Column By: MIKE WARREN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CONCORD, NC – Brandon Sheppard and Tyler Bruening were locked in a heated battle for the lead at Mississippi Thunder Speedway when an expected moment brought fans to the edge of their seats. Brent Larson squeezed underneath the two drivers, stealing the top spot.
He led 16 laps and finished second— his career best World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models finish.
While the run surprised people watching at the track and at home on DIRTVision, it wasn’t a shock for him. It’s something the Lake Elmo, MN driver believes was a long time coming.
“For me it was kind of like finally. It wasn’t like heck yeah that’s awesome,” Larson said. “I was really happy for the people that put so much effort into it.”
While it meant a lot to get on the podium, it meant more because the Wisconsin track is less than two hours from his home.
“It was cool to be around home and have my in-laws there, my daughter and my son there, my wife on sticks, and my crew that’s there week in and week out,” Larson said. “For them to be there and see how happy and excited they were, was probably a bigger deal for me than finishing second.”
One of the biggest contributors to Larson’s recent success is hiring a new crew member. Donnie Birdwell moved from Florida to join the team. It helps take some of the load off Larson in the shop.
“He’s been a great addition to my team, and he’s able to catch everything that takes time,” Larson said. “He’s not a wizard on setup, but most drivers at this level know what they’re after. It’s more about having somebody that can help drive the truck, get things maintained, and keep the car going.”
Even though Birdwell’s been a big help, it’s still a family-run operation. Larson’s wife Melanie is the team’s tire specialist, and both of his kids also help.
“My kids have been around it since they were born,” Larson said. “My son when he was three or four years old was learning how to break down tires, and air stuff up. If you look at my Facebook, there’s even pictures through the years of him tearing down engines since he was a little guy. It’s the life they’ve always known.”
Helping Dad isn’t the only thing his son Matthew is working on right now. Just like his father, he’ll be getting behind the wheel.
“We’re in the middle of putting a car together for [Matthew] right now,” Larson said. “He saved up a lot of money last summer, his grandpa matched him, and he bought a Super Stock. That’s the class I started in.”
Even though Larson’s helping Matthew get his Super Stock ready, his focus is still on the Late Model. His goal for the rest of 2021 is to stay consistent.
“I feel like I want to string three or four good weekends together before I have a bad one,” Larson said. “I want to crack off a few more podiums, and we really want to win a race. That’s everybody’s goal that’s in a spot that hasn’t won one. I really want to win a World of Outlaws race.”
Larson’s quest for his first victory continues at Port Royal Speedway, May 21-22, when the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models battle in the Huey Wilcoxon, and Billy Vacek Memorials.