Kyle Larson looking for progress and a little luck as Playoffs approach

The racing world took notice when Chase Elliott won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International.

In particular, so did Kyle Larson.

To the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi racing Chevrolet, Elliott’s victory was emblematic of the progress Hendrick Motorsports has made in recent weeks.

Though he started the season with a clear speed advantage, Larson has seen the Hendrick organization close the gap. With the Playoffs just around the corner, that gives Larson pause.

“I’d like to be making as big gains as what, say, the Hendrick guys have,” Larson acknowledged on Friday at Michigan International Speedway, venue for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). “But I feel like we started off way better than they did. So, they’ve had more room to get better.

“But I feel like they’ve kind of surpassed us maybe a little bit the last few weeks. And there are obviously other teams that are better than we are, too. I feel like we’re getting our stuff better every week.

Larson swept both Michigan races last year. This week, he’s commuting between MIS and the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals for winged sprint cars. Larson was pleased with the speed his No. 42 Chevy showed in opening practice at Michigan on Friday.

“We just keep getting better, and there are some good tracks for us in the Playoffs,” said Larson, who was eighth fastest in the session. “If we could just get some luck one of these times in the Playoffs, maybe we can make a run at the championship. So we’ve just got to keep working hard and thinking about what it takes to get better and better every week.

“I feel like we have the right group of people at the race track and the race shop that we can do that. It’s all about just progressing and getting better. I feel like we are definitely doing that, but there are other teams that maybe have made a bigger step than we have.”