By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Three races into the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Kyle Larson is starting to assert himself as a bona fide championship contender. At 24 years old, the driver in his fourth full-time season on the circuit can’t even legally rent a car at most rental companies, but he is driving like a seasoned pro so far this year.
Sunday in the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Larson rolled off from the fifth starting spot, and on the first run of the day he fell to the eighth spot with an ill-handling race car.
For the majority of the first stage of the race, the team tried to adjust the car to Larson’s liking. Finally on a pit stop with 10 laps to go, the No. 42 Target team was able to find the correct handle for Larson. After restarting sixth, Larson skillfully weaved in and out of traffic to finish second in the first Stage.
For the remainder of the day Larson had about a fifth or sixth place car, but over the last 14 laps of the race the No. 42 Chevrolet SS came to life as he picked off position after position. Going into the final lap of the race, Larson was in third place, but then something went amiss on Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 car ahead, which moved Larson into the runner-up spot, where he would ultimately finish the day.
“Our day was really solid.,” Larson said after the race. “I think we finished second in the first stage, third in the second stage and then finished second here in the race.”
This second-place effort marks the second consecutive second-place finish for Larson. He now sits just one point behind Keselowski for the point lead. Needless to say this is best start to a season that Larson’s ever had in his career. For that, he’s pumped.
“Super happy with how our season has gotten started. Way better than where I have ever started a season, so I’m really happy about that, proud of our team,” Larson stated. “I had fun today. The stages were really exciting or the ends of them, because of the way the cautions fell and different pit strategies and stuff, people staying out made it exciting taking off. Really liking the format change and all that. Had fun, hopefully we can keep these top five’s rolling and maybe get a win or two here shortly.”
With how well Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing Team are running — Larson is tied with Joey Logano for the best average finish in the series through three races at 5.3 — the wins certainly will come.