Kyle Larson comes up short, again, but can still smile

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 23: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Hazelnut Toyota, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 PPG Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 23, 2019 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Even though Kyle Larson won the pole for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Sonoma Raceway—for the third straight year, no less—his outlook for the race itself wasn’t one of confidence.

Though lightning fast for one lap, Larson has never been quick over the long run and had never finished better than 12th at the technical road course. Until Sunday.

Though Larson lost the lead to William Byron on the first lap and gradually fell back through the field, he recovered during the final 46-lap green-flag run to finish 10th and was far from disappointed with the result.

“It was better than normal for us,” Larson said. “I fell back early but I was just taking care of my stuff. I seem to be a lot better on long runs than normal, so I’m happy about that. And we came away with a top 10. So it was good.

“I finished better than I ever have here, so it was an improvement. We were just better on the long runs. So I was able to pass a lot of people there throughout that last stint. I was happy about it. We got stage points, which was good, so it was a good point day.”

Larson heads to next week’s race at Chicagoland Speedway 15th in the series standings, still looking for his first victory of the season.