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NASCAR Cup: Kyle Larson wins 2021 championship

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 07: Crew chief Cliff Daniels and Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, celebrate after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 07, 2021 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)



After car owner Rick Hendrick made the call to take a chance on Kyle Larson for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, the driver repaid his new boss with a dominant season that was capped off by a series-leading 10th win of the season and the 2021 Cup Series championship Sunday at Phoenix Raceway in the 312-lap NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

“I cannot believe it. I didn’t even think I’d be racing a Cup car a year-and-a-half ago,” Larson said. “To win a championship is crazy. I’ve got to say first off thank you so much to Rick Hendrick,, Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, every single one of my supporters in the stands, watching at home, my family. I’ve got so many of my friends and family here. My parents, my sister, my wife and kids. Owen had been giving me crap a month-and-a-half ago about how I can’t win a Cup race when he’s there, so that added a lot of pressure.”

Larson’s championship os the 14th Cup Series title for Hendrick Motorsports and the second-straight, added to Chase Elliott’s title from a year ago.

“There were so many points in this race where I did not think we were going to win,” Larson said. “Without my pit crew on that last stop, we would not be standing right here. They are the true winners of this race. They are true champions. I’m just blessed to be a part of this group. Every single man or person, man and woman at Hendrick Motorsports, this win is for all of us, and every one of you.”

The four championship contenders ran inside the top-five most of Sunday’s season-finale, often in the top-four positions. They also finished in the top-five with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin in second and third and Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott in fifth.

“I felt like our NAPA Chevy was really good, and I thought our team did a really good job preparing this week,” Elliott said. “I was really proud of our group. I thought we brought a really good car and did a lot of things that we were wanting it to do today, just didn’t work out, and the sequence of the way all that went certainly was unfortunate for us. But, look, proud of our team, a lot to build on, and also congrats to Kyle and Cliff (Daniels, Larson’s crew chief). What an amazing season. Very, very deserving champions, and glad to see Kyle have success.”

Ryan Blaney passed Elliott for position late in the race to finish fourth. Blaney and Harvick were the two drivers most consistently inside the top-five with the totle contenders. Harvick finished eighth.

Larson led a race-high 107 laps, including a stage-two win on lap 190. Elliott 94 for a combined 201 laps-led for Hendrick Motorsports. Truex led 72 laps, including a stage-one win on lap 75. Hamlin was the only title contender who failed to lead a lap.

Blaney was the only other driver to lead significant laps — a tally of 33 laps-led.

After losing the lead to Elliott on lap two, Larson pitted during the first caution on lap seven. As a result of the stop, Larson restarted outside the top-30. But he cycled back up to the top-five when nearly everyone else pitted during the next caution that came out on lap 15.

The varying early-race pit strategies also put Blaney up front for several laps before he lost the lead to Harvick on lap 49.

Truex, then, took his stage-winning lead from Harvick on lap 51.

Elliott and Truex each led laps early in the second stage before Larson took his stage-two-winning lead on a lap-162 restart.

Larson dominated the second half of the race. He did lose the lead, though, to Elliott on lap 236.

A lap 248 caution, then, worked in Truex’s favor. He was on pit road when Anthony Alfredo hit the wall because of a blown right-front tire and brought out the caution. Truex managed to get off pit road in front of the pace car to remain on the lead lap and cycled to the lead when everyone else pitted under the yellow.

Truex continued to lead until the final caution on lap 293. Larson got out of the pits first during the final yellow and maintained that lead throughout the remaining laps, despite a late-race challenge from Truex.

“Clean air seemed to be a good bit of an advantage there,” Truex said. “Whoever got out front was there for 20, 30, 40 laps and then the long run cars would start coming around. I don’t know. Ultimately, we needed to beat them off of pit road. It’s unfortunate, but we win and lose as a team. I’m really proud of our efforts this year. Big thanks to everyone that makes it possible – Bass Pro Shops, Auto Owners, Reser’s Fine Foods, Toyota, TRD, Sherwin Williams, Oakley, Textron, Noble Aerospace, all of our partners. That’s three times that we’ve been second and that sucks. Second hurts, I’m not going to lie, especially with the car we had and the job the guys did. That’s racing, as they say, and sometimes you’re just not on the right side of things. We were on the right side of things to get the lead there, and weren’t able to hang on to it. If we could have had the lead, I think it would have been over, but that’s kind of how the 5 (Larson) did it. They had a hell of a season; congrats to them. Gosh, dang, it sucks. I hate it.”

Aric Almirola finished sixth, Kyle Busch seventh, Christopher Bell ninth, and Brad Keselowski was 10th in his final race with Team Penske.

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Posted by on November 8, 2021. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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