Larson’s Career Comeback Picks Up Some Serious Steam

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 30 2021

Kyle Larson stole the show in the 2021 Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening. (File photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Last year, Kyle Larson’s career in big-time auto racing appeared to be in serious jeopardy.

On Sunday, it became clear that that career has not only been reborn, but is prospering.

Larson put on a show in primetime on the day before Memorial Day as he logged a dominating victory in the crown-jewel Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Larson led 327 of 400 laps, won three of four stages and beat runner-up Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott to the finish line by more than 10 seconds.

“Feels good,” Larson said after getting his first Cup win at the 1.5-mile CMS oval. “It was not easy. I felt like I had to fight off William (Byron, his teammate) and Chase (Elliott) a lot. We had a good car there on that last run, so awesome.”

The victory was the second of the season for Larson, who is in his first year with HMS after being fired by Chip Ganssi Racing last year after uttering a racial slur into a hot microphone in a televised e-race.

“When I got to talking to Ricky Stenhouse last year,” Larson said, referring to fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. “I was like I think I’m going to end up in the No. 5 or the Hendrick cars and he was like, you’re going to be really good in that thing. And I was like, I don’t know. But it’s been better than I could have ever imagined. For us to lead as many laps as we have this year and contend for as many wins as we have, and now to get our second win at a Crown Jewel event, too, it feels great. I’m just very lucky that Mr. Hendrick was able to put together a deal for me. It’s just awesome. I’m living a dream, for sure.”

The three stage wins give him a series-leading nine on the season. His 327 laps led gave him 1,105 on the season, which also leads the series.

The victory gave the Hendrick team its 269th victory, breaking a tie with Richard Petty Motorsports for most in Cup history. HMS cars have now won six of 15 races in 2021.

“Feels great to be the guy to help Mr. H break that record finally,” Larson said.

“You know, No. 1, Richard Petty is the king of NASCAR,” team-owner Rick Hendrick said. “He’s done so much for this sport. But man, this is so awesome. I want to thank every driver who has driven and won a race and the ones who didn’t win.

“I can’t really get it in my brain right now because I thought something going to happen, something’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m just glad 269 is over.”

The race turned into another demonstration of power for HMS. Two weeks after making Cup history by going 1-2-3-4 at Dover, the team’s drivers went 1-2-4-5 on Sunday with Elliott’s runner up finish and William Byron and Alex Bowman topped only by third-place Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I was happy for the boss,” Elliott, who finished second for the third time in 2021, said. “Happy for Kyle and Cliff (Daniels, Larson’s crew chief) and the 5 team. They been kicking ass since February so they deserve to win.

“Proud of HMS. I feel like everybody is pulling in the same direction.”

Busch was proud to prevent another Hendrick sweep.

“We had nothing for the Hendrick cars,” Busch said. “So overall, really good night for us. I tried to break them (the Hendrick cars) up. I didn’t want them to run 1-2-3-4 again.

Finishing sixth was Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing. Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin was seventh.

Martin Truex, Jr., a three-time winner in 2021 and a two-time 600 winner, was a heavy favorite to win on Sunday. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver started P8 but began going the wrong direction fairly quickly as he fell out of the top 10 and basically stayed there until late in the race when he blew a tire and hit the wall. He finished 29th.

The cars of Kurt Busch and BJ McLeod dropped to the rear of the field for the start of the race because of unapproved adjustments. Busch won the race in 2010.

The Series’ next race will be next weekend at the Sonoma Raceway road course in Northern California.


NASCAR Cup Series Race – 62nd Annual COCA-COLA 600

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Sunday, May 30, 2021

  1. (1)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400.
  2. (3)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400.
  3. (20)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400.
  4. (4)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 400.
  5. (7)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 400.
  6. (6)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400.
  7. (14)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.
  8. (27)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 400.
  9. (15)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 400.
  10. (5)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 400.
  11. (13)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400.
  12. (2)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 400.
  13. (11)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 400.
  14. (18)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 400.
  15. (9)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 398.
  16. (19)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 398.
  17. (16)  Joey Logano, Ford, 398.
  18. (22)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 398.
  19. (26)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 398.
  20. (24)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 398.
  21. (23)  Cole Custer, Ford, 397.
  22. (31)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 397.
  23. (21)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 397.
  24. (17)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 397.
  25. (29)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 397.
  26. (28)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 397.
  27. (25)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 396.
  28. (30)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 395.
  29. (8)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 391.
  30. (34)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 389.
  31. (33)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 389.
  32. (32)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 389.
  33. (35)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 388.
  34. (36)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 387.
  35. (37)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 382.
  36. (38)  David Starr(i), Toyota, 369.
  37. (10)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 359.
  38. (12)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Engine, 139.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  150.785 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 58 Mins, 45 Secs. Margin of Victory:  10.051 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 26 laps.

Lead Changes:  23 among 13 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 1-47;W. Byron 48-49;B. Keselowski 50-55;M. DiBenedetto 56-57;A. Alfredo # 58;K. Larson 59-131;C. Elliott 132-148;T. Reddick 149;C. Bell 150-152;K. Larson 153-174;A. Bowman 175-179;D. Hamlin 180-182;C. Elliott 183-187;K. Larson 188-230;W. Byron 231-247;T. Reddick 248-249;A. Dillon 250;A. Alfredo # 251-252;K. Larson 253-305;K. Busch 306;K. Larson 307-346;T. Reddick 347-349;R. Blaney 350-351;K. Larson 352-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 7 times for 327 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 22 laps; William Byron 2 times for 19 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 6 laps; Tyler Reddick 3 times for 6 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 5 laps; Anthony Alfredo # 2 times for 3 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 3 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 3 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 2 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 2 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap; Austin Dillon 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,9,24,4,3,18,19,8,47,48

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,9,24,18,8,4,48,17,11,3

Stage #3 Top Ten: 5,24,18,9,48,8,11,3,23,4


| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 30 2021
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