"Lightning" Larry Wight had one of the best years of his career in 2018. With his resume growing rapidly, Wight now turns his focus to the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Aside from winning multiple races on his home turf at the Brewerton Speedway (NY) and Fulton Speedway (NY) in the Dirt Modified ranks, he pulled off two wins with the ESS Sprint Cars Tour, claimed the Fulton Speedway and Super DIRTcar Series Small Block Modified championships, and wrote his name in history as a winner at Super DIRT Week at the Oswego Speedway (NY) in October.
Wight will be making just his third attempt at the Chili Bowl in 2019. His first attempt in 2016 was a struggle, but his second try in 2017 saw him emerge as a contender.
"The first year we went out, it was a big learning curve with how the whole structure of the race works,” Wight told Speed51.com about the 2016 venture. “With passing points and trying to accumulate as many points as you can to line you up for the qualifying feature, which is completely different from what we are used to in the Northeast.
“That was the first time I'd ever driven a Midget,” Wight continued. “We were chasing ourselves between me not having enough seat time and we weren't keeping up on the car quite fast enough with the track going away. That caused us to be behind a little bit."
An eventful heat race would take him out of contention for the A-Main on his preliminary night. Although Wight's first trip didn't go so smoothly, his second try in 2017 would make up for it.
"The second time around, we tried to put everything we learned the first year together and we knew that it was extremely crucial to lock in on night one,” Wight said. “That way, once you get to Saturday, all you're doing is just making sure everything is ready, you have your car to the best of its ability as you can and watching the track to see what it's doing.”
Wight would have a great start to the week, finishing second on his preliminary night behind Tyler Courtney in the A-Main. The strong finish would send him straight to Saturday night's main event, where he would finish 13th after experiencing an overheating issue.
After turning many heads throughout the week, Wight would miss the Chili Bowl the following year due to the birth of his daughter in December 2017. This year, he is planning to return behind the wheel of the #99L owned by Mike Heffner and to contend with the best Midget racers in the nation.
"The Mike Heffner car has been proven, between Kevin Thomas Jr and I running it. We've both been able to put it in the show so I really think that we should be able to go down there and definitely make a presence for the Northeast," said Wight.
Preliminary races run Monday through Friday for the Chili Bowl, with Saturday being the final race day. Wight's preliminary night is on Tuesday, which he believes will play to his favor.
"Going earlier in the week is a lot easier mentally because a lot of the heavy hitters go later in the week generally because they are busy doing other stuff at the early part of the week,” Wight explained. “If you can get an easy qualifying night, it makes it a lot easier to where you can focus on your race. You're not worried about running with these heavy name guys. You get some of those big-name guys in your qualifier and it messes up your head, plus it's just another guy you have to run hard against."
Although it's not an easy road to get into the show, Wight is going into the week as a possible dark horse to take the Golden Driller back home to New York and add to his growing list of dirt track accomplishments.
-Evan Canfield, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ecanfield17
-Photo credit: Gypsum Racing