Kyle Larson won the NASCAR All-American Late Model Series at Daytona International Speedway Monday night after he more or less used his car to shove leader C.E. Falk III out of the final turn. The unsportsmanlike act created an uproar in the social media, with many NASCAR fans tweeting that they’d changed their opinion of the 20-year-old star.
Some fender rubbing is to be expected in a tight race, but a video shows that Larson deliberately hit Falk in the final lap hard enough to spin him out of the way. The maneuver is particularly dangerous because both drivers were on worn brakes and tires by that point in the race.
Mark Long, reporting for the Miami Herald says that Falk is also angry about the cheap play. “I got monster-trucked at the end,” the 25-year-old said.
Autoweek writer Mike Larson commented, “On Monday night, Kyle Larson was either the greatest driver in the history of racing, or he was the dirtiest racer since Lance Armstrong. It just depends on which side of victory lane you happen to be standing.” He also hinted that the short track race is a tempest in a teapot which will be forgotten as Larson gears up for the Nationwide race this weekend.
The young racer himself seems to have mixed feelings about the way he won. Unable to resist getting involved in the Twitter debate, Larson tweeted, “I honestly feel bad but I’m here to win. I’m a racer and won’t settle for anything less.”
Having won five out of eight starts so far this season, Larson is definitely on track to become a rising star in a rising sport. More eyes than ever are on NASCAR after Danica Patrick made history by becoming the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500. With player health and safety becoming a growing issue in sports like football, one might question whether NASCAR needs the bad publicity of a reckless win.
But Kyle Larson’s most dedicated fans stand behind him. As a poster calling himself “The Catch Fence” tweeted, “NASCAR doesn’t need to do a thing about Kyle Larson. That’s just racin!”