NNS: Kyle Larson has good learning experience in runner-up effort

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This time around, Kyle Larson couldn’t quite put the pressure on Kyle Busch at Bristol in the Nationwide Series.

In last year’s spring Nationwide race at Bristol, Larson battled with Busch one-on-one in the final laps before Busch edged him at the stripe by a mere .023 of a second.

Larson got himself past Kevin Harvick for second with seven laps remaining in today’s Drive to End Diabetes 300, but was unable to reel in “Rowdy,” who captured his third straight Nationwide win in Thunder Valley by 1.4 seconds.

The 21-year-old had to overcome an early speeding penalty on pit road in order to get the runner-up result from the pole position.

“That’s two weeks in a row that I’ve been caught speeding on pit lane so I’ll have to go back and think about that,” he told ESPN. “Our car was OK to start and [the team] worked on it and got it better in the center [of the corner], and then the track [groove] got out to the wall, where I like it.

“…We got to second [after the last restart] and I thought I might have a shot at Kyle, but I just got up over –  I guess the cushion, you could call it – and got some marbles on my tires. From there, I had to fight off Kevin because Kyle got too far ahead.”

Still, it was another solid learning experience for the Sprint Cup rookie against great competition from the Cup veterans. It doesn’t hurt that Turner Scott Motorsports has been able to give him very competitive equipment on the Nationwide side as well.

“I didn’t think Kyle had the best car today and he was able to fight through it and get the win,” Larson added. “I can always learn something when I’m behind him.

“It seems like this year, I’m closer to them so I can be able to see the guys up front and learn some more.”

No doubt he’ll be looking to put these lessons to good use in tomorrow’s Food City 500 for the Cup Series, in which he’ll start 20th.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.