Don’t expect Kyle Larson’s mind-set to change just because he’s locked into a spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
After winning the pole for Aug. 18 Night race at Bristol, Larson guaranteed his place in the final 16 with a second-place finish. But his attitude remains the same, as far aw the final two races of the regular season are concerned.
“For the last three or four months, I felt like our team has been solidly in the Playoffs, even though mathematically you are not set until whatever we were last race,” Larson said on Friday at Darlington Raceway, venue for Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “(The way) our team has been performing and outperforming some other guys that are already outside the top 16, I knew we would make the Playoffs.
“So our mind-set, I wouldn’t think it’s any different the last couple of races and especially these next two. We try and go out and win every race, every stage, every week. We just haven’t been able to do that.”
The winner of four races in last year’s breakout season with Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson is still seeking his first victory of 2018. That’s not to say he doesn’t see progress with the No. 42 team, even though he didn’t have the performance he expected at Bristol, despite the runner-up finish.
“I think my expectations are just really high whenever I go to Bristol,” said Larson, who was second fastest behind Denny Hamlin in opening Cup practice at Darlington. “I was in a bad mood for a lot of that race, I think, just because my expectations are high. I was kind of a negative person throughout the first half of the race, but once I gave myself some realistic expectations for the rest of the race, I was in a better mood…
“Like I told (crew chief) Chad (Johnston), ‘I’m sorry I was a (jerk) on the radio.’ I just expect to go there and lap the field. We didn’t have that there, but we work hard to get better at every race track, because we want to dominate every race. We’ve just got to keep digging, keep working hard.”