Kyle Larson: I’m “really close” to first Sprint Cup victory

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He may not be in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, but Kyle Larson showed during last weekend’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway that he may yet have an impact on the post-season.

The talented rookie once again came close to capturing his inaugural Sprint Cup victory before finishing third behind winner Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

He could be in position once again to take that first Cup checkered flag this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he finished third in July.

And for his part, Larson believes he’s on the cusp of the breakthrough he badly wants.

“I definitely feel like we’re really close,” he said before running fifth in this morning’s Cup practice at NHMS. “We’ve been close a couple times this year. Heck, we were just a little bit off on it at Fontana and then I thought we had the best or second-best car last week, so if I could’ve done things right, we could have two wins this season.

“But I think it’s coming. I hope it’s before the end of this year, but if not, we won’t be too disappointed. We’ve been running well all season long. I didn’t win any Nationwide races last year, and I feel like I’ve been really competitive this year in Nationwide, so I’m sure the start of next year will be really good in the Cup Series.”

Larson has made such strides this season in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet that it seems only a matter of time before we’ll see him celebrating in Victory Lane.

Additionally, the amount of respect from his veteran counterparts on the track has grown noticeably as well. Just look back to last weekend, when Gordon walked up to Larson after the race and congratulated him on a job well done before hailing him as someone who will be “a star in this series for a long time.”

Larson thinks that being able to “give and take” on the track with the veteran drivers – particularly those involved in the Chase – has allowed him to earn this level of respect that doesn’t always get afforded to rookies like himself.

“If you race ’em hard but don’t make any mistakes around them that costs them, you gain respect that way – and I feel like I race hard every week,” he said. “We’ve been lucky enough to not affect anybody, and hopefully, it stays like that…You give and take throughout the race, and then you race ’em hard but clean – that’s how you gain the most respect.”