Young Kyle Larson having fun even though wins aren’t coming

Photo by Harold Hinson Photography

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

Kyle Larson isn’t tired of finishing second.  At least, not yet.

The driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet was the runner-up in Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway for the third straight race.

The 24-year-old wheelman crossed the finish line behind Ryan Newman, whose strategy to stay out on old tires for the final restart, paid off. Larson pitted for two right-side tires.

But don’t cry for Larson. To him, he’s close to his first victory of 2017 and second of his career.

“It’s a lot of fun right now,” Larson said.  “I’m sure, you know, if I ran second for the next eight weeks, yeah, it’s probably going to grow old. “

Larson came out of the gate challenging for the win in the Daytona 500 before running out of fuel and ending up 12th.  He ran second to Brad Keselowski in Atlanta, then repeated the act in Las Vegas behind Martin Truex Jr., and now Newman.

“I feel like I’ve got a shot to win every week at a racetrack like here and Vegas where I don’t normally run good, and challenge for wins. And Daytona, I suck on superspeedways,” said Larson, the 2013 Rookie of the Year.

Larson’s consistent run brings to mind the NFL’s Buffalo Bills though his is of a lesser magnitude.  The Bills have the dubious distinction of being the only team to advance to four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-93 and losing all four of them.

The Elk Grove, California native said he just needs to clean up some little things to be able to close out races. On Sunday, he got tangled up with the fourth-place car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. that slowed his run at Newman.

“Yeah, I mean, I guess little mistakes or inexperience or whatever you want to call it,” Larson said.  “Yeah, like today, I should have just looked ‑‑ hindsight is always 20/20.  But I should have went a lane up in one and two.  I should have known to just stay close to Newman.  That’s what I wish I would have done.”

And though Larson crossed the finish line .312 seconds behind Newman – who ended a 127-race winless drought – the fifth-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver came out of the desert atop the standings.

“It took me, like, three years to finish second in Sprint cars,” he said.  “Now I finish second like every week, so …  A little weird, but maybe we’ll turn them into wins soon.”

Larson had a race-high 53 points  on Sunday. He is one of two Cup drivers — Brad Keselowski is the other – to earn points in every stage this season.

“If we can just keep doing that, the wins are going to come,” he said. “I could easily have four wins right now.  Just got to keep working hard.”

 

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