When Kyle Larson won the first race of the Round of 12, his initial thoughts were that he’s happy to not have to worry about the next race looming in Talladega. Good thing too, he finished in the back that day. But, his next thoughts were, yes he knows he’s racing for a championship still in the Round of 8, but he was also fearful of Martinsville too.
Larson, has made it crystal clear, he doesn’t like racing at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. That fear could force him to have to win a race over the next three weeks.
While the Chip Ganassi Racing driver certainly is a championship contender in that he has eight top eight finishes in his last 12 starts on the season, he’s failed to score a top five on the .526-mile Virginia oval since 2016. Furthermore, he’s only led 29 laps there too.
His last six finishes at Martinsville read – 14th, 17th, 37th, 16th, 37th and 18th respectively. For a championship eligible driver that’s lacking in playoff points, he starts this weekend already in a large deficit.
He only scored 11 playoff points thus far. He and Ryan Blaney are the only one left in the playoff picture that has less than 20. That’s why he’s in the hole that he’s in. Kyle Busch has scored 46. Martin Truex Jr. has scored 42. Denny Hamlin has 37 while Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick has accumulated 30 and 28 themselves respectively. Chase Elliott has 24.
Larson, enters the Round of 8 with an 18 point gap to the Championship 4 bubble because of that. With how much he’s struggled at Martinsville lately mixed with how well all seven of those drivers are there, he knows he could be facing a must win this round.
For a driver that was in a 75 race winless drought, he’s going to be asked to win at least twice in a six week span. Martinsville, may not be that place.
Neither could the next race at Texas. He’s only scored three top five finishes in 12 tries in the Lonestar state. He was 39th back in the spring race in April. He has six finishes of 23rd or worse there.
That’s why Phoenix could be the best must win scenario for him.
Larson, has four top six finishes in his last six starts in the Arizona desert. Half of those six he came home in the top three.
Right now, they’re the little team left that could, albeit that they’re not a little team per say. Since 2016, Joe Gibbs Racing has won 45 times. Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske have won 24 times a piece themselves. Between them, that’s 92 victories over the last 139 races.
How many does Chip Ganassi Racing have in that same time frame?