Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson will reach a career milestone when he suits up for the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 5. He will officially make his 250th start in the NASCAR Cup Series.
According to Racing Reference, Larson currently sits between Matt DiBenedetto and Austin Dillon on the list of active Cup Series drivers. DiBenedetto will make his 239th start at NASCAR’s top level while Dillon will make his 291st. Kurt Busch currently tops the list as he prepares to make his 747th start.
The 28-year-old originally made his debut in the top series with Turner Scott Motorsports in 2013. He started four races but posted two DNFs due to engine failure. He made the leap to the Cup Series full-time in 2014, joining Chip Ganassi Racing and getting behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro.
Since becoming a full-time driver in the Cup Series, Larson has become one of the biggest names in NASCAR. He has accounted for 11 victories, nine starts on the pole, 70 top-five finishes, 119 top-10s, and nearly 5,000 laps led.
Larson Will Compete in the Playoffs for the 5th Time
Larson failed to reach the playoffs during his first two seasons in the Cup Series, but he broke through and won his first race in 2016. He won at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 28 after holding off his future teammate Chase Elliott. This outing was one of 10 top-five finishes during the season and helped him lock up a spot in the playoffs where he would finish ninth after elimination in the Round of 16.
The Cup Series driver returned to the playoffs in 2017, 2018, and 2019. He reached the Round of 12 all three times and the Round of eight twice. Larson won his lone playoff race in 2019, holding off Martin Truex Jr. at Dover International Speedway en route to a career-best sixth-place finish in the season standings.
2021 will serve as Larson’s best opportunity to reach the championship four. He will have the most points overall (2052) in the Cup Series after winning five points-paying races and locking up the regular-season championship. This total will be enough to keep him above the cut line through the Round of 16 and give him another advantage entering the Round of 12.
Larson Has Success on the Playoff Tracks
Simply having enough points to win the regular-season championship will not be enough to propel Larson to the final four. He will have to continue performing at a high level and remain above the cut line throughout the first three rounds.
The driver of the No. 5 HMS Chevrolet will enter several races as the favorite considering his success during the 2021 season at the remaining tracks. For example, the Round of 12 begins with a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the site of Larson’s first win in 2021. He led 103 laps on March 7, holding off Brad Keselowski to reach Victory Lane.
The playoffs also feature races at Darlington, where Larson finished second behind Martin Truex Jr., and Texas Motor Speedway. The Cup Series did not hold a points-paying race at the Fort Worth track, but Larson reached Victory Lane during the All-Star Race. Now he will return to the track while fighting to remain alive in the playoffs.