Four races into the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and Kyle Larson is the current points leader.
Yes, you read that correctly. Kyle Larson is undoubtedly off to the best start of his young NASCAR career and is on the verge of winning his second career MENCS race.
In Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix, Larson seemed poised to take advantage of Kyle Busch’s misfortunes on a late-race restart. Busch, who was the class of the field for the final stage of the race, was relegated to restarting behind Larson in NASCAR Overtime. Several cars stayed on the track when the leaders pitted and Busch was unable to beat Kyle Larson off of pit lane.
Larson restarted behind eventual race winner Ryan Newman and was unable to pass the No. 31 Grainger Chevrolet, despite being on newer tires.
The runner-up finish marked the third-straight, second-place finish for Larson, whose worst finish so far this season was 12th at Daytona. Larson has been fast enough and in the right position to claim victory this year, but has been unable to drive his car into victory lane.
In his post-race interview, Larson summed up his race by stating, “It was a fun race for us, we ran no worse than 4th, I think all race. Was really happy about that, challenged for the segment win in the first stage with Joey (Logano) that was a lot of fun. Finished 2nd overall in the second (stage). Solid run for us, wish we would have been the winners, I knew we were in the best spot”.
Larson could have possibly caught Newman for the lead, but was aggressive on the restart and made contact with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. as they entered turn one. The contact caused Larson’s car to slow and slide up the track, which allowed Newman the opportunity to pull away from the No. 42.
Larson addressed his string of second-place finishes as, “We have never had the speed, so it’s a lot of fun right now. I’m sure if I ran second for the next eight weeks, yeah, it’s probably going to grow old. It’s so cool to be one of the fastest cars every week, feel like I’ve got a shot to win every week, at a race track like here, in Vegas where I don’t normally run good and challenge for wins”.
Obviously, there are 32 more points races in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, but Larson seems optimistic. “It’s been a lot of fun to start this year. I just hope we can continue to work hard and be consistent, be mistake free on pit road and on the racetrack. If we can keep doing that, the wins will come”, he added.
It was noted that Larson has four, second-place finishes in the last five races, dating back to the season finale at Homestead in 2016. Larson’s first victory could, in fact, be on the horizon, as early as next week at Fontana, where he has been fast in recent years.
At this rate, it is not outlandish to think that Larson will make the 2017 Chase, but his team has shown that they have what it takes to be a serious threat to win the championship. With a little luck and a few wins, Larson just might be on the verge of his most successful season thus far in his career.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff (apertureone.net)