Kyle Larson in the victory lane at the Silver Dollar Race. (Photo by Devin May)
Chico, CA – The Gold Cup of Champions race is back, and it’s back in a big way.
On Thursday, Silver Dollar Speedway opened the 68th edition of the iconic event with new promoters bringing back old traditions and injecting a much-needed boost as they return to status as the jewel in the crown with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint car series.
The first two introductory programs offered an exciting 30-lap feature. Three different drivers came together to deliver five official driving changes during a breathtaking quarter-mile race that is choppy, tough and treacherous.
In the end, Kyle Larson took home the win on his only Gold Cup night this week. He won’t be back for the finish on Saturday with NASCAR commitments taken precedent, but he had time to open on Thursday and made the most of it; Back to victory lane in the same spot where his first World of Outlaws win came in 2011.
In the last six laps, the 30-year-old had to battle the new kid on the block. At 16 years old, Ryan Timms has become the most controversial topic in motor racing this year. He nearly won his second World of Outlaws race in August and nearly beat Kyle Larson on Thursday in his own match.
The duo swapped the lead several times during the middle stages, but it was the last restart on lap 24 that decided it all.
Timms survived an attack before, but this time Larson threw Kevin Kozlwoski’s No. 57 owned through Turn 1 and 2 to clear Randy Timms’ No. 5t and drove for a win by 1.983sec.
“I knew my only chance would come if Ryan didn’t get a great start on the restart,” Larson admitted. “I knew I was going to have to slide faster the second time around, and luckily, it hung. That place was great tonight, it was treacherous. It made the slides really shallow and you’d be off the gas pedal sliding really fast. It felt great when I hit it right.” , but it was tough in every corner.
“He’s really cool,” Larson added of Thames. “I know most of these little kids nowadays can rip a pillow like that. I saw him in the front row of the lineup and thought he was going to be a tough guy to beat tonight. He was crazy through the pack. I think if he did this reboot a little bit better, he’d be his victory.”
Ryan Timms’s runner-up already gives him a two-time runner-up at the World of Outlaws in three weeks against The Greatest Show on Dirt. He entered Saturday’s $25,000 Gold Cup of Champions Final, where a win would make him the youngest winner in the series’ 45-year history.
“I really thought when he slipped me and twisted around it was a break,” said Thames. “Looks like it would have been better to be second rather than first somehow tonight, so you can attack differently. It hurts, but losing to him isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s a lot better than I expected, really.”
James McFadden closed out the podium after a ferocious ride from 11th to third in the 83rd Roth Motorsports race.
“Even if you were on your own, you had your hands full tonight,” McFadden said. “It was pretty tricky out there. I wish we didn’t get this reboot because I felt better all immersed in traffic. We sucked early and dug a hole for ourselves, but these guys worked hard and got that 83rd Ruth back in place.”
Brad Sweet, who finished fourth and collected 386 points on the night, is the unofficial man who no longer has son-in-law Kyle Larson (395) for Saturday. Sweet will have a chance of taking center stage on Saturday as he continues to pursue his first Gold Cup title.
Caleb Henry, in his sixth-ever World of Outlaws Feature, led a lap while mixing with Timms and Larson after he started on the pole. He took fifth place.
Advantage (30 laps) – 1. 57-Kyle Larson [$10,000]; 2. 5T-Ryan Timms [$6,000]; 3. 83- James McFadden [$3,500]; 4. 49-Brad Sweet [$2,800]; 5. 17M – Caleb Henry [$2,500]; 6. 17 – Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,300]; 7. 92- Andy Forsberg [$2,200]; 8. 83V – Sean Baker [$2,100]; 9. 21-Mitchell Faccinto [$2,050]; 10. 83T – Tanner Carrick [$2,000]; 11. 29- Willie Croft [$1,600]; 12. 3Z- Brooke Zervos [$1,400]; 13. Day 14 Korean [$1,200]; 14. 1S- Logan Schuchart [$1,100]; 15. 53- Jesse Attard [$1,050]; 16. 2K- Caleb Montgomery [$1,000]; 17. 33 – Dylan Bloomfield [$1,000]; 18. 12J- John Clark [$1,000]; 19. 20G- Noah Gas [$1,000]; 20. 5V – Landon Brooks [$1,000]; 21. 55D- Dawson Hammers [$1,000]; 22. 18T – Tanner Holmes [$1,000]; 23. 19 Colby Thornhill [$1,000]; 24. 2X – Justin Sanders [$1,000]