Kyle Larson and his #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet had quite the rollercoaster ride in last year’s Monster Energy Cup Series season. Throughout the regular season, only eventual champion Martin Truex Jr. showed more speed on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, the speedster’s fortunes turned ugly in the second round. As a result, Larson’s hopes for his first NASCAR Championship came to a sudden halt.
The Chip Ganassi Racing standout took the bull by the horns in the events leading up to NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Kyle Larson showed the consistent speed at almost every venue and it paid off in spades in 2017. After a 12th-place result to open his season in the Daytona 500, Larson reeled off three-straight runner-ups. He took second at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. It was pretty obvious to his competitors that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with.
The rest of the NASCAR field was right. The following week, Kyle Larson drove his way to his second-ever Cup Series victory at Fontana in the Auto Club 400. In that race, the talented youth went out and led 110 of the 202 laps turned. What is more impressive is that he did it from the pole. Not bad considering he finished 39th at that same track last year. Coming off three straight second-place finishes, Larson figured that the win would silence some of his critics.
“We’ve been so good all year,” Kyle Larson said in Victory Lane, “But I’ve been watching TV and it’s like, he doesn’t know how to win!’ Well, we knew how to win today baby.”
More victories were sure to come. That proved to be true when Kyle Larson crossed the finished line out in front of the FireKeepers Casino 400. The victory was the first of two wins that he would collect at Michigan International Speedway. He also drove to his first-ever win here in 2016.
Kyle Larson already had his ticket punched into the playoffs but that didn’t slow him down one bit. Amazingly, the racing phenom finished out the regular season with his fourth victory of the year at Richmond. In that event, Larson left race leader Truex and the rest of the field behind on the night’s final restart. As a result, he took the checkered flag under the race’s seventh caution. Kyle Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team rolled into the playoffs with a ton of momentum.
“It came down to the last restart,” Kyle Larson said of his win at Richmond. “I spun my tires and I was a little nervous, but we cleared Truex into (Turn) 1. Now, I’m totally pumped for the playoffs.” “We’ve got a great shot at the championship this year.”
It was more of the same for Kyle Larson in the first Round of 16. In those three races, the youngster guided his #42 Chevrolet to two top-five finishes and another second-place run to close out the beginning round. The continued consistency placed Larsen in the Round of 12 and second in points behind Martin Truex Jr.
Unfortunately, the Round of 12 is where the wheels fell off for Kyle Larsen and his team. Larson managed to finish in a respectable 10th position in the first race at Charlotte. He also found a way to survive a crash-filled race in Alabama in the Talladega 500. In that debacle, Larson crashed his car but still recorded a 13th-place result after almost three-quarters of the field had wrecked.
Then there was Kansas Speedway. Kyle Larson was a favorite heading into the race. Last time he was there back in mid-may, he finished sixth after starting just inside the top-10. He didn’t qualify well, starting in 13th. Right as it seemed that he had his hotrod dialed in, bang, his engine blew and his playoff hopes were dashed on Lap 73. There is little margin for error in the playoff rounds and a DNF is unrecoverable.
The bad luck continued throughout the next three races of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season. At Martinsville, he started the race in the ninth position but found trouble and finished 37th. At Texas the following week, Kyle Larson had another accident on Lap 284 and retired his car in 37th once again. To add insult to injury, little Kyle took dead last at Phoenix after qualifying in third.
“Yeah, we ran into some bad luck toward the end of the playoffs,” Kyle Larson said. “That snowballed into a series of frustrating races. But we ended the year with a nice run at Homestead.”
Indeed, engine failures and accidents gave him the worst month of his young career. Even still, Kyle Larson rebounded with a third-place finish in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. I was there and personally watched him cross the finish line in third behind Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch. Overall, he was eighth in the final championship standings. The 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season was his best showing in four full-time seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“We got the opportunity to showcase how good our team is,” Kyle Larson said, looking back on the season. He then commented on looking ahead to the next-generation Chevrolet racecar. “I hope with the new Camaro, we can be even better in 2018.” “We learned a lot from our trials last year and hope to finish strong in 2018.”
Off-season plans for Larson include races in New Zealand later this month and Oklahoma in January before he turns his attention to NASCAR Speedweeks 2018 at Daytona International Speedway.
Kyle Larson Bio:
Kyle Larson competes full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the number 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. He also drives on a limited basis on the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ schedule. He earned the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2014 after winning the same award in the Xfinity Series in 2013. Larson has five career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins. He collected four of those last season. The up and comer also has captured eight career victories in the Xfinity Series and two career wins in the Camping World Truck Series.
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