Prior to the 2021 season, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson joined Hendrick Motorsports to bring back the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro. This season marked his first with a new team after previously racing for Chip Ganassi Racing, but there were no growing pains. Larson won a race and has been one of the best drivers all year, which he attributes to preparation.
Speaking with media members after finishing second in the Goodyear 400, Larson provided details about hitting the ground running with a new organization. He explained that both he and the team put in considerable preparation ahead of each race. Larson also revealed that the unique format in 2021 benefits him as a driver.
“I just think I’ve got a great group of people around me throughout all of Hendrick Motorsports but especially on our 5 car,” Larson said during his availability. “Their preparation is something that is pretty awesome to see, and I feel like I’m putting in a lot of work off the track, too, to get myself up to speed with no practice and things like that.”
The 2021 season continues the trend of no practice sessions
With COVID-19 forcing NASCAR to adopt strict policies, there is a considerable lack of on-track sessions. The drivers can’t take practice laps around each track before racing on Sunday, nor can they qualify for a top position in the starting lineup. Some drivers have voiced frustrations with the current setup, but Larson is not among this group.
“Honestly, probably no practice benefits me a little bit, just from being able to adapt quickly and not giving myself an opportunity to tune ourselves out with any bad feedback,” Larson explained. “It’s been really fun to be this good this early on in the year, and like I said earlier, I hope we can just continue to build on it and get better and be the best when it comes to the final 10 races.”
Through 12 races, Larson has posted seven top-10 finishes, five top-fives, and his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He has led 511 laps and is on his way to potentially posting a career-high number. Next up on the schedule is a trip to Dover, a track where Larson has nine top-10s and a win in 12 starts.
“Yeah, I’m pumped to get [to Dover]” Larson added. “I think it’s this aero package maybe, too. Yeah, Dover is just an awesome place, suits my style. Can move around quite a bit. It’s fast, aggressive, and I love it. Ready to get there, and hopefully be one spot better.”
Larson still believes there is work to do before the playoffs
While he has posted multiple top-fives and reached Victory Lane once, Larson is not fully satisfied with his performances. There are five races in the 2021 season where he finished 18th or worse, including one last-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway due to engine issues. Despite these setbacks, he and the No. 5 team have been among the best in the field.
“I mean, I think we’re top three. We’re one of the top three teams out there, so I’m happy with that,” Larson said. “We’ve been really good to start the year and meshing very well as a team. Really enjoy working with [crew chief] Cliff [Daniels] and everybody on the 5 car, and I think we’re just going to continue to grow. Our pit crew has been doing an awesome job. Everybody at the shop has been doing great. You look at all four of our teammates, with myself included, and we’ve been really good. Happy about it, and looking forward to building from where we’re at.”
Larson will have an opportunity to reach Victory Lane once again when the Cup Series heads to Dover International Speedway for the Drydene 400. He will likely start near the front of the pack after another strong performance, as well as his cumulative points total.