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Kyle Larson: Teams ‘we ran around last year’ are now better

Auto Club Speedway - Auto Club 400 practice

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 18: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, addresses the media during a press conference for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

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Four races into the season, Kyle Larson is checking the points standings.

Larson said he and the rest of his Chip Ganassi cohorts have to do so.

“Especially ... where we haven’t been that fast because we have to make sure we are finishing races consistently,” Larson said Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray are 17th and 15th in the standings, respectively, and are grasping for all the speed they can.

“There are a lot of other teams that we ran around last year that are better than we are I feel like this year,” Larson. said “That has been a little disappointing.”

Through four races, three with the new low-downforce package, Larson’s seventh-place finish at Daytona is Ganassi’s only top-10 result. McMurray, who addressed Ganassi’s search for “fresh ideas” earlier this week, has yet to finish better than 16th.

“I feel like our balance has been close for the few races we’ve ran, just lack speed,” Larson said Friday. “Especially on the long runs. That is where I feel like we struggled at last year and so far this season we have struggled with that as well.”

The struggles of Larson and McMurray for Chip Ganassi Racing come as Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing have shown gains in speed this season.

“If one car was a lot better than the other then we could place blame on the driver more,” Larson said. “Everybody at the shop is working really hard, we just haven’t hit on the right thing.”

The No. 42 team wasn’t helped at Atlanta when Larson finished three laps off the lead and then placed 34th at Las Vegas.

“Having that stuff happen early in the year it makes everybody work really hard,” Larson said. “I’m confident in everybody at the shop. They’ve got the brains, I just hold the wheel.”

The third-year driver is holding the wheel extra this weekend at Auto Club Speedway, as he competes in both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series events. It will be his third Xfinity race of the year.

Larson has one win and three top-10 finishes in his three Xfinity starts at the track in Fontana, California.

“I think anytime you can run more on a race weekend on the same race track it’s going to help,” Larson said. “You look at 2014 and the rules were, I guess, probably more different than they are now, and I feel like I learned just as much then as I do now. I like racing double duty most of the time. There are some race tracks where I feel like it doesn’t really help you, it could kind of hurt you, but this is not one of those places.”

In 2015, Larson competed in 14 Xfinity Races compared to 28 the year before during his rookie campaign in Sprint Cup. The added time in 2014 began to take a toll on Larson.

“I ran every Xfinity Series race I could that was a companion race and got kind of burned out,” he said. “But last year I thought I was going to have a good number and I was bored. We added, I think, three or four races maybe from last season to this season. I’m looking forward to that. I picked little different tracks, tracks I normally run well at so hopefully I’ll have more fun.”

Larson will have a lot of work to do in order to have the fun his team needs Sunday. Larson will start 32nd in the Auto Club 400. Jamie McMurray will start 10th.

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