By Ben White
Driving the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Kyle Larson notched 10 wins and 26 top-10 results en route to claiming the NASCAR Cup Series championship during his second season with team owner Rick Hendrick.
After spending six Cup Series seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing dating back to 2013, Larson and team owner Chip Ganassi parted ways after Larson was suspended by NASCAR four races into the 2020 season for using a racial slur.
Larson joined Hendrick Motorsports for the 2021 season and logged only three top-10 results amid a very disappointing season.
At the start of 2021, the light switch was seemingly flipped as the success began coming in waves.
Larson finished 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500, 30th on the Daytona road course and fourth at Homestead before logging his first win of the season at Las Vegas. It was feast or famine for the Elk Grove, California, driver over the next 10 weeks as he posted five top-5 finishes before winning again at Charlotte on May 30.
Two additional wins came consecutively at Sonoma and Nashville, and three more top-10 finishes followed, two at Pocono and one at Loudon, to offset a 16th-place finish at Road America and an 18th -place effort at Atlanta. Victory No. 5 on the season came at Watkins Glen and was followed by another string of top-5 finishes at Indianapolis, Michigan and Darlington.
A win at Bristol and three more consecutively at the Charlotte ROVAL, Texas and Kansas placed Larson in perfect position to battle Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott in the Championship 4 showdown at Phoenix.
Larson won the finale to claim his first title. It was the perfect ending to his Cinderella season.
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Kyle Larson, wheeling the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, emerged as the driver who seemingly could do no wrong throughout the 2021 season. There were times when races looked lost only to see Larson and his Cliff Daniels-led crew emerge victorious in the closing laps. Their momentum was unmistakable, especially when it was needed most. He is the only driver to take the flagship No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team to a NASCAR Cup Series championship.
On the last lap of the Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski attempted to pass teammate Joey Logano on the backstretch with an assist from Michael McDowell, but the push spun Keselowski into Logano’s left-rear quarter panel. Keselowski crashed into Bubba Wallace as the massive wreck also collected Austin Cindric, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Ryan Preece and Ross Chastain. McDowell slipped through to win his first NASCAR Cup Series race in the sport’s most prestigious event.
Kyle Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports HendrickCars.com Chevrolet recorded 10 wins and 26 top-10 finishes in the season’s 36 races.
Driving the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Bass Pro Shops Toyota, Martin Truex Jr. notched four wins and 20 top-10 results.
2021 Season Recap
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
Feb. 14 | Daytona International Speedway | Michael McDowell
Feb. 21 | Daytona International Speedway RC | Christopher Bell
Feb. 28 | Homestead-Miami Speedway | William Byron
March 7 | Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Kyle Larson
March 14 | Phoenix Raceway | Martin Truex Jr.
March. 21 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Ryan Blaney
March. 29 | Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt) | Joey Logano
April 11 | Martinsville Speedway | Martin Truex Jr.
April 18 | Richmond Raceway | Alex Bowman
April 25 | Talladega Superspeedway | Brad Keselowski
May 2 | Kansas Speedway | Kyle Busch
May 9 | Darlington Raceway | Martin Truex Jr.
May 16 | Dover Motor Speedway | Alex Bowman
May 23 | Circuit of The Americas | Chase Elliott
May 30 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Kyle Larson
June 6 | Sonoma Raceway | Kyle Larson
June 20 | Nashville Superspeedway | Kyle Larson
June 26 | Pocono Raceway | Alex Bowman
June 27 | Pocono Raceway | Kyle Busch
July 4 | Road America | Chase Elliott
July 11 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Kurt Busch
July 18 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Aric Almirola
Aug. 8 | Watkins Glen International | Kyle Larson
Aug. 15 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway RC | A.J. Allmendinger
Aug. 22 | Michigan International Speedway | Ryan Blaney
Aug. 28 | Daytona International Speedway | Ryan Blaney
Sept. 5 | Darlington Raceway | Denny Hamlin
Sept. 11 | Richmond Raceway | Martin Truex Jr.
Sept. 18 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Kyle Larson
Sept. 26 | Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Denny Hamlin
Oct. 4 | Talladega Superspeedway | Bubba Wallace
Oct. 10 | Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL | Kyle Larson
Oct. 17 | Texas Motor Speedway | Kyle Larson
Oct. 24 | Kansas Speedway | Kyle Larson
Oct. 31 | Martinsville Speedway | Alex Bowman
Nov. 7 | Phoenix Raceway | Kyle Larson