Larson looks at playoffs as just another step

Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

Larson looks at playoffs as just another step

NASCAR

Larson looks at playoffs as just another step

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Kyle Larson has a very business-as-usual mindset for the next 10 weeks, despite being the most important part of the NASCAR season.

Larson enters the postseason as the No. 1 seed and is considered the favorite for the title. Doing so is “cool,” Larson said, and a nice accomplishment for his Hendrick Motorsports team. But Larson also acknowledges that a lot can happen in the next 10 weeks, and the favorite doesn’t always win.

“So, I don’t think we need to put any more pressure on ourselves or anything like that,” Larson said. “Just go out there and keep trying to execute like we’ve been doing all season long, and hopefully, it’ll all work itself out.”

This is a new position for Larson, yet he’s not fazed or stressed about it.

“No, not at all,” Larson said. “I haven’t really thought much about it. I think you just take it week by week and just do a good job on the weekends. If you have a bad week, you’re always looking forward to the next race. I’m not looking forward to Phoenix at all yet.”

Previously, the highest Larson entered the postseason was seeded second to Martin Truex Jr. in 2017 with four wins. But Larson finished eighth in points after being eliminated in the Round of 8. He didn’t win a race in the playoffs.

Larson has made it as far as the Round of 8, in 2019. The highest Larson has finished in points in five full seasons is sixth, that same year.

A dominant season has installed Larson and his No. 5 Hendrick Chevy as the favorite but as he well knows, that doesn’t mean a lot in the playoffs. Matthew Thacker/Motorsport Images

Returning to NASCAR with Hendrick Motorsports, Larson has been dominant. Five wins and 1,566 laps led helped Larson charge to the regular-season championship over Denny Hamlin in the final few weeks. Larson had the belief his team would get to the point of contending for the championship, but admittedly, they started contending earlier in the season than he anticipated.

The summer months were the best Larson has ever had in the Cup Series. Larson took three straight wins in Charlotte, Sonoma, and Nashville, plus the All-Star Race in Texas. In that stretch, he led 665 laps.

“Our team is strong, and our team is capable of accomplishing great things like we’ve proven this year, so just got to keep our heads down, take it week by week and just try to execute each race,” Larson said. “Our pit crew has been doing a great job on pit road. We’ve had the little things doing really well, and we’ve got to keep that up.”

It is hard to deny it’s been the year of Larson. He’s been the class of the field in the NASCAR Cup Series while also continuing an incredible run in the dirt racing world. This year, Larson went back-to-back in the Chili Bowl, won a World of Outlaws Late Model race for the first time, as well as his first King’s Royal and Knoxville Nationals.

Naturally, not winning the Cup Series championship would be disappointing given the year Larson has had.

“Whoever doesn’t win the championship is going to be disappointed to some extent,” said Larson. “For sure, I would be disappointed. I don’t know — I don’t want to forecast how my emotions are going to be because I don’t really know. I hope I don’t get to that point where I have to be disappointed.

“None of us are expecting to win the championship, and I think when you expect to do something and you don’t accomplish it, that’s when you’re the most disappointed. Yeah, I’m not expecting to win the championship by any means, but any of us would be disappointed if we don’t win.”

No stress, no expectations. Business as usual for Larson, even as the favorite.

“You see how tough this series is,” he said. “Ten weeks is a long time. Four weeks is a long time, so 10 is a long stretch here, and a lot of stuff can happen. Each year I feel like there’s adversity that you have to overcome at some point.

“There are teams that come and go still. I’m sure there are teams out there that haven’t peaked yet, and who knows if we’ve peaked already. I don’t really know. It’s hard to predict and expect anything in this series. Yeah, we have a great opportunity, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to go do it.”

 

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