Kyle Larson Knocking on the Door for Wins

Consistent, strong finishes are one of the hallmarks of a title contending team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  For Kyle Larson and his No. 42 Target/Credit One Bank Chevrolet team, it’s been one of the catalysts for their strongest start yet.

Following a heartbreaking, last lap defeat in the season opening Daytona 500, Larson scored three straight runner up results at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

As a result, Larson’s strong average finishing position (4.5) and solid average starting spot (8.2) placed his team in a spot they last enjoyed during the Richmond fall race on September 7, 2002 – the points lead.

Furthermore, Larson became the first Drive for Diversity graduate to lead the premier division points standings.

While Jamie McMurray sat atop the points lead following his 2010 Daytona 500 victory, it is the first time that Chip Ganassi Racing has ranked first this late into a season since Sterling Marlin drove the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid.

Kyle Larson has about 42 reasons to be optimistic about his team's strong start in 2017.

Kyle Larson has about 42 reasons to be optimistic about his team’s strong start in 2017.

First of all, Larson’s strong start has not been characterized by being flashy in terms of the number of laps led (26 out of 1,106 laps run this season). Most noteworthy, he has scored points and capitalized on the new stage format implemented this year.

Following Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, Larson observed the steady speed and strong finishes.

“Like I’ve been saying all of this early year, we’ve never had that speed,” Larson observed. “It’s a lot of fun right now.  I’m sure, you know, if I ran second for the next eight weeks, yeah, it’s probably going to grow old.  But, yeah, it’s so cool to be one of the fastest cars every week.”

The 24-year-old had one of his patented races at Phoenix.  Capitalizing on a strong fourth place qualifying effort, Larson ran inside the top-four for all 314 miles.

Although the fifth year competitor came up one spot short to victor Ryan Newman, ultimately, it was not for a lack of effort on the final restart.

As the field came to green, Larson drew a bead on Newman, preparing his pass into turns one and two.

Before the Californian could set up his pass into turn two, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. asserted himself into the picture. Consequently, both drivers tangled, hindering their chances to challenge for the win.

“Wish we would have been the winners,” Larson mused.  “I thought we were — I knew we were in the best spot.  Just, yeah, turned across Ricky’s nose and got sideways, killed both of our runs off of two, and allowed Newman to get out on us.”

While Newman put an end to his 128 race winless drought, Larson looked forward to Auto Club Speedway, the site of the next premier series race.  Also, Auto Club shares similarities with Michigan International Speedway, the site of Larson’s first MENCS win.

Larson's No. 42 over the wall crew have been steady and precise on pit road.

Larson’s No. 42 over the wall crew have been steady and precise on pit road.

Consequently, Larson realizes that it is a matter of time before the wins rack up for his No. 42 team.

“It’s been a lot of fun to start this year,” he said.  “I just hope we can continue to work hard, be consistent, be mistake-free on pit road and on the racetrack.  If we can just keep doing that, the wins are going to come.  I could easily have four wins right now.  Just got to keep working hard.”

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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