Season Review: Kyle Larson
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on December 12, 2016 | 10:20 A.M. EST
"For next year, hopefully we can find more speed in our racecars and contend for a championship again." (Photo: Getty Images)
Kyle Larson finally scored his first Cup Series win in 2016 to highlight a solid season for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.
He made the Chase for the first time and finished ninth in the final standings. Larson scored ten top fives and 15 top-10 finishes, capped by his initial series win at Michigan International Speedway in August.
"I was tearing up those last few laps because I was feeling that was finally going to be it. We weren't going to have a caution," Larson said from an emotional Victory Lane as he thought of friend and fellow racer Bryan Clauson, who was killed a few days earlier in an open-wheel racing accident. "This one’s for the Clauson family. We're really missing Bryan. We love you guys. We 'parked it' for him so that's really cool."
The victory was the culmination of the promise Larson brought with him to NASCAR when he made the move from short-track open-wheel racing. Team owner Chip Ganassi knew that in time, Larson would blossom into one of the sport’s young stars and his Michigan win helped illustrate that.
"He hung in there with our team," Ganassi said. "We've been building over the years and the team rallied around him. I couldn't be more happy with Kyle.
"We've been on the cusp for so many years. We got Jamie (McMurray) in the Chase last year and now, we got Kyle in there. To go winless for so long is really, really difficult. Only one person wins in this sport. We're so glad to be here."
Larson and McMurray gave Chip Ganassi Racing two berths in the Chase for the first time in team history. Neither brought home the 2016 title, but the experience of being in the "playoffs" was something Larson believes was beneficial and will help CGR build for the future.
"Getting that win at Michigan late to get locked into the Chase was huge," Larson said. "Then, we had a good post-season but didn’t have much luck in the first few races. We had tire issues and a battery issue at Dover that took us out of the first round."
Larson, who ended the year strong, returns in 2017 with crew chief Chad Johnston - in pursuit of another Chase berth.
"We finished this year strong with third place at Phoenix and second at Homestead," Larson said. "For next year, hopefully we can find more speed in our racecars and contend for a championship again."
Motor Racing Network continues our look at the 16 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers in 2016 tomorrow with a look at the eighth-place driver, Kevin Harvick.
Previous Season Reviews