CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kyle Larson enters the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs looking to defend his title as the reigning champion.
This year’s regular season saw Larson score two wins - at Auto Club Speedway in February and Watkins Glen International in August. He enters the 10-race postseason seeded fourth with 2,019 points.
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"We are prepared for the playoffs," Larson said. "Our pit crew has been performing well. Our cars have been fast all year long. Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and our guys have been making good calls on top of the box. I’m doing a little bit better job of taking what I can get out of the race car and not overstepping things. So I feel like we’re prepared. We just have to hope that everything comes together and this is the time of the year for that.
"I know we have a championship-caliber team. We proved that last year and we just have to do it again."
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En route to last year's championship, Larson won five times in the regular season and then another five times in the playoffs.
The Round of 16 tracks of Darlington Raceway, Kansas Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway should allow for the 30-year-old driver to get off to a fast start in his quest to be the first back-to-back champion in the elimination-style playoff era.
While Larson has yet to win at Darlington in the Cup ranks, he has four top-three finishes in his last five starts at the 1.366-mile track. His 8.89 average finish is second all-time among drivers with more than two starts in the series.
"I feel like it’s in my top three or four for best tracks on the circuit, as far as average running position throughout the race and stuff like that,” Larson said of the South Carolina venue. “It just seems to fit my racing style. It’s really technical. You have to move your line around a little bit and be patient.
"It’s just fun. I really enjoy it. It gets slick and hot. It’s just a very demanding race track. I think the more demanding, it sometimes seems to be better suited for me."
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During his 2021 title run, two of Larson’s playoff wins came at Kansas and Bristol. At Kansas, the Elk Grove, California, native has four top-four finishes in his last seven races and he finished second at the 1.5-mile track in this spring’s race. Larson has finished in the top six in five of his last seven runs at the 0.533-mile venue in Tennessee.
"This first round sets up really nice for us and our team," Larson said. "There are three really great tracks for us. I think it’s a good opportunity for us to have a good few showings, get some playoff points and try to put ourselves in a better spot as we approach the next couple of rounds."
Larson and the No. 5 team will kick off the playoffs at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).