Kyle Larson won the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship Presented by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway Saturday night. The trophy was awarded at the conclusion of the Coke Zero 400, the final race before the post-season Playoffs.
In his debut season with Hendrick Motorsports Larson has scored five wins, 14 top fives, 18 top 10s, led 1566 laps and earned 13 stage wins. He has led the championship points standings since claiming his fifth win at Watkins Glen International on August 8.
The regular-season championship gives Larson an additional 15 points as he heads into the 10-race Playoffs.
“We had a stretch there where we won like every stage and every race for a few weeks in a row,” Larson said. “I think we took huge chunks out then. I think I read somewhere where we overcame, I think, a 166-point gap to Denny (Hamlin). I didn’t think it was possible, but our team has worked so hard all of the regular season.
“I couldn’t do it without Mr. Hendrick and Linda and all of their support. Everybody back at the shop, too. This is a long season and we still have 10 races to go. It’s a long point to get here and it’s just a big hats off to everybody at the shop, HendrickCars.com, Valvoline, Tarlton and Son, everybody who’s been on board to help us out this year.”
Jim Campbell, GM U.S. Vice President of Performance and Motorsports, congratulated Larson and the team, saying, “It was quite a battle right to the end, but the combination of the most wins, top-fives, top-10 finishes, stage wins and laps led made the difference to secure this Regular Season Championship. The team has momentum going into the Playoffs.”
The Playoffs begin Sept. 5 at the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and Larson is confident that his team will perform well.
“I mean, I think there’s a lot of good tracks for us,” Larson said. “I don’t know which ones specifically. I feel like we have a shot to win anywhere right now. That’s encouraging.
“I really just look forward to getting it started next week, kind of getting into the flow of that, racing in the playoffs against multiple other drivers chasing points and wins. Yeah, I feel good about it.”
But Larson’s confidence is tempered with the knowledge that the completion will be tough.
“I think everybody has had their moments of being really strong this year,” he said. “I think the three others, my teammates, are going to be really tough. I think I look at obviously Denny, Martin, Kyle Busch, as probably being the three others besides our team that stand out.
“I feel like there’s always one or two guys that you don’t really notice that much during the regular season, maybe don’t even notice that much in the first round, but really start hitting their stride after that. There’s probably definitely a few wild cards out there. You won’t really know who they are until we get a few races in.”
The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Sept. 5 and will be broadcast live on NBCSN.