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Kyle Larson breaks slump with strong 3rd-place finish at Loudon

Jul 13, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT

(Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Kyle Larson had such an outstanding start to his rookie Sprint Cup season that it seemed like good things and his good fortune would go on forever.

Then came the previous three races – at his home track of Sonoma, followed by Kentucky and the second race of 2014 at Daytona.

Larson finished 28th, a season-worst 40th and 36th, respectively (the last two due to wrecks), at those three races and saw himself plummet from seventh in the Sprint Cup standings after Michigan in mid-June to 17th after Daytona.

That’s 10 spots in the points in three races.

But Sunday at New Hampshire, not only did Larson finish third – his second-best showing of the season – he also jumped from 17th to 14th in the points standings.

As a result, at least until the next race – the Brickyard 400 in two weeks – Larson is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, currently scored 16th (last) in the Chase driver rankings.

Now if he can only hold on to that mark in the remaining seven races leading up to the Chase.

“Great pit calls and the Target Chevy was real good,” Larson said of his finish. “I thought we definitely had a capable car to run top three and the last restart worked out for us. Hat’s off to everybody on this team.”

In a way, the previous three finishes were a learning experience of sorts for Larson, who turns 22 on July 31. After achieving so much success so quickly in the season, the Sonoma through Daytona stretch brought him and his team somewhat down to earth and caused them to regroup.

And regroup they did Sunday, even though some early and perhaps what might be looked at as unconventional pit strategy could have backfired. Fortunately for the No. 42 team, it did not and Larson excelled just like he had done so earlier in the season.

“It was going to take a really dumb call, or what would look dumb would hopefully work out, and it did,” Larson said. “We were able to lead some laps and maintain our track position all race long after that.

“These race cars have been a lot faster this year than in the past. I want to really thank those guys and I’m really just having a blast now.”

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