So Far, So Good for Larson
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 21, 2014 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Back in his home state, Larson eyes his second straight top 10 of the season this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
Although the freshman driver sits 22nd in the series point standings heading into Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, that position doesn’t depict the whole story.
Larson has had his share of rookie growing pains to be sure but there have also been glimmers of potential for success including last week’s 10th-place Food City 500 finish at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The start of the year has been an education process and Larson admits he’s still learning.
“Well, at Phoenix we got caught under green flag stops where we had a long stop there, went a lap down,” Larson explained. “Just kept barely missing the Lucky Dog. Like I said, thought we had an eighth to 12th place car there. Then at Vegas I sped in pit road and we had lots of green flag runs and could never get a Lucky Dog there, so...
“Finally at Bristol, we finally had a race that nothing went wrong for us. Daytona I got in the wall, got in the wreck late. Bristol was the first week of the season that was mistake free and drama free, I guess, didn't have anything happen to us. Hopefully we'll have more and more of those.”
Larson, who is also driving a nearly full Nationwide Series campaign for Turner Scott Motorsports along with the Chip Ganassi Racing Sprint Cup schedule, is one of eight rookies competing in NASCAR’s top division this year. But outside of Austin Dillon, who is 13th in the standings after four races, and Larson others have struggled.
While Larson won’t discount any of his fellow freshmen, he is focused on battling Dillon for this year’s potential Rookie of the Year award.
“I'm sure we're going to have a lot of good races this year with Austin,” Larson said. “I hope it's a nice, tight battle to the end. It would mean a lot if I could win that Rookie of the Year award. Like I said, I only had 40 something stock car races in my career before I got to the Cup Series. I think it would mean a lot if I could beat guys that have a lot more experience in stock cars.
“Austin has won Nationwide Rookie of the Year, Truck Rookie of the Year, and championships in both series. So if I could stop him this year and win that Rookie of the Year, it would be really special.”
This week’s trip to ACS is special for Larson. The Northern California native first attended a race at the track with his parents at age five. He’s made one Nationwide Series start at Fontana last year and finished sixth and is hoping to build on that experience this weekend running both races.
But while he’s setting expectations for himself every week, Larson is full aware that all his goals won’t be met in a short period of time. His maturation as a Sprint Cup driver won’t come overnight.
However at this stage of his career, Larson is pleased with his progress and ability to meet his objectives.
“Well, I want to be fast each week,” said Larson. “I feel like we have been fast each week. I felt, like, as far as the speed of the cars, where they're at, I feel like our goals are close to being met, just our finishes haven't met our expectations.
“But, yeah, I think as far as how the cars have been, our goals have been met there.”