Before this year’s NASCAR Chase for Sprint Cup started, if someone would’ve asked me witch non-Chase driver, if any, would win one of the 10 Chase races, I would have figured that driver would’ve come from the Michael Waltrip Racing camp. Clint Bower, perhaps? At this point, I’m pretty sure I’d be reconsidering that prediction, if I had ever made it.
More and more, that potential non-Chase race winner is looking to, more than likely, be Kyle Larson. And if the answer’s not Larson, at the very least, I’m thinking that possible non-Chaser win could very well come from Chip Ganassi Racing. Jamie McMurray, anybody?
More specifically, I’m thinking Larson is looking good to claim his first-career Cup win in the next six races before season’s end. Heck, if Larson had made the Chase, it’s looking like he would be a serious championship contender. Of course, as we all know, he didn’t make the Chase, so the best he can hope for, points-wise, is a 16th-place finish to the season, but oh, what could’ve been.
I realize that this new Chase format is in place to put more emphasis on winning, and Larson hasn’t won that first race — yet. But there are drivers making their ways through the Chase, so far, with consistently solid points days — Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, for example. Did you know that Larson has the third-highest points tally among all drivers since the Chase started? No, I didn’t study the stats and come to that conclusion. The folks over at MRN deserve the credit for that, or from whomever they get their stats. Anyway, Larson’s worst Chase race finish was a sixth at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. His other Chase race finishes — third, second and second. Not to shabby for anyone — rookie or veteran.
I admit, last fall when car owner Chip Ganassi announced Larson as the replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Sprint Cup seat for 2014, I was beyond scratching my head. I was wondering, why him? Is this guy really ready? Boy, I’ve really been proven wrong.
Larson is managing to prove himself a future championship contender in a year he’s not a championship contender, if that makes any sense. I don’t think there’s any chance NASCAR can get a head start on trophy engraving by having the Sprint Cup engraved with the champion’s name, but I’m thinking maybe it’s okay to go ahead and start the engraving process on the Rookie of the Year award.
What’s your opinion of Larson and his performance, of late? Talk to us on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner.
Here’s a Kyle Larson photo gallery for your enjoyment (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR):