The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro just accomplished another feat. Kyle Larson led 95 laps of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 26, taking his season total to 2,000. According to the Associated Press, he became the 20th driver all-time to lead at least 2,000 laps in a single season.
NASCAR actually breaks the list of drivers into two separate categories — modern era and pre-modern. The modern era began in 1972 and continues with the current 2021 campaign. The pre-modern era is every season prior to Richard Petty’s championship campaign in 1972. According to this broken-down list, Larson is only the 14th driver since 1972 to lead at least 2,000 laps. Though he is only one of four active drivers — joining Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. — to reach this mark.
Busch and Truex are the two most recent drivers to lead 2,000 laps in a single season. They both did so during the 2017 campaign with the driver of the No. 18 JGR Toyota leading 2,023 laps. Truex led 2,253 laps in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota en route to locking up the first championship of his career.
Harvick, on the other hand, has led at least 2,000 laps twice in his championship career. He ended his 2014 title run with 2,137 laps led and then added another 2,294 during the 2015 season. Harvick barely missed the mark in 2018, falling 10 laps short of 2,000 while winning eight times.
Leading 2,000 Laps Bodes Well for Larson’s Title Hopes
The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has remained the championship favorite for much of the season, especially during a stretch that included three consecutive wins — Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, and Nashville Superspeedway. There is no guarantee that he will hold up the Bill France Cup at the end of the year, but reaching 2,000 laps led is a solid indicator.
There are several drivers that led 2,000 laps during a single Cup Series season before winning the title. Truex did so in 2017, as did Harvick in 2014. Petty won three of his seven titles during modern-era seasons where he led at least 2,000 laps (1972, 1974, and 1975).
The list of drivers to lead 2,000 laps and win the title also includes Jeff Gordon (1995 and 2001), Rusty Wallace (1989), Darrell Waltrip (1981 and 1982), Dale Earnhardt (1986, 1987, and 1990), Cale Yarborough (1978, 1977, and 1976), and Jimmie Johnson (2009).
Leading 2,000 laps does not automatically guarantee that a driver will win the Cup Series championship. Gordon is a fitting example considering that he led 2,314 laps during a 10-win 1996 season only to watch Terry Labonte (973 laps led) win the championship. However, many have achieved both feats in the same season.
Larson Has 6 Races Remaining To Add to His Total
The driver of the No. 5 HMS Chevrolet just hit 2,000 laps led, but he has multiple races left in which he can add to this total. There are six races remaining in the playoffs with a total of 2,022 possible laps, so hitting the 3,000-lap mark is a real possibility.
The YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 3 has 500 laps while the Charlotte Roval race on Oct. 10 only has 109 due to taking place on a road course. The trip to Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 17 will provide Larson with another 334 laps, and the Kansas Speedway race on Oct. 24 will add another 267.
The season caps off with two shorter tracks, resulting in even more possible laps for Larson to lead. The final cutoff race on Halloween night takes place at Martinsville Speedway and features 500 laps around the .526-mile short track. The season finale at the one-mile Phoenix Raceway, on the other hand, will pit the championship four drivers against each other over the course of 312 laps.
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