Kyle Larson made the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs for the third consecutive season and finished ninth in the 2018 standings.
Larson did not reach Victory Lane in the Cup Series this season, but did come close on multiple occasions with six of his 12 top fives being runner-up finishes.
“It was probably my second-best season in my Cup career even though we didn’t win a race,” Larson said. “There were times where I felt we were really close to where we needed to be to contend for a championship and then we would have a few weeks in a row where we would kind of struggle.”
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At the start of the season, Larson was one of the strongest in the Chevrolet camp as they rolled out their new Camaro ZL1 starting at Daytona. He combined to lead 666 laps in the regular season (782 overall), including race-high totals at Bristol Motor Speedway (200), Kansas Speedway (101) and Darlington Raceway (284).
“I felt like we started off the year really good and competitive and that was promising being with a new car,” Larson said. “I felt like we were going to be in good shape like we were the year before.”
Five of his top of his top fives came in the first 24 races that included an exciting finish at Chicagoland Speedway where Dale Earnhardt Jr., in his first race as an analyst for NBC, called Larson’s “slide job” that he almost completed on Kyle Busch in Turn 2 on the final lap. Larson finished second in the race after Busch returned the favor by making contact with him coming out of Turn 3.
“I had an opportunity there to slide in front of him and I figured I wouldn’t clear him or I would allow him to drive back underneath me,” Larson said. “So, I tried to get to his door and you know I opened the door for him to retaliate into 3. I thought it was free game. I ran into him first, he got me after that, maybe a little bit worse than I got him, but that is alright. I love racing Kyle.”
Larson entered the playoffs as the 12th seed and got off to a great start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his sixth and final runner-up finish of the season after leading 24 laps. He went on to finish seventh at Richmond and then led a race-high 47 laps in the inaugural race on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway before getting caught up in a 14-car accident in Turn 1 on Lap 103. Larson was able to limp his damaged car with a right-front tire down after contact with the wall on the final lap to make a critical pass of Jeffrey Earnhardt and advance to the next round.
The Round of 12 saw Larson get eliminated from the playoffs. He entered the final race of the round at Kansas in a must-win situation after the team was handed a L1-level penalty for an infraction following an 11th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway. Despite finishing third in a backup car, Larson failed to advance.
Larson and the No. 42 team finished the year strong with a 7.0 average finish in the final three races. He recorded stage points in the both stages at ISM Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Larson won Stage 2 at Homestead and led 45 laps, but finished 13th after he had a tire go down following contact with the wall.
Overall, Larson finished with 19 top 10s and three poles. He also earned five stage wins and 251 stage points, which ranked eighth among all drivers.
“As a team we need to get better at all the racetracks and a lot of that falls on me to,” Larson said. “I need to not go to Martinsville and be the worst driver there. There’s a lot of tracks where I need to clean up what I’m doing as well. We’ll work hard on trying to get better and more consistent and less DNFs so we can come back and be stronger.”
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