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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Second place isn't first loser for points leader Larson

RELATED: Phoenix race results | Series standings 
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AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Kyle Larson figured he was in the best possible position, sitting in fourth place with two fresh tires and facing a two-lap shootout on a hot, slick Phoenix Raceway track.

Turns out that wasn't the case. Contact on the restart with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. allowed Ryan Newman to slip away and leave the Chip Ganassi Racing driver second for the third time in four races this season and the fourth time since last year's season-ending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Sunday's Camping World 500 was the first of two stops at the 1-mile track this season for the series.

"This one stings because I felt like I was in the best spot out of anybody there to line up fourth on two tires," Larson said afterward. "I just turned across Ricky's nose and got sideways, killed both of our runs off (Turn) 2 and allowed Newman to get out on us."

Larson also finished second at Atlanta, where he led seven laps, and Las Vegas, where he led none. On a hot day in the Arizona desert, he led three laps but ran in the top five for practically the entire day. Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray finished 15th but also ran higher for much of the day.

A crash by Team Penske's Joey Logano on Lap 308 of the scheduled 312-lap race set the stage for the two-lap shootout and sent much of the field scurrying to pit road.

Newman, Stenhouse and Martin Truex Jr. opted to remain on the track, gambling on old tires and two miles of asphalt.

Larson, first off pit road, lined up on the outside behind Newman; Stenhouse was on the inside with Truex behind. But Newman was starting to pull away when Larson tried to squeeze his way low entering Turn 1, only to make contact with Stenhouse in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

Both drivers were able to hang on -- no harm, no foul -- although Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) shot past Stenhouse on the final lap to grab third.

RELATED: This Kyle Larson-Ryan Newman photo is best of all time

The finish put Larson, 24, on top of the points standings -- he leads Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) 184-178 after four races.

"It's really, really cool to be the points leader right now," Larson said. "That was a goal of mine going into today. So thanks to everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing for all your hard work.

"We'll hopefully continue to have this speed in our race cars and maybe close some of these races out."

Larson is the first driver since Carl Edwards in 2011 to finish second in three consecutive races. Edwards closed the season with runner-up finishes at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

Larson won his first (and to date, only) Monster Energy Series race last year, at Michigan. Sunday's race at Phoenix was just his 115th career start in the series.

Second place isn't winning, but he said he's yet to grow tired of the result.

"We've never had that speed," Larson said. "It's a lot of fun right now. I'm sure if I ran second for the next eight weeks, yeah, it's probably going to grow old.

"But, yeah, it's so cool to be one of the fastest cars every week. I feel like I've got a shot to win every week at a race track.

"It's weird running all these seconds. It took me like three years to finish second in sprint cars. Now I finish second like every week, so (it's) a little weird but maybe we’ll turn them into wins soon."

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