CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Larson is close – and he knows it.
Two weeks ago at Dover International Speedway, he ran a near second to Matt Kenseth in the AAA 400, dogging the race winner to the finish line on the final green-flag run.
Last Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Larson had the lead in the $1-million-to-the-winner NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, only to be passed by Joey Logano with fewer than two laps left.
But after a star-crossed sophomore season in 2015, when he finished 19th in the standings and took a backward step from his rookie campaign, Larson has plenty of reason to be encouraged by his recent performances.
And there’s no place he’d rather make his first visit to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series than Charlotte Motor Speedway, host venue for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX).
“It would mean a lot,” Larson said on Thursday at CMS. “It would mean a lot to get it anywhere, but especially here at Charlotte, close to home. Friends and family and all sorts of people are here. All the teams’ families are here. it just means a lot when you can win in your hometown or for the race shop and all that.
“We’ve been rolling good the last few weeks. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going. Our car has been getting a lot faster. Everybody at the shop has been working really hard all year long. We started the year off not great, but everybody stayed positive and kept digging. Lately, we’ve been bringing really good stuff to the track.”
Because of his strong performance in the All-Star Race, Larson knows he’ll have to buck a trend to win NASCAR’s longest event.
“It’ll be tough – the 600 is a really tough race,” he said. “A lot of the times I’ve seen drivers in the past that run well in the All-Star race don’t run well at the 600. Hopefully, that’s not the case this week, but we’re going to work really hard to try and have a good run. Hopefully, it all works out.”
Larson will start 24th Sunday.