By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
I’m sure I sound like a broken record by now, but Kyle Larson is closing in on finding victory lane in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Racing this week without his crew chief, Chad Johnston (suspended after a lug nut violation in Pocono) Larson qualified seventh for the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan, and he was in contention all day long thanks to some great work on restarts.
“My restarts were pretty good,” Larson said after the race. “You’ve got to have a good guy behind you if you get a good push. I just had good restarts and kept some track position, it seemed like. It might have been hard to pass. So, just staying out front the whole time was a big key. The Target Chevy was really fast.”
Unfortunately as the race wound down, it was apparent that Larson just lacked a little bit of speed to chase down the top-two drivers (Joey Logano and Chase Elliott), but he did have enough to secure his third top-three finish of the season. When asked what he could have done differently to end the day with his first victory instead of finishing third, Larson had a very simple answer:
“I’m not sure there was anything I could have done there. It was pretty tight to fire off for two or three laps; sometimes for a full run,” Larson said.
Although it wasn’t a win, this third-place finish marked the ninth top-three effort of Larson’s young career. Of those nine top-threes, four have been runner-up finishes. A win has to be just around the corner, especially when you factor in the fact that Larson has also become increasingly more competitive over the last month than he was earlier in the season.
Larson’s average finish over the last four races is an impressive 7.25. To put his recent surge of performance in perspective, Larson’s average finish in the other 11 races this season is a lackluster 22.6.
I’m not sure what Larson, and crew chief Chad Johnston have found all of a sudden, but there has been a huge and very noticeable turnaround. In addition to four-consecutive strong points-paying races, Larson also won one of the Sprint Showdown races, and nearly went on to win the Sprint All-Star Race a few weeks ago as well.
Larson has now made 90 starts in the Sprint Cup Series, but he looks to finally have cars with speed to match his unquestionable talent level. At the pace he has been racing the last few weeks, if Larson makes it to career start No. 100 without a win, it should be considered surprising.