Coming off the most successful year of his NASCAR career, it was a surprise just how hard Kyle Larson was on himself while grading his 2016 Premier Series season performance.
Even a college professor wouldn't have graded Larson and the No. 42 team as harshly.
“I would say all around – team and myself combined – I would say a B- or C+. Somewhere in that range,” Larson told FOXSports.com. “I feel like we outperformed where our expectations were after the first handful of races.”
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In his third full year of Premier Series competition, the 24-year-old Chip Ganassi Racing driver made the Chase, earned his first career victory and collected 10 top fives and 15 top-10s finishes.
But Larson's grade is a testament to how much he expects out of himself and his team, which is one of the attributes of a talented driver.
“I was really proud of how well everyone in the shop worked to get our cars better,” Larson said. “I felt like I stepped up as a driver more so this than I have in the past. I led more laps, won a race, made the Chase and had a shot to win a few races, finished ninth in points. I felt like it was a good year and it could always be better, but for what we had to work with, I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Although his 2016 performance is more deserving of something better than a subpar grade, Larson feels his fair share of rotten luck brought the average down.
“I’ve had a lot of bad luck throughout my NASCAR career for whatever reason,” Larson said. “If we could just get rid of that bad luck, we would have a really, really good year.”
Overall, Larson was satisfied with the year, but he's already focusing on goals for 2017 and what can be improved to bump that grade up to an A next season.
“It’s a long regular season, so you just have to stay focused, get after it and hopefully get a win earlier in the year would be nice,” Larson said. “You have to be consistent, too.
“I definitely think we can make the Chase again next year. I think we know as a team what it takes to make it. I feel like I mature each year and each race. We just have to work hard.”