We’ve always said that if Kyle Larson can make it to the Homestead-Miami Speedway with a championship on the line, then go ahead and give him the trophy. He has three top five finishes in his last four starts there with leading over 300 combined laps the last three years. The only reason he hasn’t won in any of those three races in because he was trying to stay out of the championship contenders way in the end.
Now, what happens if he’s one of those championship contenders next month? Right now, by virtue of his win last weekend at Dover, he knows he’s close to being able to compete for his first career NASCAR championship.
This is the first time Larson or a Chip Ganassi Racing driver will be in the third round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. They’re not resting on their morals though. They want more.
“To move on to the next round is special, but we’re not just satisfied with being in the Round of Eight,” said Larson. “We want to go and make it into that final round of Homestead, where it’s my best track. It’s the final year for the championship race to be at Homestead, so I’ve looked at this ever since they released next year’s schedule as this is my best opportunity to win the championship. I’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Larson, said that he feels like Ganassi is owed a title in NASCAR’s premiere series and that he’d love to be able to be the one that delivers it.
“Yeah, I mean, Chip (Ganassi) has had an opportunity to win a championship I think one other time maybe, and I think Sterling Marlin got hurt that year,” Larson continued. “He was probably going to win the championship that season had he not gotten hurt. It would be nice to get him that championship that he’s honestly probably owed.”
So, in order to get Ganassi that title, Larson’s goal over the next two weeks is simple – more playoff points. See, while he knows he’s into the third round, it’s going to be difficult to make it to Homestead on points.
Larson, ended a 75 race winless drought at Dover and he likely needs to win again in order to make it to the Championship 4. The reason is because of how many playoff points Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have accumulated. Odds are, all four will join Larson in the Round of 8. Once the points are reset following the race next weekend at Kansas, then Larson falls into a hole again. If three of the eight drivers competing in the third round win too, and none are Larson, then that means only one wildcard spot will be available for the top points getter that hasn’t won in the Round of 8 to vie for a chance at a championship at Homestead.
Larson, doesn’t have the playoff points accumulated to leap frog them.
So, why not get stage wins the next two races at Talladega and Kansas. There’s four playoff points on the line for them, one each stage. Then, a race win nets you five more. That’s 14 playoff points being available over the next two weeks. Larson, needs to get as many of those as he can.
The first race in the Round of 8 at Martinsville has been a struggle for Larson. His last top 10 finish was third in the spring race of 2016. He has 29 career laps led and was 18th back in the spring race this year. He’s had a DNF in two of his last four Martinsville starts.
Then, it’s to Texas where Larson has three top five finishes in 12 career tries. He was 39th in the spring race and has six finishes of 23rd or worse.
Finally, it’s to Phoenix which is Larson’s best shot of a win in the Round of 8. He was third in last year’s playoff race and sixth back in March. He has four top six finishes in his last six Phoenix tries.
The good news also is that Larson is capable of running in the front. He now has eight top eight finishes in his last nine tries on the season.
“I feel like our cars have been capable of winning,” Larson said of their recently found speed. “I’ve ran second nine times I think I heard since my last win, so we’ve challenged, and we’ve been close to winning, but yeah, you know, it’s just — just haven’t put it all together. I’m sure some of those races where I finished second without a second-place car, I probably overachieved, but I feel like I’ve definitely given up five or six since then.
“I feel like look at the really good guys and I’m comparable to speed on them, but they just — whatever it is, they can go out there and do what it takes to win at the end of the races, where I’ve been trying to get a lot better at that and figure out what that even is to win. But yeah, we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing. I feel really good about our stuff, feel really good about our team right now, so go on to Talladega and try and win there.
“I said we’d be there with no stress, but I still want to go out there and do what I can to win as well as help our Chevy teammates and just keep winning because we’ve got to make some more points up.”