DOVER, Del. — Kyle Larson doesn’t seem desperate for a win.
It would seem that a winless young driver heralded as the next great NASCAR racer would do just about anything for a victory in his third Sprint Cup season.
Depending on how one looked at it, Larson settled for second Sunday at Dover International Speedway because he couldn’t pass Matt Kenseth cleanly, or he didn’t settle for anything except keeping his integrity and earning respect.
“He raced me really, really hard, but clean at the same time,” Kenseth said. “He’s a great race-car driver.
“To me it doesn’t even seem right that he hasn’t won yet. He’s got a bunch of victories in front of him for sure. He’s a really, really clean, hard racer, and a fast learner.”
The 23-year-old Larson admitted maybe he could have used the bumper a little bit, but he doesn’t want to win that first race in anything but a clean manner and without anyone thinking he shouldn’t have won. For a driver who hasn’t knocked on the door every week — he sits 21st in the standings — he knows he might not have opportunities other drivers have to win.
“It’s been really hard to stay positive, but as it’s showing now I think everybody has stayed positive, dug really deep to build better stuff,” Larson said. “[We’ll] just keep working hard.
“I wanted to give up there early in the race. I went a lap down early. I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a really long, boring race.’ We kept fighting, kept getting track position and got up there.”
Larson has 12 career top-5s, first finishing second in March 2014 at California. He finished second again in October at Kansas later that year. Last season, he didn’t have any second-place days. His best in 2016 was a third at Martinsville prior to the second-place finish at Dover.
He talked afterward about how much respect he has for Kenseth but also doesn’t feel any driver would push him over the line to do something dirty.
“I’m still early in my career so I don’t want to make anybody mad or make any rivals,” Larson said. “You can see, there’s some drama in the sport, and it takes drivers years to get over it. … I try to race everybody with respect.
“I feel like I do a good job of that. I don’t know if I would have done anything different with anybody else.”
The hardest thing for Larson to stomach is he sits 43 points out of 16th in the standings and needing a slew of top-10 finishes and some help to likely make the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he doesn’t win a race.
“It would be nice to be sitting here knowing I’m in the Chase,” Larson said. “But [we’ll] keep working hard. We got a lot of points to make up if we don’t win a race before the Chase starts.
“We keep having runs like today and we shouldn’t have a problem.”
Xfinity Series: Finishes to build on
Wallace will get that chance in two weeks; Bowman will have to wait three.
The Xfinity Series is off this coming weekend before racing in Charlotte, where Wallace will try to build on a year in which he sits a frustrating ninth in the standings.
Bowman, running only select races for JR Motorspots, will try to build on his first race of 2016 at his next one — June 4 at Pocono.
Bowman led 33 laps in an impressive run for not having stepped into an Xfinity car all season. He had started the year planning to drive a Sprint Cup car for Tommy Baldwin Racing but was replaced in January in favor of Regan Smith.
“I haven’t driven a race car in, like, seven months,” Bowman said. “So it’s pretty incredible to come here and run as well as we did.”
Bowman, who has competed in two Cup seasons, already had the JR Motorsports races lined up before he lost the Cup ride.
“Hopefully my phone starts ringing and I get more races,” he said. “I’ve got nine races this year, and at this point in my career, those nine races are really going to define where it goes. … If you’re not winning races, you’re not safe by any means.
“Two things you have to do: Have a big sponsor or win races. I didn’t have a big sponsor and I hadn’t won races. I’ve got to go win races and I feel like I will be safe.”
Wallace has had a ride all season but has managed just three top-10s. The frustration included a Friday at Dover where Wallace wrecked in practice.
“We can use this for motivation but I said earlier we are nowhere near close to where we need to be,” Wallace said. “We are off on speed and handling, and we know that. We have another off weekend to find some more for our Ford Mustangs.
“We have to keep plugging away. We can’t get frustrated and just give up on it. We have to keep our heads up and work together to get our team better. This is a really good day for us. I can go to sleep tonight knowing that we gave it our all.”
Camping World Truck Series: A big win for Matt Crafton
While Matt Crafton earned his 12th career victory in the trucks, the win at Dover was his first on the 1-mile track.
“It’s awesome,” Crafton said. “I always wanted Miles [the Monster trophy].”
Crafton said the win also was special because the truck was not good in the final practice the day before the race — and now that he has a win, his team can experiment thanks to being a near-lock for the truck version of the Chase.
“[My crew chief] said we have to win a race first — now we can get out of the box,” Crafton said.