Through the first three races of 2017, and even dating back to the final two races of last year, Kyle Larson has been the man to beat in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Except Larson hasn't won a race.
However, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver has finished second or third in four of the last five outings. That includes three second-place finishes, such as the past two weeks at Atlanta and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
But it's been far closer than the results show. Having stayed in contention for the Daytona 500 victory, Larson made his move late but was passed for the lead on the last lap when the fuel tank started running dry. A week later in Atlanta, he was again passed for the lead inside 10 laps to go.
"No, I'm not frustrated at all," Larson said Friday at Phoenix about running second. "I would love to run second every single week, that would mean we have a great shot at winning the championship. It would be nice to get a win, and we have challenged now for most of the last probably five races.
"So, yeah, it's really cool to run up front, but at the same time, it's not frustrating because it's good. I've never had this speed this early in the year. I'm soaking it all in and enjoying it."
Entering Sunday's Camping world 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Larson sits second in points behind Brad Keselowski, just one marker behind.
NASCAR's new stage racing format has also suited Larson's fast start. With every race now being split into three stages (awarding points to drivers who finish in the top 10 in the first two stages), Larson has scored points in each stage of a race run this year. He credits that the Ganassi cars being "better than they've ever been."
Part of that could come from now having more access to Hendrick Motorsports, whom Ganassi already receives engines. With Stewart-Haas Racing now out of the Chevrolet fold, Larson said the Ganassi came, he and teammate Jamie McMurray, now share driver data. It allows Larson to look at what the four Hendrick drivers are doing during practice sessions.
"Throttle braking, steering, RPM's, stuff like that," Larson said. "We at Chip Ganassi Racing build our own chassis. I know Jeff (Gordon) maybe confused some people on the (television) broadcast saying we had Hendrick chassis', but at our race shop we build our own chassis'. All we really get from Hendrick is that driver data, as far as I know, there might be more behind the scenes. But the driver data and the engines."
While Larson might not be frustrated about his recent stretch of finishes, he wouldn't mind if Phoenix, where he finished third last fall, ended in victory lane.
"I'm very happy with everybody's hard work at our shop, the hard work they put in through the offseason and through the beginning of the year," Larson said. "A win would be nice, and it would be nice to be the point leader right now, but we just have to keep these solid runs going and build on that momentum, and hopefully the wins will start coming.
"Like I said, though, I'm really happy right now having a lot of fun, and hopefully we can keep it going."