Coming off perhaps toughest loss of career, how does Larson respond?

4/20/2018 7:19:53 PM EST

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Larson is one of the most even-keeled, happy-go-lucky drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series -- typically smiling, always willing to sign autographs and even popular with his competitors.

But Larson's runner-up showing to Kyle Busch on Monday in the rain-delayed finish at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway stoked some real competitive frustration in the fifth-year Cup driver. And even four days later, speaking with the media in advance of Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway (6 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it was apparent Larson still felt the sting of that near miss.

"Yeah, I was mad," Larson said. "That's as close as I've come to winning a Cup race at Bristol. I don't want to compare Bristol to any other races because that seems to get me in trouble when I compare races to races. But, I want to win extremely bad at Bristol. So, yeah, that one stung probably more than any Cup win I can kind of think of at this point.

"Every single time I race at Bristol, I go head-to-head with Kyle [Busch]. Even though I might not win and run second to him every time or whatever, but throughout the majority of a race it's always him and I nose to tail in lapped traffic, which is a lot of fun, but he seems to come out on the better end of it with wins and all that stuff. So yeah, it sucked."

Larson led a race-high 200 laps at Bristol -- nearly twice as many as Busch (117) and the two exchanged the lead four times in the final 119 laps before Busch took the point for good with six laps remaining.

Larson has never won at the famed short track -- a place he had prioritized and circled on the Cup schedule and put in such a top-shelf effort. As much of a nice guy as Larson may be, he is still a fierce competitor and that one hurt. Deeply.

"I'd moved on shortly after because I was really mad when I got back to the bus and I texted Kyle about this, but the last thing I wanted to hear but the first thing I heard when I walked in the bus was, 'Oh, did you get me some Skittles?' said Larson, smiling at the request his 3-year-old son Owen had so innocently asked about. Skittles sponsored Busch's winning car.

"So, I couldn't help but laugh at that, so that wasn't what I wanted to hear but it kind of lightened the mood, so it helps to get over it a little bit."

Arriving at the three-quarter mile Richmond Raceway this week may help the process of getting over it. Larson won the Cup Series' last race here in September. He started from the pole position (2014) in his first Cup start here and was runner-up in the 2016 race. His recent history in Richmond has certainly produced a lot of positive vibes.

"Typically this hasn't been a good race track for me, but for whatever reason, the last time we were here we were about a top-3 car all race long," Larson said. "[Martin] Truex was really fast. But, I was a little bit lucky there at the end with a caution to beat him off pit road and get the win.

"I think that adds a little bit of confidence coming back here; but at the same time, I've struggled here in the past. I don't know if I'll be as good as I was last time, but I hope so. Even though I've struggled in the past I enjoy this track because it is different than what we typically go to."

Eight races into the 2018 season, Larson has a pair of runner-up finishes (at Fontana, Calif. and Bristol) and a third-place at Las Vegas. He crashed out at Texas Motor Speedway but is still ranked ninth in the Monster Energy Series points standings.

It's proven to be a tough year for any driver not named Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch. Those two veterans have won five of the opening eight races and have a combined four runner-up showings.

Larson acknowledged the dominance of those two teams, Harvick driving a Ford and Busch a Toyota. But Larson also said he felt like his No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the other Chevrolets are getting their feet under them. Austin Dillon's last-lap victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 is the only race a Chevrolet has won so far.

"I still think Harvick is really fast," Larson said sizing up his fellow front-runners. "I think Kyle [Busch] is really good at executing, which has helped him win the last couple of races and really run in the top 3 for as long as he has now. But yeah, as far as pure speed I think the No. 4 [Harvick] has everybody covered."

That's not to say Larson doesn't consider himself an absolute favorite at Richmond this week. He's done everything but win this season and that first 2018 trophy feels inevitable. And perhaps a lesson learned at Bristol will make Larson's next victory all the sweeter.

"I feel like speed-wise, we're close to where we were at this point last year," Larson said. "But I feel like other teams are better than where they were at this point last year. So maybe that's why we're back a couple of positions in the running order throughout the race.

"So yeah, I feel like we've gotten off to a really good start with the new body and all that. It's early in the year and we're going to continue to get better and better every week. We've continued to bring better race cars to the race track every week, so that's good. So we've just got to keep working hard and I think we can get to the point of being the fastest car on the race track every weekend.

"I think we've proved last week that we were the fastest car. We didn't get the win so we have to keep working on that and move it to other race tracks so we can be really fast."

--By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

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NBA Stories

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Fri, 25 May 2018 10:45:35 EST Bucks' Brown says he felt 'defenseless' during arrest
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NHL Stories

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Tue, 22 May 2018 21:34:25 EST NHL notebook: Lamoriello named Isles' president of hockey ops
Tue, 22 May 2018 13:22:39 EST Canadiens re-sign G Niemi
Tue, 22 May 2018 13:01:58 EST Islanders officially hire Lamoriello
Tue, 22 May 2018 12:42:29 EST Maple Leafs part ways with assistant GM Hunter
Mon, 21 May 2018 23:42:21 EST Caps blank Lightning 3-0, force decisive Game 7
Mon, 21 May 2018 23:40:05 EST Blues arena renamed Enterprise Center
Mon, 21 May 2018 19:40:56 EST NHL notebook: Lamoriello to reportedly joins Isles
Mon, 21 May 2018 18:43:37 EST Report: Lamoriello to head hockey ops with Islanders
Mon, 21 May 2018 19:25:49 EST Wild hire Predators' Fenton to be new GM
Mon, 21 May 2018 16:13:50 EST Lightning's Cooper: Vegas run 'not a Cinderella story'

WTA Stories

Fri, 25 May 2018 20:43:04 EST WTA roundup: Barty retires in Strasbourg semis
Fri, 25 May 2018 14:52:05 EST French Open draw: Serena, Sharapova could meet in Round of 16
Thu, 24 May 2018 17:36:21 EST Kvitova attacker to be taken into custody
Thu, 24 May 2018 13:32:25 EST Williams sisters to play doubles at French Open
Wed, 23 May 2018 20:05:43 EST WTA roundup: Stephens falls in completion of suspended Nuremberg match
Tue, 22 May 2018 21:55:14 EST WTA roundup: Stephens' Nuremberg match suspended in 3rd set
Mon, 21 May 2018 22:13:38 EST WTA roundup: Pliskova upsets Goerges at Nuremberg
Mon, 21 May 2018 15:13:54 EST Serena won't be seeded at French Open
Sun, 20 May 2018 10:28:55 EST Svitolina repeats in Rome against 'stiff' Halep
Sat, 19 May 2018 18:16:05 EST Defending champ Svitolina, world No. 1 Halep into Rome final
Fri, 18 May 2018 18:52:42 EST Sharapova advances to face Halep at Rome; Kontaveit shocks Wozniacki
Thu, 17 May 2018 19:52:47 EST Kontaveit upsets Venus Williams for 2nd straight week
Wed, 16 May 2018 20:58:48 EST Pliskova bashes umpire's chair with racket after loss in Rome
Tue, 15 May 2018 20:15:05 EST Svitolina begins title defense in Rome with easy win
Mon, 14 May 2018 19:07:50 EST Retiring Vinci goes out on her terms in Rome
Mon, 14 May 2018 11:31:42 EST Coach: Serena Williams 'ready for French Open'
Sat, 12 May 2018 17:44:13 EST Kvitova outlasts Bertens to win third Madrid title
Fri, 11 May 2018 18:42:59 EST Kvitova wins 10th straight match to reach Madrid final
Fri, 11 May 2018 12:38:56 EST Serena Williams commits to San Jose tourney
Thu, 10 May 2018 18:00:05 EST Pliskova ends Halep's quest for three-peat at Madrid

LPGA Stories

Fri, 25 May 2018 21:25:16 EST Hataoka takes one-shot lead at Volvik Championship
Thu, 24 May 2018 20:14:48 EST Four tied for lead at Volvik Championship
Thu, 24 May 2018 02:27:16 EST LPGA announces new South Korean event
Tue, 22 May 2018 17:07:45 EST LPGA legend Mann dies at 77
Sun, 20 May 2018 21:39:08 EST Jutanugarn birdies playoff holes, wins LPGA tourney
Sat, 19 May 2018 19:07:05 EST Rain wipes out round at Kingsmill Championship
Fri, 18 May 2018 19:57:12 EST Korea's Chun leads rain-delayed Kingsmill Championship
Thu, 17 May 2018 19:35:51 EST Korda shares lead at Kingsmill Championship
Sun, 06 May 2018 20:31:24 EST Defending U.S. Open champ Park captures LPGA event
Sat, 05 May 2018 23:52:11 EST Larsen loses VOA lead due to penalty
Fri, 04 May 2018 22:03:51 EST Bad weather shortens Texas tourney to 36 holes
Thu, 03 May 2018 17:21:12 EST Winds, rain wipe out LPGA event's first round
Sun, 29 Apr 2018 21:44:27 EST Ko eagles playoff hole to win MEDIHEAL title
Sat, 28 Apr 2018 21:32:27 EST Ko surges to third-round lead at MEDIHEAL Championship
Fri, 27 Apr 2018 23:44:21 EST Korda holds narrow lead in MEDIHEAL Championship
Thu, 26 Apr 2018 23:03:37 EST Five players share first-round MEDIHEAL lead
Mon, 23 Apr 2018 12:57:38 EST Inbee Park reclaims No. 1
Sun, 22 Apr 2018 22:30:49 EST Moriya Jutanugarn joins sister as LPGA winner
Sat, 21 Apr 2018 22:30:28 EST Ko matches Jutanugarn's lead entering L.A. final round
Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:06:32 EST Jutanugarn fires 66 to grab 36-hole lead in L.A.

WNCAAB Stories

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 15:42:54 EST Former Tennessee great Charles-Furlow dead at 49
Fri, 06 Apr 2018 23:51:39 EST South Carolina's Wilson earns Wooden Award
Mon, 02 Apr 2018 15:50:53 EST UConn's Stevens skipping final season, entering WNBA draft
Sun, 01 Apr 2018 21:15:27 EST Easter stunner: Irish win title on last-second 3-pointer
Sat, 31 Mar 2018 18:07:32 EST South Carolina's Wilson wins Naismith player of year
Sat, 31 Mar 2018 00:26:56 EST Ogunbowale's shot lifts Notre Dame over UConn in OT thriller
Fri, 30 Mar 2018 21:46:41 EST Mississippi State outlasts Louisville in OT to advance to national championship
Mon, 26 Mar 2018 23:16:06 EST Notre Dame downs Oregon to charge into Final Four
Mon, 26 Mar 2018 23:01:32 EST UConn routs defending champion South Carolina to reach Final Four
Sun, 25 Mar 2018 21:57:47 EST McCowan, Mississippi State outmuscle UCLA to reach Final Four
Sun, 25 Mar 2018 22:04:33 EST Durr scores 18 as Louisville romps into Final Four
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 20:46:48 EST Oregon cruises past Central Michigan to advance to Elite Eight
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 21:11:38 EST Notre Dame edges Texas A&M to make Elite Eight
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 20:52:26 EST Collier paces top-seeded UConn in win over Duke
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 20:57:12 EST No. 2 seed South Carolina pulls away late to top Buffalo
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 00:34:21 EST NCAA women's roundup: Oregon State stuns Baylor
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:54:01 EST Louisville overpowers Stanford in regional semis
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:40:30 EST UCLA edges Texas to reach Elite Eight
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:42:57 EST Oregon State ends Baylor's 30-game winning streak in Sweet 16 upset
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:19:07 EST Mississippi State cruises past NC State to advance to Elite Eight

USA Stories

Wed, 23 May 2018 02:48:44 EST Danica Patrick selected as first female ESPYS host
Tue, 22 May 2018 16:23:45 EST USA Gymnastics CEO to apologize to Nassar victims
Sat, 19 May 2018 23:01:41 EST Justify wins Preakness, sets stage for Triple Crown bid
Fri, 18 May 2018 15:01:25 EST Latest ouster in wake of Nassar scandal divides USA Gymnastics
Thu, 17 May 2018 20:55:22 EST Delaware poised to allow full-scale sports betting
Thu, 17 May 2018 13:56:40 EST New gambling regulation prompts NCAA to ease up on venue rule
Thu, 17 May 2018 11:25:05 EST Derby winner Justify in form as he looks to add Preakness
Wed, 16 May 2018 18:47:00 EST Derby winner Justify draws No. 7 post at Preakness
Wed, 16 May 2018 16:56:54 EST N.J. sports betting must wait for legislation, senator says
Wed, 16 May 2018 12:56:55 EST Michigan State to pay out at least $500M to Nassar victims
Tue, 15 May 2018 13:54:54 EST N.J.'s Monmouth Park to open sports betting on Memorial Day
Mon, 14 May 2018 14:01:56 EST Supreme Court overturns sports betting ban
Sat, 12 May 2018 14:04:57 EST Suspension won't force jockey Smith to miss Preakness
Thu, 10 May 2018 13:41:23 EST Justify gallops in first workout since heel injury
Wed, 09 May 2018 14:16:37 EST Justify (heel) set to gallop Thursday
Sat, 05 May 2018 21:53:08 EST Justify shows effortless talent in winning Kentucky Derby
Fri, 04 May 2018 19:43:35 EST Monomoy Girl holds off Wonder Gadot for Kentucky Oaks win
Thu, 03 May 2018 19:30:53 EST All signs point to epic Kentucky Derby
Wed, 02 May 2018 19:55:19 EST Mendelssohn still waiting to work out at Churchill Downs
Tue, 01 May 2018 13:29:01 EST Early Kentucky Derby favorite Justify draws No. 7 post