AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 17: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, walk to their cars during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 17, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Championship contender feels far more confident heading into the postseason

Kyle Larson made the playoffs last year, but he was eliminated after the first round. This year, Larson is among the favorites to win the championship,

At playoff media day, Larson said he didn't even feel like feel like he participated in the postseason last year after his early exit.

"I don't really feel like I was in the playoffs last year," Larson said.

Related: Kyle Larson admits he stole a win

Despite not performing well in the playoffs a season ago, Larson said he felt like it was a good learning experience for him and his team.

"Even if you're not in it, you still get an idea of what you need to do," Larson said. "I mean, really you've got to make no mistakes. If you do have a mistake, you know you have to win the next race."

Larson is among the favorites to win the championship this season along with Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch. He won his fourth race of the season during the last race of the regular season at Richmond, which tied him with Truex for most wins for any Cup Series driver this year.

"This year I feel like we should hopefully make it through the first round," Larson said. "I feel like we've made it a round further already this year. I don't want to jinx myself, but I just feel more confident this year. I think I should be with four wins rather than one at this point last year.

"But anything can happen. I mean, we could win these next 10 or we could be off also. I could have one bad race, then not win the next two, be out in the first round.

"We've just got to do everything right."

Larson has established himself as one of the best drivers in the sport, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if the 25-year-old won his first championship this season.

He'll have plenty of competition, especially from Truex, who is also seeking his first career championship. Kyle Busch is always a threat, and he had one of the best finishes to the season of any driver in the playoff field.

Larson got his feet wet last year, and now he feels ready to contend for his first championship.

(h/t NBC Sports)