When Kyle Larson was a youngster, long before he started racing, he watched Brad Sweet dominate the local Outlaw kart circuit.
Elk Grove’s Larson, one of NASCAR’s rising stars, and Sweet, who grew up in Grass Valley, are family now. Katelyn Sweet, Larson’s longtime girlfriend, is Brad’s younger sister, and Larson and Katelyn were involved in Sweet’s wedding this week to Rachel Jacobs of Placerville.
Larson and Sweet both will drive in Sweet’s annual Placerville Short Track Outlaw Showdown on Wednesday at Placerville Speedway. Sweet leads the World of Outlaws points chase and leads the series with three victories going into this weekend’s two races at the Stockton Dirt Track, and Larson is 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after a career-best seventh place at the 2016 Daytona 500 to start the season.
Larson, who hasn’t raced in a 410 cubic-inch sprint car on the West Coast in more than a year, is looking forward to returning to the track where he celebrated his first career sprint car victory.
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“Placerville is where I got my first win (in 2007),” Larson said before the wedding in Loomis. “It was a Civil War Series event, and that track will always be a special place to me. If you can do well on Placerville Speedway’s slick orange clay with its big cushion, then you can do well anywhere.”
Larson flew to Southern California early Thursday to rejoin his Chip Ganassi Racing team in Fontana for this weekend’s Auto Club 400. With NASCAR taking Easter weekend off, the opening in the schedule allowed Larson to reunite with championship-winning sprint car crew chief Paul Silva. Larson teams up with good friend and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Rico Abreu of Rutherford.
“Last year, we had a Saturday night race in Texas, and I just couldn’t make it out to Placerville,” Larson said. “I really wanted to be there. Brad put on a great event last year and he works hard at it.”
Joining Larson, Sweet and Abreu will be Indy 500 competitor Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. Clauson, who grew up in Citrus Heights, is ninth in the World of Outlaws points chase. Larson, Clauson and Abreu also will race in the USAC Western States Midget series event the same night.
Placerville is where I got my first win (in 2007). It was a Civil War Series event, and that track will always be a special place to me. If you can do well on Placerville Speedway’s slick orange clay with its big cushion, then you can do well anywhere.
▪ All four Bill McAnally Racing drivers will compete Saturday at Irwindale Speedway when the Toyota/Napa Auto Parks 150 opens the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season. Those drivers are defending series champ Chris Eggleston, Todd Gilliland, Riley Herbst and Julia Landauer.
▪ Alexander Rossi of Grass Valley was 12th in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.), the top finish by a IndyCar rookie driver. Next up for Rossi and his Andretti AutoSport team is the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 2.
▪ Hammerking Productions partnered with Nor Cal Rock Racing to purchase Valley Off Road Racing Association earlier this month. Established in 1975, VORRA was a major player in the early years of desert off-road racing and organized legendary off-road races such as the Fallon 250 and the Yerington 300. The purchase will unify the off-road racing organizations under one banner and financial structure, although VORRA will maintain its name. The 2016 VORRA season begins April 29 with a three-day event at Prairie City State Recreational Vehicle Area.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com.