The 2021 Cup Series champion entered the NOCO 400 with 16 prior Cup Series starts at the historic short track. Four DNFs and routine struggles led to him having an average finish of 18.2 with only five top-10 finishes and four top-fives.
The April 16 race was a different story for Larson. He spent the first two stages at the rear of the top 10, but he put himself on the front row for the final restart after gambling with a two-tire pit stop. Larson was able to chase down Joey Logano, who stayed out instead of pitting, and he was able to take the lead with 30 laps remaining. He then built up a lead of more than three seconds en route to his first career win at Martinsville.
“We had a great car. That was the best my car had been, I think, being able to get out front and manage,” Larson told Jamie Little after his win. “Yeah, I never, ever thought that I’d have won here at Martinsville.
“This place has been so tough on me. Just does not suit my driving style at all. I like to charge the center, I like to roll momentum, and that’s just not what this place is like.”
The win on April 16 was Larson’s first at Martinsville Speedway, but it was the 21st of his Cup Series career. He is now in a tie with Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Benny Parsons, and Jack Smith for 38th all-time.
Larson Delivered a Standout Celebration at Martinsville Speedway
Larson, who was named one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers ahead of the NOCO 400, celebrated in a manner befitting someone that snapped a frustrating winless streak.
The driver of the No. 5 started with a quick donut, but then he spun the Chevrolet Camaro around and completed a Polish victory lap while doing a burnout around the entire half-mile paved track and shredding his rear tires.
Larson is no stranger to long burnouts. He also turned heads during the 2021 season by winning the first Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. Larson led 264 laps, held off Ross Chastain, and celebrated with a burnout the length of the fronstretch.
This win at Nashville Superspeedway was Larson’s third straight win after trips to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Sonoma Raceway. It was also one of 10 times that he celebrated in Victory Lane during his championship season.
Larson Has Been on a Roll Recently
Larson dominated during the final race of the Gen 6 era of NASCAR. He won 10 points-paying races, the All-Star Race, and the championship while leading a total of 2,581 laps in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
The first year of the Next Gen era did not feature the same level of success. Larson won races at Auto Club Speedway and Watkins Glen International to reach the 2022 playoffs, but he also had seven DNFs and some unexpected struggles.
Larson was eliminated in the Round of 12, so he was not able to defend his title. Though he put the No. 5 in the owners’ championship four by winning his third race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Larson has failed to finish three of the first nine races in 2023 due to crashes, but he has secured four top-fives. This includes wins in two of the past three races. Larson won at Richmond Raceway, crashed at Bristol Motor Speedway, and then won at Martinsville Speedway.
Larson is now one of two Cup Series drivers with more than one win. His teammate William Byron has two wins — Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.