Season Review: Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

"We ran into some bad luck toward the end of the playoffs. That snowballed into a series of frustrating races. But we ended the year with a nice run at homestead." (Photo: Getty Images)

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2017 Race-by-Race Results | 2017 Detailed Statistics

Kyle Larson's smooth ride through the first seven months of the 2017 season was disrupted by turbulence over the last seven weeks, dashing his hopes for a 2017 championship.

Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team glided through the regular season, soaring to a No. 2 seed on the playoff grid thanks to four regular-season victories - a total matched only by eventual champion Martin Truex Jr.

But after surviving the first round of the playoffs, engine failure in the final race of Round 2 at Kansas Speedway saddled Larson with a 39th-place finish and eliminated him from title contention.

Still, the 25-year-old Californian can look back on his fifth season at NASCAR's top tier with an overall sense of satisfaction.

"It had been an up-and-down ride since my rookie season with Chip (Ganassi)," Larson said. "We'd have some good races and then some bad races. This was the first year where I felt competitive every weekend. Going to the track every week, we knew we had a shot at a top five if not the win."

Kyle LarsonThere's ample evidence to support that when you consider that in addition to his four race wins in 2017, Larson also racked up eight second-place finishes - including an eye-popping four through the first month-and-a-half of the campaign.

Those runner-up finishes went along with his first win of the season at Auto Club Speedway, where Larson dominated the final stage of the race and held the field at bay through a series of late restarts. He led a race-high 110 laps, including 64 of the 82 that were run during the last of the day’s three stages. Larson's margin of victory over runner-up Brad Keselowski was .77 seconds.

Coming off three straight second-place finishes, Larson figured that the win would silence some of his critics.

"We've been so good all year," Larson said in Victory Lane, "but I’ve been watching TV and it's like, 'He doesn’t know how to win!' We knew how to win today."

More victories came at Michigan International Speedway, where Larson swept both 2017 races, and then at Richmond Raceway in the regular-season finale. Larson left race leader Truex and the rest of the field behind on the night’s final restart to notch his fourth win of the year and roll into the playoffs with a ton of momentum.

"It came down to the last restart," Larson said of career Cup Series win No. 5. "I spun my tires and I was a little nervous, but we cleared Truex into (Turn) 1 and now, I’m pumped for the playoffs. We’ve got a great shot at the championship."

The first half of the post-season yielded a string of four top-10 finishes in five starts for Larson, who seemed well-positioned to capitalize on his season-long success with a serious title push in the closing weeks.

But those four DNFs were lurking, starting with the devastating engine failure at Kansas.

Kyle Larson"Yeah, we ran into some bad luck toward the end of the playoffs," Larson said. "That snowballed into a series of frustrating races. But we ended the year with a nice run at Homestead."

Indeed, after engine failures and accidents gave him the worst month of his young career, Larson rebounded with a third-place finish in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway ... finishing behind Truex and Kyle Busch.

He was eighth in the final championship standings, his best showing in four full-time seasons with CGR.

Off-season plans for Larson include races in New Zealand later this month and Oklahoma in January before he turns his attention to NASCAR Speedweeks 2018 at Daytona International Speedway.

"We got the opportunity to showcase how good our team is," Larson said, looking back on the 2017 season and then quickly looking ahead to the next-generation Chevrolet racecar. "I hope with the new Camaro, we can be even better in 2018."

Motor Racing Network continues our look at the 16 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers in 2017 tomorrow with a recap of the season for seventh-place finisher Matt Kenseth.

Click to View Season Reviews for Each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Driver

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