When Kyle Larson joined Hendrick Motorsports prior to the 2021 season everyone knew he would make a jump in success in the NASCAR Cup Series, but few envisioned the leap would be this astronomical.
Prior to the 2021 season, Kyle Larson’s best season statistically in the NASCAR Cup Series was 2017 when he put up four wins, 15 top fives and 20 top 10s. He led 1,352 laps and posted an average start of 11.3 and an average finish of 13.3. He finished the 2017 season eighth in the final standings. His best season in the Cup driver point standings/Playoffs was 2019 where he finished sixth after collecting one win, eight top fives and 17 top 10s. But neither of those seasons even come close in comparison to Larson’s stellar performance in 2021.
This season, Larson’s list of accolades is fairly long. He has produced career-bests in every single traditional statical category – wins (nine), top fives (19), top 10s (25), laps led (2,397), average start (6.4) and average finish (9.2). He also leads the series in key season-to-date Loop Data categories like Driver Rating (112.3), and Fastest Laps Run (1,198).
But that’s not all Larson has been able to accomplish, his performances this season have allowed him to etch his name alongside some of the sport’s greatest in the record books.
For example, his win last weekend at Kansas Speedway made him the fourth different driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win three or more consecutive races multiple times in a single season; joining NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt (1987) and Richard Petty (1967, 1971) and David Pearson (1968).
|NASCAR Cup Series Consecutive Victories (Three Or More Multiple Times A Season)|
|1||Richard Petty||3||Thursday, July 13, 1967||Sunday, July 23, 1967||1967|
|Richard Petty||10||Saturday, August 12, 1967||Sunday, October 1, 1967||1967|
|2||David Pearson||4||Sunday, May 5, 1968||Saturday, May 18, 1968||1968|
|David Pearson||3||Thursday, August 8, 1968||Sunday, August 18, 1968||1968|
|Richard Petty||3||Sunday, March 7, 1971||Sunday, March 21, 1971||1971|
|Richard Petty||3||Thursday, April 15, 1971||Sunday, April 25, 1971||1971|
|Richard Petty||6||Wednesday, July 14, 1971||Sunday, August 8, 1971||1971|
|3||Dale Earnhardt||4||Sunday, March 29, 1987||Sunday, April 26, 1987||1987|
|Dale Earnhardt||3||Saturday, August 22, 1987||Sunday, September 13, 1987||1987|
|4||Kyle Larson||3||Sunday, May 30, 2021||Sunday, June 20, 2021||2021|
|Kyle Larson||3||Sunday, October 10, 2021||Sunday, October 24, 2021||2021|
This weekend Larson is looking to become just the ninth different NASCAR Cup Series driver in the Modern Era (1972-Present) to win four or more races consecutively and the 13th different driver to accomplish the feat all-time.
Plus, Larson’s 2,397 laps led this season are the most in a NASCAR Cup Series single season since NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon’s 2,610 laps led in 1996. Larson is only the fourth active driver to lead more than 2,000 laps in a single season; joining Kevin Harvick (2014, 2015), Kyle Busch (2017) and Martin Truex Jr. (2017).
And let’s not forget, Larson’s nine wins this season are tied with Kevin Harvick’s nine wins in 2020 for the most since Jimmie Johnson’s 10-win season in 2007. NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (1998) and Richard Petty (1975) hold the record for the most win in the NASCAR Cup Series in the Modern Era (1972-Present) with 13 wins each. If Larson wins either this week or next, he will become the only active driver with double digit wins in a single season and the 11th driver in the Modern Era to accomplish the feat.
Larson has made 13 starts at Martinsville Speedway posting two top fives and three top 10s. He finished fifth at Martinsville back in April.
He’s also led 831 laps alone this postseason including 386 over the last two weeks. He’s finished in the top three in all four stages this round as well as 11 of the 16 stages during the entire playoffs.
With this sport very much being a momentum sport, he can’t rest on his lorels yet and think that he’s going to win next Sunday’s race in Phoenix. That’s because both tracks will use the 750 package and you can take a lot from this weekend apply to next.
3 of the last 5 Martinsville playoff winners won the championship when it was all said and done. In fact, it happened just last year.
That’s why Larson is continuing to look forward.
“It’s like hard for me to think if people will really remember if you don’t win the championship now at this point,” Larson said following another dominating win last Sunday in the Sunflower State.
“Not that it adds pressure but you can read into it adding pressure that I want to win the championship even more to cap off what’s been a great season. I try not to think about it. And I think the more wins you get, hopefully we’re winning the championship in Phoenix, but I feel like the more wins we’ve gotten will make that feeling if I happen to not win, make it easier to swallow I think just because it has been a great year.
“It comes down to one race there in Phoenix. It’s a different style track than we’ve been winning on. But I don’t know. Like I said I try not to think about it. We’ll see how the feeling is. Hopefully we’re celebrating after Phoenix and I don’t have to accept the fact that we didn’t win a championship.
“But either way, yes, it’s been a good season but I want to cap it off with what we all want. So that’s my goal. And I hope we can finish it off with being mentioned in one of the top five greatest seasons ever.”
So, when facing an aggressive race with the winds swirling around the 1.5-mile track at Kansas last weekend making the race very treacherous, Larson fought harder. He’s afraid to lose. So is his entire No. 5 Chevrolet team in general.
“I said it last week, I’ll say it again, there is a cadence to how our whole team prepares,” Larson’s crew chief Cliff Daniels said. “Everybody is bought in, everybody believes in it. If I went to them tomorrow and said we’re going to ignore Martinsville and focus on Phoenix, they’re just not going to listen to me.
“We are going to stay focused on our path, what it is going to take to go to Martinsville. Of course, we have our eyes on Phoenix. We’re going to prepare like we should to go there but we’ve just got to keep going.”
Daniels is just so appreciative of being paired with a driver of Larson’s caliber.
“Working with him has been incredible,” Daniels continued. “And we’ve always seen with him that he was going to have the potential to go do what he’s done. And then last year, not being in the Cup Series but running third, he won half the races that he entered last year. I think that tipped off the world to what he could become.
“And then getting our team together, so thankful to Mr. H and this guy over here, Jeff Andrews, for getting our team together, bringing Kyle in. And we just started chipping away at the end of the year.
“Having the laps led, you know, category is awesome. I think to be smart, though, I look back at a lot of the races that we led the laps and didn’t win the race because there’s a lot to be learned from that, about keeping us sharp and executing better. Still a really cool stat to have and we’ve got two more races to go. So now I need to look at the races we didn’t win and make sure we do the next two weeks.”
Larson, has the equal respect back.
“It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t know what to expect coming into this season,” he said. “I knew I would have lots of opportunities to get wins. But never did I think I would win as often as we have. Proud of everybody’s hard work all season long
“I think Cliff and his leadership really propels us to be as confident. Our execution has always been good. We continue to make that better throughout the year. And I think that stems from his leadership and as he mentioned the leadership that he learned from Jimmie and Chad.”
With setting the all-time record for most laps led in a season and now being one victory away from 10, which would make him the first since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 to do so, this team is hoping to end this season on a high note and don’t want to stop the momentum now.
“Even to be mentioned in that conversation is special as it is,” Daniels said. “I’ve been so fortunate to learn a great deal from Jimmie and from Chad being on that team with them for a handful of years.
“Just the leaders that they are, guys like Alan Gustafson, Jeff Andrews, Jeff Gordon. We’ve had a lot of guys in our company that have done a great job helping me along the way and helping our team along the way. I know they do that for everybody in the company.
“I think with the leadership Mr. Hendrick to believe in his people with the right people in place and give us a good team and all the right parts and pieces to get the job done just makes for a special environment, special combination. Hopefully we can get that stat. Pretty cool to be a part of.”
Larson though, says that he’s already at 10. The All-Star race, a non points paying one, was their 10th trip to victory lane if you count that.
“I wish NASCAR would count 10 wins because we have it already,” said Larson. “No, as Cliff mentioned, it’s just really cool to be mentioned in the same category. I would love to join them in 10 official wins.”