Champion Kyle Larson is ready to get back to winning ways | NASCAR

After setting the racing world on fire in a race car, Kyle Larson did the same on his return to the Cup Series. In his first eight seasons he won a total of six cup races. In his first season with Hendrick Motorsports last year, he won 10 races en route to winning the championship.

Larson has certainly calmed down this season with just one victory from his 14 races. It has been a season of ups and downs for the 29-year-old. He finished 29th or worse in four of the first six races, but in the other two races he placed first and second. The feast or famine season continued with three consecutive sixth-place finishes, followed by the 36th-place result in Darlington. He backed that up by finishing second in Kansas.

The Coca-Cola 600 last weekend in Charlotte was the perfect microcosm of Larson’s 2022 season.

That weekend started with a wreck of my work that forced him to start at the back of the field after missing the playoffs. He made a spin on lap 166 of the race, hit the wall a few times, the fuel cap caught fire, and made three penalty kicks during pit stops, which sent him to the back of the field each time.

Running in 25th, Larson told his crew over the radio, “I think this is the worst race of my life and we’re only halfway there.” Cliff Daniels is Larson’s crew chief, as well as a motivational speaker. Daniels managed to get Larson to focus on the positives and they started making their way back across the field.

On lap 354 Larson took the lead and looked like he was on his way to an unlikely victory. A belated warning ended the end of wild overtime as Austin Dillon caused a seven-car crash involving Larson as they struggled for victory. His hopes of winning have faded but he is still tenth in first place.

“The first half was a struggle for all of us,” Larson said. “I was particularly frustrated with myself. To bounce back from that and have a chance to win there late was something to be proud of. I wish we had been a little better so he couldn’t get to me, in the end. I don’t know, I had to kind of Clear my mind, I guess. I was mad at myself.”

Larson had 197 passes in the race, by far the most among all drivers. It was a great tour, but Larson gave all the credit to his crew chief.

“The first half wasn’t very good on many levels, but then Cliff gave a great speech, and we were a lot better in the second half of the race. I didn’t really think I would have the chance to fight for victory there and I actually had a chance in the last 100 laps or so. That. I’m proud of my team, Cliff did a great job leading our team and keeping us all calm and focused.”

As the day begins, Larson is riding a 12-race streak without a win, his longest since joining Rick Hendrik’s team. Yesterday qualified fifteenth, the team’s top four drivers. However, it has been listed as the favorite by odds makers heading into the weekend. Larson had a +800 odds, or 11.1% implied chance of winning the race. This is the eleventh time this season that Larson has been called the favorite bet.

Today’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway is a first for the Cup Series, but 22 of the 36 drivers on the field have raced an Xfinity or Truck here before. Larson is not one of them, which makes today’s challenge even greater.

Heading into the middle of the season, Larson’s average finishing position of 15.2 is the worst since the 2015 season. Having driven 2,581 laps a year ago, he’s only had 247 laps this season. Most importantly, the top five are still there, but he wasn’t able to turn them into wins. Implementation is something he and Daniels plan to work on over the next few weeks.

One aspect that is somewhat out of their control is bad luck. In 36 races last season, Larson failed to finish only twice. These came on the superhighways in Talladega and Daytona. Larson already has twice as many DNFs this season, which has been a big reason why their average finishing position is so low.

Larson has led laps in 11 of 14 races, including each of the last six. They were vying for race victories, but they didn’t. The question now is whether or not the bad luck will continue, or whether they will eventually turn the tide. If the latter happens, it could be bad news for the rest of the competition.

The NextGen car delivered a big dose of parity this season, but about halfway through the 36-race schedule, the teams and drivers seem to have a firm grip on things. There are still some unknowns dealing with variables like today – racing on the track for the first time.

Larson is one of the few drivers who doesn’t have any experience in this field. “I haven’t raced here. I raced at Tri-City Speedway, which is 15 minutes from here. Pevely Raceway, which is probably 35 minutes away and then at Dome (in downtown St. Louis) they raced everywhere around it, but never here” .

“I’m excited. I haven’t had much time at all to get ready. I haven’t been able to do any laps here for the test or nothing on the simulator. I’m excited about this opportunity. I’ve always wanted to race here, so it’s good to have a trophy for the weekend here.” right Now “. Although he’s still learning, Larson will have 240 laps this afternoon to find out. This should be more than enough time for him to find his way to the front.