Make believe

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 12:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson speaks to the media during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 12: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson speaks to the media during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Kyle Larson had a novel approach to preparing for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup — pretend you’re in it even if you’re not.

In a stellar 2014 season in which he won Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, Larson wasn’t quite consistent enough to qualify for the Chase, but his team made decisions in the final 10 races as if the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet were racing for the championship.

The same was true for teammate Jamie McMurray.

“Even though we weren’t in the Chase, we kind of played like we were in the Chase and made race calls and things like that to try to gain experience in the Chase, even though we weren’t in the Chase,” Larson told the NASCAR Wire Service during NASCAR Media Day interviews at Daytona International Speedway.

“The experience we got last year will help… Even though you’re not in the Chase, you act like you are. It’s a good way to gain experience as a team in making race calls.”

That experience may well come in handy this season, given that team co-owner Felix Sabates guaranteed during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, in late January that both Larson and McMurray would qualify for the Chase this year.

“That’s our expectation, for sure,” Larson said of Sabates’ guarantee. “I think that’s Chip Ganassi’s expectation every year. I think me and Jamie both expect that our cars are going to be really fast this year.”

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