish.

Saturday’s race concluded a stretch of six midget races in 11 nights in New Zealand. In that span Bell also won two sprint races in addition to Saturday’s win. Larson won two midget races.

Results

Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell place 1-2 in New Zealand midget race

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Kyle Larson bested Christopher Bell to win a 39-lap midget feature in Auckland, New Zealand, that paid tribute to the late Bryan Clauson.

Larson fended off Bell in a late shootout after a caution to win round five of the United Truck Parts International Midget Series.

It is Larson’s second win of the tour.

Bell started 19th and then flipped from contact with 32 laps to go while running 14th. After restarting 17th, the Xfinity Series driver fought his way back into second inside nine laps to go. A caution with six laps left set up the dash to the finish.

There is one 50-lap race left in the New Zealand tour.

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