Kyle Larson seeks drama-free second round

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DOVER, Del. — The drama that has followed Kyle Larson in the playoffs, is nowhere to be seen.

So far.

Accidents, an engine failure and other issues have plagued Larson’s playoffs the past three years.

But after his 13th-place finish last weekend at the Roval, Larson noted to NBC Sports that it was “the first time in my playoff history I’ve had no drama in the first round.”

The second round? He’s been eliminated each of the past two years.

With next weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway looming over what happens today at Dover International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), a Larson win would keep the drama away for this second round. Larson enters today’s race eighth in the standings, the final transfer spot to the third round. He leads Alex Bowman by one points, Ryan Blaney by two, William Byron by five and Clint Bowyer by six.

Although Larson enters with a 75-race winless streak that stretches beyond two years, he should be viewed as a candidate to win today’s race.

Larson qualified second, ranked first in best average over 10 consecutive laps in Friday’s final practice and his career average finish of 8.0 at Dover is better than every other driver in the field except Chase Elliott (4.4 career average finish at Dover) and Daniel Suarez (7.6).

“I’d love to win both stages and the race,” Larson said. “That would solve Talladega for us.”

Larson has been upbeat about his performance in the first round. He won a stage last weekend at the Roval before a pit road penalty put him a lap down. He finished sixth at Richmond and was eighth at Las Vegas in the playoff opener.

“I think we’ve just go to keep being consistent,” Larson said. “We’ve been smart here lately and doing a good job on pit road. We’ve kind of been doing just better throughout our whole races where we were really messy early in the year. I don’t think anybody can feel great about it, advancing to the next round, but I feel like if we keep doing what we’ve been doing we’ll have a good shot.”