NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson dominates Coca-Cola 600, Hendrick becomes winningest team

4 Mins read
Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Hendrick Motorsports has officially surpassed Petty Enterprises for the most wins in NASCAR Cup Series history. Kyle Larson dominated Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading 311 of 400 laps and sweeping the four stages to secure the team’s 269th victory.

Larson won the pole in qualifying on Saturday ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kurt Busch and B.J. McLeod were sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments.

Stages #1 and 2

Larson dominated the opening stage as Hendrick Motorsports team-mates Chase Elliott and William Byron followed.

The first stage ran completely green as Larson led all but eleven of the 100 laps. The exceptions came during the mid-segment pit stops under green following Larson making his stop on lap 49, with Byron, Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto, and Anthony Alfredo leading laps before it cycled back to Larson. Meanwhile, Ross Chastain exited the race with a broken oil pump valve.

Larson, Elliott, Byron, Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top ten.

Stage #2 began with Larson leading Elliott. Elliott finally broke his team-mate’s on-track stranglehold on lap 132, leading until the next pit cycle commenced and he pitted on lap 149. Reddick and Christopher Bell spent time at the top until Larson returned to the spot. Prior to the stops, Chastain’s Chip Ganassi Racing partner Kurt Busch suffered an oil pump belt failure. David Starr, running his first Cup race of the year, was penalised for failing to meet minimum speed.

Although Busch was able to return to the track, his race ended in smoke when his engine expired on lap 172 and produced a caution. Bowman and Hamlin changed two tyres during the yellow to lead the field to green on the ensuing lap 178 restart. Hamlin took the lead two laps later before losing it to Elliott on lap 183.

Larson reclaimed the lead on lap 188. By lap 195, Hendrick drivers occupied the top four in a similar strong performance to Dover two weeks prior. Kyle Busch broke up the party when he took fourth from Bowman, but it was still a Hendrick 1–2–3 at the end of the stage with Larson ahead of Elliott and Byron. Reddick, Harvick, Bowman, Buescher, Hamlin, and Dillon also received stage points.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Stages #3 and 4

Larson, Elliott, and Byron resumed their battle as the race’s second half opened. On lap 212, Bell hit the wall and had to pit.

Byron overtook Larson for the lead on lap 231. Five laps later, Harivck pitted due to a loose wheel, while green-flag stops started approximately ten laps later. After Byron pitted on lap 247, Reddick, Dillon, and Alfredo enjoyed leading laps. The stops concluded with Larson back on top and he would lead until Ryan Newman‘s right-front tyre went down with five laps left in the stage and sent him into the wall.

Newman’s wreck ended the stage under yellow as Larson won his third consecutive stage. He was the second driver to win three stages at the 600 since Kyle Busch in 2018, the first year that the race was divided into four segments instead of the usual three. Byron, Busch, Elliott, Bowman, Reddick, Hamlin, Dillon, Bubba Wallace, and Harvick comprised the rest of the top ten.

A pair of Kyles in Larson and Busch led the grid to the start of the fourth and final stage. Despite a brief challenge by Busch, Larson kept the lead. On lap 320, Joey Logano pitted to address a flat tyre, a similar fate that befell Martin Truex Jr. twenty laps later.

Larson hit pit road on lap 347. Reddick and Blaney led a combined five laps before they pitted and Larson re-assumed first. As the lap counter crossed 372, he led 300 total laps in a Cup race for the first time; his previous best was 284 at Darlington in 2018, while his 269 at Atlanta in March were his most on a 1.5-mile track.

As Byron and Bowman faced challenges from Busch, Larson easily pulled away from Elliott and his Hendrick compatriots. By the end of the race, his advantage on runner-up Elliott had peaked at over ten seconds. Hendrick drivers occupied the top five with Busch—himself an ex-Hendrick member—preventing a top four HMS sweep as he finished third.

In addition to being Larson’s eighth career win and second of 2021, he notches his first at Charlotte. It is also perhaps fitting that the #5 car was responsible for Hendrick becoming the winningest team as the number holds sentimental value for the organisation, being its first car number with Geoff Bodine in 1984; the #5 has forty total wins.

Race results

115Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet400Running
239Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet400Running
32018Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota400Running
4424William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet400Running
5748Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet400Running
663Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet400Running
71411Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingChevrolet400Running
82717Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord400Running
9158Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet400Running
1054Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord400Running
11132Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord400Running
12247Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet400Running
131112Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord400Running
141823Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota400Running
15999Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet398Running
161943Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet398Running
171622Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord398Running
182221Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord398Running
19267Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet398Running
202434Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord398Running
212341Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord397Running
223110Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord397Running
232114Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord397Running
241720Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota397Running
252938Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord397Running
262837Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet397Running
27256Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord396Running
283077Justin Haley*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet395Running
29819Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota391Running
303453Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet389Running
313378B.J. McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsFord389Running
323200Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet389Running
333515James DavisonRick Ware RacingChevrolet388Running
343651Garrett Smithley*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet387Running
353752Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord382Running
363866David Starr*MBM MotorsportsToyota369Running
371042Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet359Running
38121Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet139Engine
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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History major and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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