It’s early in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, but it looks like the ultra-talented Kyle Larson is poised for a breakout year.
He led on the final lap of the DAYTONA 500 before running out of gas and has finished runner-up in the last two races. Dating back to last season’s penultimate race at Phoenix Raceway, Larson boasts three runner-ups and a third-place finish in his last five starts.
On Sunday, the No. 42 Chevrolet driver hopes to notch his first win of 2017 when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Phoenix for the Camping World 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
“(I’m) super happy with how our season has gotten started,” Larson said after last week’s race at Las Vegas. “Way better than where I’ve ever started a season. I’m really happy about that, proud of our team.”
Larson ranks second in the series standings, a mere one point behind Brad Keselowski. He has earned points in every stage this season.
Unlike many NASCAR drivers who grew up racing on short tracks, Larson matriculated running sprint cars on small dirt ovals. The 24-year-old Californian struggled at the series’ short tracks like one-mile Phoenix Raceway at the beginning of his career, but is beginning to get more comfortable on them.
“I’m not like a short track racer, so I seem to struggle at those places, but last year we had some good runs at short tracks,” Larson said. “Our most consistent races were short tracks. I finished third at Martinsville, second at Richmond and third at Phoenix. Those are my three worst tracks. I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit better and I think my crew chief has kind of learned what I need at short tracks to help me out. It’s weird, but I kind of look forward to going to those places right now.”
Reed Poised For Strong Phoenix Finish
Ryan Reed has been the surprise of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season so far.
The 23-year-old Roush Fenway Racing driver won the season-opener at Daytona and sits second in the points standings – four points behind Elliott Sadler – following his ninth-place finish at Las Vegas.
Reed will continue his run at the top spot in Saturday’s DC Solar 200 at Phoenix Raceway (4 p.m. ET on FOX). He finished sixth in the fall race there last year.
“Phoenix is obviously a really cool race track and I think a lot of drivers like it, being one of the few short tracks,” Reed said. “For me, being on the west coast is that much more special. I have a ton of family every time I go out there. I watched my Dad race there growing up and last year at the second Phoenix race we had one of our best races of the year, qualifying third and finishing sixth. I have a lot of confidence going to Phoenix and I’m looking for another good run.”
Phoenix Race Weekend Preview
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Race: Camping World 500
Place: Phoenix Raceway
Date and Time: Sunday, March 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Tune-In: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 312 miles (312 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 75), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on lap 312)
What to Watch For: Martin Truex Jr. goes for his second straight win after becoming the first Monster Energy driver to sweep all three stages under NASCAR’s new race enhancements at Las Vegas. … Four drivers in the top six of the points standings are under the age of 27: 2. Kyle Larson (24 years old, one point behind Brad Keselowski for the series lead), 3. Chase Elliott (21, -3), 5. Joey Logano (26, -13) 6. Ryan Blaney (23, -26). … Kevin Harvick attempts to win his seventh race in the last 10 Phoenix contests. Harvick boasts a track-record eight wins. … Brad Keselowski tries to stay atop the points standings after winning at Atlanta and finishing fifth at Las Vegas.
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Race: DC Solar 200
Place: Phoenix Raceway
Date and Time: Saturday, March 18 at 4 p.m. ET
Tune-in: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 60), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
What to Watch For: The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program returns this weekend at Phoenix. The top-two full-time XFINITY drivers in each of the first two stages will qualify for the Dash 4 Cash bonus round in the Final Stage (four total drivers). The highest finisher among the four drivers wins a $100,000 prize. … Elliott Sadler looks to extend his four-point standings lead over second-place Ryan Reed. They are followed by William Byron (9 points behind Sadler), Daniel Hemric (-27) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (-29).