Kyle Larson Puts 2021 Feel on NASCAR Season

Getty Kyle Larson does a burnout around North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The NASCAR Cup Series calendar has turned to 2023, but Kyle Larson is making it feel like 2021. He just turned in another dominant performance behind the wheel of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports turned in what he called an “old-school a**-whipping” at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez started from the pole and led the first 55 laps, but Larson led the other 145.

Larson then came from the rear of the field after a speeding penalty, and he took control with fresh tires. He went on to lead 143 of the 200 laps. At one point, he was more than 12 seconds ahead of Bubba Wallace in second place.

The 2021 Cup Series champion dominated from the moment he took the lead, and he went on to win his third All-Star Race since the 2019 season. Without any cautions in the final 100 laps, No other drivers could challenge Larson on the long run.

“To run second to [Larson and Cliff Daniels] is not a bad thing,” Wallace told media members on pit road. “But to run second in the All-Star Race sucks. Right? You go home with nothing. But I’m proud of my team.”

Larson’s Last All-Star Race Was During Another Dominant Year

GettyThe No. 5 team celebrates a win at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The 2023 All-Star Race is only the most recent example of Larson dominating during a Cup Series race — exhibition or points-paying. He did so numerous times during the 2021 season.

The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway are only two examples. Larson led 327 of the 400 laps at Charlotte before winning the 269th Cup Series race in Hendrick Motorsports history. One month later, Larson led 264 of the 300 laps at Nashville before taking the Valvoline Chevrolet to Victory Lane.

Larson won 10 points-paying races during the final year of the Gen 6 era, as well as the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. Crew chief Cliff Daniels gave him the best car in the field throughout the 2021 season, and then Larson used it to put on a show.

“Yung Money” led 2,581 laps during his championship campaign. This broke Jeff Gordon’s record for the most laps led in a 36-race season, which the Hall of Famer set during the 2001 campaign. This is the season when the former driver of the No. 24 won six races and the fourth championship of his career.

Midway through this campaign, Larson won the inaugural All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. He only led 17 laps during this exhibition event, but there were six segments. NASCAR also inverted the field multiple times based on a random draw.

Larson Used 2021 as Inspiration

The 2023 season did not start quickly for Larson. He crashed twice in the first five races and finished outside of the top 20 in another event. Though he also finished inside the top five at both Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.

The turning point for Larson was the weekend at Richmond Raceway. He led 93 laps in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro and captured his first win of the season. Larson later revealed that he won this race after looking back at his championship season highlights to remind himself that he “used to be good.”

“It was a great season,” Larson told media members after winning at the Virginia short track. “And just kind of listening to even post-race interviews, finding where my mindset was at then when I was winning a lot compared to what I think I’m like maybe right now.

“The Next Gen stuff, it’s so up and down. Obviously, 2021 was so strong. We were just riding a high kind of all season. Expectations were high. Execution was great. Results were amazing.”

Since providing this piece of information, Larson has gone on to win four more races across the three national series. He conquered his most frustrating track in Martinsville Speedway and then he finally won at Darlington Raceway after numerous near-misses.

The two other wins were both at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Larson took the Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado to Victory Lane after the Craftsman Truck Series race and then he swept the weekend one day later by winning the All-Star Race.

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