NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 17 Kyle Larson


Kyle Larson

Season finish: 17th

2014 Season Stats: 0 wins, 8 top-5, 17 top-10, 1 Pole.

What went right: Replacing Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Target Chevrolet, Larson had an outstanding first full season in the Sprint Cup Series, performing better than many veteran drivers during the overall 2014 campaign. The 21-year-old capped off the season by winning Rookie of the Year honors. He came so close to winning several times, most notably runner-up finishes at Fontana in the spring, and Loudon and Kansas in the fall. Larson had one of the best debut seasons of any driver in the Cup Series in a long time, and holds the promise of even greater things to come.

What went wrong: If there was one thing that went wrong for Larson was his tendency at times to be over-aggressive in some races, and it ultimately cost him either in the form of a wreck or damage to his car. How many times did he rim ride around the top of a racetrack and continually skimmed the right side of his car on the outside retaining wall? Far too many. While we love his aggressiveness and style of an old-school racer, Larson has to learn to pick his spots better. We’re not criticizing him. Improvement will come in time.

2015 Prospectus: Larson is almost assured to break through for his first Sprint Cup win. If and when that comes, more wins will likely be sure to follow afterward. This young man has all the markings of a future Sprint Cup champion. If he can avoid the noted NASCAR sophomore season jinx, he could be a serious player in 2015. We see him winning at least one race, making the Chase and could surprise quite a few people by going two or three rounds in the Chase.

MORE: Ganassi’s IndyCar, NASCAR stars set for another Rolex 24

Follow me @JerryBonkowski