NASCAR America: Challenging the Big 3 – Kyle Larson, team have work to do
In last Saturday’s race at Bristol, Kyle Larson finished second for the fifth time this season. He finished sixth in Stage 1 and third in Stage 2 giving him a combined points total of 48 – two more than the winning driver Kurt Busch. For his effort, Larson locked the No. 42 team in the playoffs based on points with two races remaining in the regular season.
But he’s still looking for his first win of the season and was frustrated with his result.
Aside from the frustration in his voice, Parker Kligerman noted that he seemed much more tired than he was when he won the Xfinity race Friday night.
“I’ve never seen that out of Kyle Larson,” Kligerman said on Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “You know when he won the race the night prior … I joined him in victory lane and he looked like he had never run a race or broken a sweat at all. And there, he looked pretty wore out and I think that is indicative of where he finds those cars. He’s having to work very hard inside that 42 car.
“This race team is trending the wrong direction because if he’s having to run harder to get a second-place finish on strategy ... that is not a good sign for the 42 team.”
Larson began the season regarded as one of the most likely challengers to Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. based on his third-place finish at Las Vegas and seconds at Auto Club and in the Bristol spring race. In the first 14 races of the 2018 season, he earned nine top 10s – including another runner-up at Pocono. That is a top-10 percentage of 64.2.
The following week, he spun at Michigan trying to get more out of the car than it had on a course where he’d won the three previous races.
Larson has only four top-10 finishes in the last 10 races (40%) and that means he is trending the wrong direction.
“This is a race team that came out of the box … he was able to find a way because of things, I would assume, they had from last year that were brought forward and helped them compete,” Dale Jarrett said. “They’ve stayed in that. They have not made any improvement from that standpoint and they’ve got a championship caliber driver driving this car. That’s the only way they finished second the other night, because he had no business being there and getting that.”
The driver can make a difference, but only to a certain point according to Kligerman.
“I think if you look at Bristol, why was he so dejected?,” Kligerman asked. “He is a driver that if you give him a 10th-place car, he is going to find a way to run for the win late in the race. … But he was not given that chance because the car was simply not fast enough.”
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