Another runner-up finish doesn’t have Kyle Larson down

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It’s not getting old yet for Kyle Larson.

After his third consecutive runner-up finish Sunday at Phoenix Raceway — and fourth in the last five NASCAR Cup races — Larson could still smile.

“Like I’ve been saying all this early year, we’ve never had this speed; it’s a lot of fun right now,’’ Larson said after placing second to Ryan Newman in the Camping World 500, a week after finishing second at Las Vegas to Martin Truex Jr. and two weeks after placing second to Brad Keselowski.

“I’m sure if I ran second the next eight weeks it is probably going to grow old,” Larson continues. “It’s so cool to be one of the fastest cars every week. I feel like I’ve got a shot to win every week. At a race track like here and Vegas, where I don’t normally run good and challenge for wins, and Daytona, I suck on superspeedways, it’s been a lot of fun to start this year.

“I hope we can continue to work hard, be consistent and be mistake-free on pit road and on the race track. If we can just keep doing that, the wins are going to come. I could easily have four wins right now. Just got to keep working hard.’’

What he does have, though, is the points lead for the first time in his Cup career. Larson has 184 points. Brad Keselowski is next at 178.

Larson had a chance to win on the final restart. He restarted fourth, the first car with two fresh tires. Newman, who led, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Martin Truex Jr., each did not pit and restarted in the top three spots.

Larson tried to move down from the top lane in Turn 1 after the restart to get by Newman, but Larson came down on Stenhouse’s car.

“I knew we were in the best spot,’’ Larson said. “I turned across Ricky’s nose and killed both of our runs off of (Turn) 2 and allowed Newman to get out on us.’’

That left Larson to settle for second and become the first driver since Carl Edwards to finish second in three consecutive races. Edwards did it in Nov. 2011 during his championship battle with Tony Stewart.

It is such moments, he admits, that have kept Larson from winning this year.

“I guess little mistakes or inexperience or whatever you want to call it,’’ Larson said. “Hindsight is always 20/20. I should have went a lane up in (Turns) one and two. I should have known to just stay close to Newman. That’s what I wish I would have done.

“But, yeah, it’s weird running all these seconds. It took me, like, three years to finish second in sprint cars. Now I finish second like every week, so…  A little weird, but maybe we’ll turn them into wins soon.’’

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