NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson continues domination, scores 9th win of 2021

4 Mins read
Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Kyle Larson winning a NASCAR Cup Series race is not a new development. In leading 130 of 267 laps in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, he converted his domination of the series into history as he surpassed Jeff Gordon‘s 1998 campaign for the most laps led in a thirty-six-race Cup season with 2,397. In contrast to Gordon’s historic year in which he led 2,032 of 10,229 laps for 19.87 percent in 1998, Larson’s 2,397 of 8.837 totalled up to a whopping 28.58 percent. He also won his third straight race and led the most laps in each for the second time in 2021, the latter of which had not been achieved since Dale Earnhardt in 1987.

Larson started on the pole and hit the ground running immediately, leading every lap until rain and a lightning delay arrived on lap 11. Kyle Busch wrecked on lap 24 for the lone race-related caution of the opening stage, while Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto, and Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports team-mates Chase Elliott and William Byron briefly led laps either under caution or during green-flag stops. Larson re-assumed the lead on lap 37 and held it to the finish ahead of Byron, Elliott, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, and Tyler Reddick. All four Hendrick drivers finished in the top ten.

Stage #2 ran fully green. Much like the previous segment, Hendrick drivers dominated as Elliott led before Byron wrapped things up with the stage win, with Kurt Busch and Joey Logano breaking up the Hendrick party during stops. Once again, Hendrick cars finished 1–2–3 with Byron leading Elliott and Larson. Busch, Harvick, Reddick, Bowman, Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, and Chastain followed.

Anthony Alfredo crashed on lap 174 for the first of three wrecks in the final stage. Keselowski and Ryan Newman made contact on lap 219 for another yellow, as did Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney on lap 225 for a wreck that proved especially damaging to the latter’s playoff chances as he sank from second in points to below the cut line in fifth.

At the front, Larson dominated the segment and had to stave off charges from the likes of Reddick, Busch, and Elliott. He cleared the field on the final restart following the Dillon/Blaney wreck and led the rest of the way to win his ninth race of the season and third in a row. The win is Larson’s first at Kansas and the first for Hendrick since Elliott at the 2018 fall event.

Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Larson in his post-race press conference. “I didn’t know what to expect coming into this season. 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 (Daniels, crew chief) 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 (Johnson) and Chad (Knaus).”

The victory also comes with some emotional weight as it falls on the seventeenth anniversary of the 2004 Hendrick Motorsports plane crash that killed all ten people onboard, including team owner Rick Hendrick‘s son Ricky, who scored his lone Truck Series victory at Kansas in 2001 in the #17 truck. The younger Hendrick’s livery is also emulated by Larson’s #5 car.

“Knowing Ricky and knowing where he was headed in our company, plans for what Mr. Hendrick and Mrs. Hendrick had planned for him in our company, always hate we never get that opportunity to see that,” said Hendrick general manager Jeff Andrews. “But on days like today, you just have to stop for a few minutes and kind of take it all in and realize what’s important. As Cliff said, we certainly have the Hendrick family in our thoughts.

“Special win. Special obviously today getting that paint scheme to Victory Lane here in Kansas. Got to be a special day for them and really the families of all those that we lost seventeen years ago today.”

The event is the last on a 1.5-mile track for the Gen-6 car before the début of the Next Gen car in 2022. Larson’s win additionally secures the Manufacturer’s Championship for Chevrolet, who now has seventeen victories after thirty-four races: Larson’s nine, three by Bowman, two by Elliott, and one apiece by Byron, Kurt Busch, and A.J. Allmendinger.

Race results

FinishStartNumberDriverTeamManufacturerLapsStatus
115Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
259Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
3114Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord267Running
4131Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet267Running
5611Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
6924William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
7719Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
81020Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
9822Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord267Running
10143Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet267Running
112548Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
122117Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord267Running
132442Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet267Running
142723Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota267Running
151699Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet267Running
161834Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord266Running
1732Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord266Running
182241Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
191914Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
204096Parker Kligerman*Gaunt Brothers RacingToyota266Running
213237Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet265Running
22128Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet265Running
231521Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord265Running
242847Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet265Running
25237Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet263Running
262010Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord263Running
27316Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord263Running
28418Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota261Running
291743Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet260Running
302678B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord259Running
313651Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet258Running
323953Joey Gase*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet256Running
333052Josh Bilicki*Rick Ware RacingFord256Running
343813David Starr*MBM MotorsportsFord255Running
353500Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet255Running
363415Ryan Ellis*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet254Running
37212Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord224Accident
382938Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord171Accident
393377Justin Haley*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet165Engine
403766Chad Finchum*MBM MotorsportsToyota47Handling
Bold – Currently in playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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