Kyle Larson is happy to put on a show, trying to catch folks at the end of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but he’s getting a little tired of coming up just short.
Larson drove the wheels off his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet over the last 20 laps in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway and did all he could to attempt to catch and pass Matt Kenseth for the lead.
It was highly entertaining — but despite several times when he was able to pull side-by-side with Kenseth or even slightly ahead of him for a split second, Kenseth was able to narrowly hold him off each time and went on to win the race.
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"I was trying to do all I could do to get by him without getting into him," Larson told FOX Sports. "I probably could have bumped him a little bit there maybe once in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2, and maybe got away from him. But it was a lot of fun racing with Matt there."
Larson finished a season’s-best second, the fourth runner-up finish in 87 starts of his young Sprint Cup career but his first since his rookie year of 2014.
Larson has eight top-five finishes overall in his brief career, and finished third in the spring Dover race a year ago. He said he might have had a better shot at catching and passing Kenseth this time around if he hadn’t suddenly found himself being pushed hard from behind in the closing laps by the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car driven by Chase Elliott.
"I was just trying to be patient," Larson said. "I knew I was better than (Kenseth) was. But when the 24 (of Chase Elliott) got to third, he was catching us pretty quick. I got side-by-side with the 20 (of Kenseth) for a couple of laps and he was to my inside, but then we had to race (Elliott) really hard â and then the 20 got away a little bit.
"By the time I got back to second, he was just a little bit too far in front of me. I got another shot at him at the end there, but just came up a little bit short."
All in all, though, it was a fine day for Larson and his team in a season that has been mostly devoid of them. He finished seventh in the season-opening Daytona 500 and third at Martinsville, but had six finishes of 26th or worse in the first 11 races before arriving at Dover.
Even with the second-place finish at the Monster Mile, Larson is mired in 21st in points.
But he sees the strong run hopefully as a start to turning his season around, pointing out that he and his team never gave up on Sunday and certainly won’t give up on this season.
"I was probably just a little too patient there. But I’m really, really proud of everybody on this team," Larson said. "The Target Chevy was not good to start the race. The first two runs I was really bad and went a lap down. I got the Lucky Dog (to get back on the lead lap) and got some track position …
"But it was a lot of fun. I got to lead some laps, run up front, and race people hard. So all in all, it was a good day. I would like to be in Victory Lane, but my day is coming."