Larson to make 300th Cup career start at Atlanta

In his ninth full-time season as a NASCAR Cup Series competitor, Kyle Larson is within reach of achieving a milestone start. By competing in this weekend’s Cup event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will reach career start No. 300 in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native of Elk Grove, California, Larson made his Cup Series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October 2013. By then, he was a full-time Xfinity Series competitor for Turner Scott Motorsports, where he contended for the rookie title, and was set to join Chip Ganassi Racing to pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet SS for the 2014 season. Starting 21st in his Cup debut while driving the No. 51 Chevrolet SS for TSM, Larson ended up 37th following an engine failure. He then competed in three of the final four Cup events of the season with TMS, where he recorded a season-best result of 15th place in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Taking over the No. 42 Chevrolet while vying for the rookie Cup title in 2014, Larson’s season started off on a rough note with a 38th-place result in the 56th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway after being involved in a late multi-car wreck. He rallied three races later by notching his first top-10 career result in the Cup Series after finishing 10th at Bristol Motor Speedway in March. He then backed up his run at Bristol by achieving a career-best runner-up result at Auto Club Speedway after carving his way from starting in the top 10 and battling Kyle Busch for the win during a two-lap shootout. For the remaining 21 regular-season events, Larson achieved his first Cup career pole at Pocono Raceway in August along with four additional top-five results and nine top-10 results. Despite falling short of making the 2014 Cup Playoffs, he remained competitive throughout the Playoffs by finishing third at Chicagoland Speedway in September followed by two runner-up results during the next three scheduled events. To go along with two additional top-10 results during the final six scheduled events, Larson capped off his first full-time Cup season in 17th place in the final standings and as the highest-ranked competitor to not make the postseason. While he did not achieve a victory in the 2014 season, Larson claimed the Rookie-of-the-Year title on the strength of eight top-five results, 17 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 14.2.

Throughout his second full-time Cup season in 2015, Larson finished no higher than third on the track as he also achieved a total of two top-five results, 10 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 19.3. In March, he was absent from competing at Martinsville Speedway after suffering a fainting spell a day prior to the main event. Missing the Playoffs for a second consecutive season, Larson concluded his sophomore season in 19th place in the final standings despite leading more laps throughout the season (115) compared to his rookie season (53).

Commencing the 2016 season with a seventh-place result in the 58th running of the Daytona 500, Larson had achieved four top-five results and seven top-10 results in 23 scheduled events as he was battling within the Playoff cut line. By then, he had also notched a thrilling non-points victory in the All-Star Open against rookie Chase Elliott at Charlotte in May and was leading the All-Star Race in the closing laps until he collided against the wall with two laps remaining while battling Joey Logano. Then at Michigan International Speedway in August, Larson achieved his first elusive Cup career win in his 99th series start following a late battle against Elliott. The victory also snapped Chip Ganassi Racing’s two-year winless drought as it clinched Larson’s spot into the Playoffs for the first time in his career. Larson’s title hopes, however, came to an early end following respective finishes of 18th, 10th and 25th during the Round of 16. With four top-six results in the final seven scheduled events, including a strong runner-up result at Homestead in November, Larson capped off his junior campaign in ninth place in the final standings. To go along with his first Cup career victory, he also racked up 10 top-five results, 15 top-10 results, 379 laps led and an average-finishing result of 14.7 while surpassing 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

The 2017 Cup season generated Larson’s first competitive season of his career. He rallied from finishing 12th during the 59th running of the Daytona 500 after running out of fuel while leading on the final lap to post three consecutive runner-up results during the following three events. He then achieved his first victory of the season and the second of his Cup career at Auto Club Speedway in March after leading a race-high 110 of 202 laps and beating the field in a two-lap shootout. By then, he had assumed the points lead in the Cup standings for the first time in his career.

Ten races later, he notched his second win of the season at Michigan in June after leading a race-high 96 of 200 laps while beating Elliott in a five-lap shootout. When NASCAR returned to Michigan in August, Larson capitalized on a two-lap shootout to overtake Martin Truex Jr. and achieve his third consecutive victory in the Irish Hills along with his third win of the season. Three races later, he capped off the regular-season stretch with momentum by capturing a late victory over Truex and the field at Richmond Raceway in September.

Entering the 2017 Cup Playoffs as a title favorite, he transferred from the Round of 16 to 12 on the strength of five consecutive top-five results. His bid for the title, however, ended on a sour note following respective finishes of 10th, 13th and 39th during the Round of 12, including an early engine failure at Kansas Speedway in October that dropped the driver of the No. 42 entry below the top-eight cutline. Strapped with DNFs in three of the final four scheduled events, Larson settled in eighth place in the final standings. While he did not emerge as the champion, he capped off the season with four victories, three poles, 15 top-five results, 20 top-10 results, 1,352 laps led and an average-finishing result of 13.3.

Aiming for redemption while entering his fifth full-time Cup campaign with CGR in 2018, Larson commenced the season with a 19th-place result in the 60th running of the Daytona 500. He went on to finish in the runner-up spot five times, in the top five eight times and in the top 10 14 times during the 26 regular-season stretch before clinching a spot in the Playoffs for a third consecutive season. Despite transferring from the Round of 16 to 12 while finishing no lower than 25th, his bid for the title came to an end amid three consecutive top-12 finishes and after being docked 10 points stemming from Talladega Superspeedway in October after his team violated NASCAR’s damaged vehicle policy by using unauthorized parts to repair the No. 42 Chevrolet. With two top-five finishes in the final four scheduled events, Larson ended up in ninth place in the final standings with no victories, three poles, 12 top-five results, 19 top-10 results, 782 laps led and an average-finishing result of 12.6.

Through the first 10 scheduled events of the 2019 Cup season, Larson and the No. 42 team only achieved two top-10 results, an average-finishing result of 18.6 and were mired back in 21st place in the regular-season standings while also being strapped with three DNFs. This included a wild rollover wreck on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway in April. After rallying with his first top-five result of the season by finishing third at Dover Motor Speedway in May, Larson achieved a memorable run a week later at Charlotte Motor Speedway by winning the All-Star Open before emerging victorious in the All-Star Race over Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

With a total of nine top-10 finishes during the final 15 regular-season events in the schedule, Larson was able to make the Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. After transferring from the Round of 16 to 12 on the strength of three consecutive top-13 results, he snapped his 75-race winless drought by winning at Dover in October and secured a one-way ticket to the Round of 8 in the Playoffs. Despite finishing no lower than 12th in the Round of 8, he did not claim a spot in the Championship 4 finale at Homestead in November. He, however, capped off the season in sixth place in the final standings with a single victory to the season, a pole, eight top-five results, 17 top-10 results, 529 laps led and an average-finishing result of 15.1. By then, Larson had surpassed 200 Cup career starts.

In the early stages of the 2020 Cup season, Larson recorded three top-10 results during the first four scheduled events before the season was placed on a two-month hiatus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, however, Larson was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR and released by Chip Ganassi Racing after verbally using a live racial slur during a live iRacing event. Then six months later and following a yearlong sensitivity training, Larson was reinstated by NASCAR and was permitted to participate in NASCAR-related activities in January 2021. Amid his reinstatement, he was also signed by Hendrick Motorsports to pilot the organization’s iconic No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for the 2021 Cup season.

Larson’s return to full-time Cup competition in 2021 ended up being a career season for the Californian, who started the season with a 10th-place result in the Daytona 500 despite being involved in a fiery multi-car wreck on the final lap. Three races later, he achieved a redemptive victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March after leading a race-high 103 of 267 laps as he recorded the first Cup victory for HMS’ No. 5 entry since July 2017.

After finishing in the runner-up spot in four of the following 10 scheduled races, Larson claimed his second victory of the season in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May after leading a race-high 327 of 400 laps. With the victory, he made Hendrick Motorsports the winningest Cup team at 269, one better than Petty Enterprises. Larson then ignited a hot streak for himself and the No. 5 HMS team, beginning in June by winning at Sonoma Raceway, the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway and the inaugural Cup event at Nashville Superspeedway.

With four top-five results during the final nine regular-season events, including his fifth victory of the season at Watkins Glen International in August, Larson managed to overtake and beat Denny Hamlin to claim the 2021 Cup regular-season championship and enter the 2021 Playoffs with momentum. With four additional victories throughout the Playoffs, he managed to transfer all the way from the Round of 16 to the Championship 4 round at Phoenix Raceway in November. Then during the finale at Phoenix, Larson led a race-high 107 of 312 and fended off Truex in a 24-lap shootout to claim his unprecedented 10th victory of the season and win the 2021 Cup Series championship.

In doing so, Larson became the 35th different competitor to win a championship in NASCAR’s premier series. He also recorded the 14th Cup title for Hendrick Motorsports and became the first champion to achieve 10 victories in a season since Jimmie Johnson made the last accomplishment in 2007. Overall, Larson capped off his championship season with 10 victories, two poles, a career-high 20 top-five results, a career-high 26 top-10 results, 2,581 laps led and an average-finishing result of 9.1.

Entering the 2022 Cup season as the reigning champion, Larson commenced the season by capturing the pole position for the 64th running of the Daytona 500. Despite being involved in a late multi-car wreck and finishing 32nd in the 500, he rallied during the following weekend at Auto Club Speedway by beating Austin Dillon, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez in a four-lap shootout to capture his second victory in Southern California and his first of the season.

Six months later, he achieved his second victory of the season at The Glen following a late duel against AJ Allmendinger before securing a Playoff spot for a seventh consecutive season. While he was able to transfer from the Round of 16 to 12 on the strength of three consecutive top-12 results, he finished no higher than ninth during the Round of 12 and was eliminated from title contention by two points by finishing 35th at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course in October.

With his hopes of defending his series title evaporated, Larson managed to claim a dominant victory at Homestead before settling in seventh place in the final standings. By then, he capped off the season with three victories, four poles, 13 top-five results, 19 top-10 results, 635 laps led and an average-finishing result of 14.1.

Through 299 previous Cup starts, Larson has achieved one championship, 19 victories, 15 poles, 91 top-five results, 148 top-10 results, 6,699 laps led and an average-finishing result of 14.2. He is currently ranked in a tie for fifth place in the 2023 Cup regular-season standings on the strength of two top-five results that include a runner-up result at Las Vegas and a fourth-place finish this past weekend at Phoenix.

Should Larson win this weekend’s event in Hampton, Georgia, he will become the seventh different competitor to win in career start No. 300, a list that includes Ned Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

Larson is scheduled to make his 300th Cup Series career start at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 19. The event’s broadcast is slated to occur at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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