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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It's not often that drivers agree on the particulars of a controversial ending to a race, but that's exactly what happened at Daytona International Speedway on Monday night.
To wit: C.E. Falk III, who was leading the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series portion of the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach with less than a quarter of a lap around the .4-mile backstretch oval, said that Kyle Larson hit him multiple times off the final corner to win the Late Model 150.
Larson, the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, didn't dispute the facts. He admits to hitting Falk twice, sending Falk spinning into the infield while he drove off to victory.
What they do dispute, however, is whether it was the right move by Larson. Following the Victory Lane ceremonies, a question was posed to Larson: “Would you do it again?” Larson smiled, nodded, and held up the trophy he was still carrying.
“I did dirty him up there,” Larson said. “I got into him once, got into him twice and then got him around. I don't get to do this short-track stock car stuff very often... It seems to me like every video I've ever seen from a short track like this, it seems the second place guy coming out of the turn always wins.”
Larson cited Bowman Gray Stadium as an example.
Falk, however, smiled through gritted teeth and tried to say all the right things about losing a race in which he'd led 61 laps and had the dominant car for the second half of the night.
“We didn't get all the money, but my car's in one piece and I can go racing next week if I want to,” Falk said. “For a guy on a tight budget, we'll be OK.”
Worth watching now is where both drivers head from here.
Larson has graduated from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series with an eye toward launching his first NASCAR Nationwide Series season here later this week. Falk, twice a Top-3 finisher in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship standings, has an eye on finally winning the big prize at the end of this season.
Falk builds his championship resume each season on consistency, while Larson's star has risen lightning-fast by winning races – in all series, in all types of race cars.
“It's the first race I've ever won in that manner, but this was a pretty big race. I wanted to win it.,” Larson said.
BUSY WEEK: For Larson, Monday's win was only his first of many races this week.
Larson will also compete in both the K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races on Tuesday. He turned more laps than anybody Monday, across practice sessions for all three Battle At The Beach divisions, plus Late Model qualifying and feature racing.
“I have like three times as many laps as anybody has on this track right now, so it definitely helps,” Larson said. “We didn't turn a lot of laps in the K&N car, but I felt pretty strong in that. Then the Modified – we were quickest in that in my first time ever in a Modified.
“I'm looking forward to these couple of days. It's going to be a lot of fun.”
PRICE IS RIGHT: Gene Price Motorsports teammates Greg Pursley and Cameron Hayley finished one-two atop the speed chart in the only K&N Pro Series practice of the day Monday.
Though Pursley said he'd never seen a track anything like the flat short track at Daytona, he wasn't surprised to have a fast car.
“It's nothing like anywhere I've ever been to. Nothing at all,” said Pursley, the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion.
“We went through all of our cars over the winter and tested a little bit, and we're really happy with these cars,” Pursley said. “It's just really great to be back out racing again. It's really cool to be out here at Daytona and part of Speedweeks. It's even better to be at the top of the speed charts.”
FIRST TIME: C.E Falk III may have not had the ending to the day he wanted at Daytona, but he certainly had a memorable start.
Falk was the very first car to hit the new .4-mile short track at Daytona, turning the first lap at speed for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models in practice Monday morning.
“They may have just needed somebody out there to blow all the dust off the track, but I don't care,” Falk said. “It's pretty special to be the first, and it's something that I will always remember and look back on no matter what.”
Damage to Kyle Larson's No. 98 Curb Records Chevrolet following the UNOH Battle At The Beach. Getty Images for NASCAR