The NASCAR Cup Series drivers took on the second playoff race of 2021 on Sept. 11, completing 400 laps at Richmond Raceway. Martin Truex Jr. locked up the win while Kyle Larson took care of some important business of his own. He secured his spot in the Round of 12 based on points.
The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro started at the rear of the field after failing pre-race inspection twice. However, he did not remain behind his fellow drivers. He immediately began moving through the field with a fast stock car and ended Stage 1 in the fourth position. He continued performing well during Stage 2, finishing fourth once again.
NASCAR announced at the end of Stage 2 that Larson had done enough to guarantee that he would move on. He had enough points accrued that there was no possible way he would fall below the cut line with only one race remaining in the Round of 16. Larson then went out and finished the race sixth overall, adding even more points to his total.
Larson Has Yet To Win in the 2021 Playoffs
The driver of the No. 5 clearly had the best car heading toward the start of the Cup Series playoffs. He won five races and posted the most top-five finishes (14) to lock up the regular-season championship and 15 bonus points.
Once the drivers headed to Darlington Raceway, Larson began fighting for wins once again. However, he has yet to achieve this goal due to the performances of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. Denny Hamlin, in particular, has been the best since the start of the playoffs.
The driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota Camry battled with Larson throughout the Cook Out Southern 500, leading 146 laps while the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet led 156. Hamlin took the lead late after a smart pit strategy and held on until the checkered flag waved. Larson finished second.
Hamlin came close to winning his second race of the 2021 playoffs at Richmond. He swept the first two stages of the race and led 197 total laps. He lost the lead late to Truex, who built up a significant advantage of his own. The driver of the No. 19 JGR Toyota Camry led 80 laps and held off his teammate to lock up his fourth win of the season.
Larson Can Stack Points at Bristol With a Strong Performance
Now that he has his spot secure in the Round of 12, Larson will move forward with the opportunity to stack points in the last race of the Round of 16. Achieving this goal will not be easy considering the stacked field of playoff drivers, but Larson has a solid history overall at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Larson had made 12 starts on the regular concrete configuration of the Tennessee short track, all with Chip Ganassi Racing. He has yet to win a race at Bristol, but he has posted two top-fives and seven top-10s in the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro. He took 10th overall in his first race at the track in 2014 before adding a seventh-place finish in 2015. His best runs at Bristol were a pair of second-place finishes in 2018.
Larson’s first opportunity to win at the normal Bristol as a member of Hendrick Motorsports will take place on Saturday, Sept. 18. The third race of the Round of 16, the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, will take place at 7:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage.