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Boy, was I wrong!

trevor larson

There’s a funny thing about putting thoughts in writing: sometimes, in retrospect, those thoughts seem pretty silly! Like last month, when I detailed the “ultimate weapon” for Super Comp and Super Gas, then assured you that by putting that into print I’d all but guaranteed success for racers like Steve Williams and Chris Garretson (who compete in machines that run counter to what I pinpointed as the “perfect weapon”). Steve promptly won the World Finals in Super Gas (and sent me a nice text thanking me for the prediction, by the way)!

Or, earlier in 2023, when I unintentionally placed the ultimate jinx on Sherman Adcock, Jr. I’m sure you’re familiar with Sherman’s start to the 2023 campaign: he won five of the first six NHRA Super Gas events he attended. By the time I wrote about his hot start in May, I like many, assumed that Sherman’s unprecedented third Super Gas world championship was inevitable. So inevitable, in fact, that I went so far as to say that “he is more likely to record the first perfect score in NHRA Lucas Oil Series history than he is to not win the title.”

That was in May. Here we are in December, and guess what? Sherman Adcock Jr. did not record a perfect season, and he did not win the 2023 world championship. 

For a second consecutive season, Super Gas provided arguably the most dramatic title chase in the sport (short of Top Fuel Dragster), remaining very much in doubt until the late rounds of the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals. While this season didn’t quite pack the punch of Bob Locke’s all-or-nothing run to a title in 2022, Trevor Larson’s run to a championship, and the unlikelihood of him knocking Sherman Adcock, Jr. off of his perch atop the Super Gas standings is no less incredible.

How incredible? Try this on for size. As of July 27, Sherman had amassed 678 points on the strength of those five early season victories. At that time, no one was within 200 points of Adcock, and he still had five remaining events at which to improve his score. Given his domination early in the season, it seemed reasonable to assume that he would end his season with 700+ points (to date, no sportsman racer has posted 700+ and NOT won the championship). Worst case scenario: if Sherman was unable to add a single point to his score in the closing four months of the season, that score of 678 would have won the Super Gas championship in eight of the last ten seasons! In short, it seemed incredibly unlikely that any driver would best Sherman’s mark, much less Trevor Larson.

Why not Trevor? Not because he’s not one of the most decorated sportsman drivers in the field. He is. Not because he’s not a multi-time Division Champion and perennial top-ten finisher. He is. No, the reason that it was unreasonable to consider Trevor Larson a championship contender on July 27 was simple… It was because he had not yet staged for a single round of Super Gas competition in 2023! That, and the fact that a guy named Sherman Adcock, Jr. had 678 points!

Trevor’s run to the title started innocently enough. He hopped into good friend Chis Hess’s ‘63 Corvette roadster to test the new combination at the Division 5 double header in Topeka and drove it to a runner-up finish. Heck of a way to break in a new car, huh? At that point, no one – not you, not me, not even Trevor entertained ANY thought of a championship run. So much so that he didn’t drive the car again for nearly a month, when he entered it in his hometown national event in Brainerd and drove to the semi-finals. 

Trevor hauled that machine with him to Acton, MT for the Division 6 double header a week later. Once again, he earned runner-up honors in race one. Another Lucas Oil Series event brought another runner-up finish, this time in Earlville, IA, and suddenly the Division 5 Super Gas championship was within reach. That possibility led Trevor and family to Tulsa, OK, where he promptly drove the Corvette to victory, solidifying the Division 5 title. It was then that, for the first time, Trevor realized there could be a path to contending for a national championship. 

It was a longshot at best. Adcock had that massive 678 point total, and an even if an already road-weary Larson were to commit to a massive season ending road trip to the remaining Camping World Series events in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Pomona – a 4,000 mile round trip from his Minnesota home – he’d still be two national events short of the maximum allowance of six at which racers can attempt to better their score.

Nonetheless, the journey continued. When Larson donned the coveted Cowboy Hat to celebrate victory at the NHRA Texas Nationals in Dallas, he was truly within striking distance of the championship, with a legitimate opportunity to upset an Adcock championship that most followers of the sport had assumed was a given since April. 

As a testament to the season that Adcock had posted, even at this point – five final rounds into his pursuit – Larson had a tall mountain to climb. To win the title, not only would he have to continue this epic road trip to the season-ending trio of events in Las Vegas and Pomona, he’d have to turn on a bunch of win lights, under tremendous pressure to win the title (at that point, the simplest scenario for Larson to win the title was to win one of the three remaining events).

For his part, it is worth noting that Adcock was unable to slam the door on what felt like a certain national championship. The title would have been the third Super Gas crown for Adcock; a feat that no driver has accomplished in the ultra-competitive 9.90 category. But for all of Sherman’s domination in the early season, he was unable to improve his score in the summer and fall months. Sportsman drag racing, and the super classes in particular, have a way of humbling even the best racers, as Adcock proved. He was unable to advance past round three in his final six points-earning events and closed his season stalled at 678 points.

Larson, of course, did make the trip west. After falling early in the Las Vegas Nationals, he drove Hess’s familiar Corvette to the final round of the closing Division 7 Lucas Oil Series event: A win light there would make him the 2023 Super Gas world champion. Only Larson fell short of the crown, settling for runner-up, forcing him to travel to Pomona and endure what we have to assume was a week full of restless nights. To win the championship, Larson would have to turn on the win light in round 2 at Pomona. He advanced through round one on Friday to again put him one win light (and one sleep) away from the coveted title. In that pivotal round, Larson got the better of Kim Will to win the round, and the 2023 championship. Fittingly, he clocked a perfect 9.900 in the round. Not only is that perfection in the Super Gas world, but given the fact that Will did not break out, it was also .001 of a second away from the ultimate agony. In retrospect, that feels fitting; as though this title could not have been decided any other way.

In the end, Larson claimed the world championship despite competing actively for less than half of the NHRA calendar. Starting with that fateful trip to Topeka in late July, he would attend fourteen NHRA events in a fifteen week span. He traveled over 9,000 miles from his Glenwood, Minnesota home base to race in eight different states (and travel through at least seven more), earning six final round appearances and ultimately posting 680 points to hoist the well-deserved, if not highly unlikely championship wally at season’s end.

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