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Larson’s Playoff Fate Could Be Decided in Round of 12

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Kyle Larson’s toughest stretch of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has arrived.

After a strong end to the regular season with a victory at Richmond, Larson brought momentum into the opening round and captured three top-finishes.

“It was nice to make it easily into this next round,” Larson said.

Now the No. 42 enters the Round of 12 third on the Playoff Grid, 25 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. and 26 ahead of the first cutoff spot.

With bonus points now carrying over between rounds, Larson may need to rely on this advantage to further his title hopes as his four worst post-season tracks host the next four races.

He has traditionally performed well at mile-and-a-half’s and in the All-Star Race but has only scored two top-10 finishes in points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway with an average finish of 19.8 in eight starts.

“Charlotte, I seem to be hit or miss,” Larson said. “I feel like whenever we end up running a day show at Charlotte, I’m really good, but the night races for some reason, I struggle at.”

He scored his best career finish at Charlotte during last year’s Bank of America 500 that ran on Sunday after being postponed from Saturday night.

Talladega Superspeedway often comes down to luck, and it hasn’t been on his side throughout his career. He has finished in the top-10 twice in seven starts despite only enduring one DNF.

Kansas is statistically his best venue in this round, but he still has posted a lackluster average finishing position of 18.4. 

Once the Round of 12 concludes, Martinsville will provide another challenge for Larson as other than a third-place result in April 2016; he has never placed better than 14th. 

After this stretch of races, the path to Homestead-Miami becomes clearer but seeing how Larson fares in the next three will be very telling for his championship hopes.

Running with Truex and Kyle Busch has been the goal for Larson in recent weeks. However, now heading to some of Toyota’s best tracks will require an even better performance from Larson at places where he has struggled.

Larson faced elimination after the Round of 16 last year and wasn’t in a position that required him to run well in these races.

With success over the next three weeks critical to furthering his championship bid, it’s a vital time to find better results at the upcoming venues.

The weekend started off promising at Charlotte as he led practice and qualified 10th. 

Once Sunday arrives, Larson knows what he needs to do.

“Just got to continue what we have been doing, making no mistakes,” Larson said.

The Playoffs reward a driver going above and beyond what is expected. If Larson can do that in the Round of 12, it will be a major step towards a championship. 

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.