The NASCAR Cup Series trip to Kansas Speedway on October 24 came to an end with Kyle Larson in Victory Lane for the ninth time in 2021. The driver of the No. 5 won his third consecutive race with Ricky Hendrick’s paint scheme on the 17-year anniversary of the late NASCAR driver’s tragic death in an airplane crash along with nine others.
Larson turned in a record-breaking performance at Kansas Speedway, breaking Jeff Gordon’s record for laps led in a 36-race season (2,320). He held off both Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick during the closing laps to lock up the win and keep his momentum. He then climbed out of his stock car and paid tribute to Ricky, John Hendrick, Rick Hendrick’s brother and president of the organization; Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, Rick Hendrick’s twin daughters; Joe Jackson; Jeff Turner; Randy Dorton, Scott Latham, and pilots Dick Tracy and Liz Morrison.
“I want to dedicate this win to Rick and Linda [Hendrick],” Larson told NBC Sports after the race. “I never got to meet Ricky or the other men and women who lost their lives that day, but I felt the importance of this race, no doubt. Crazy kind of how it all worked out there for me to win. I know they were all looking down, helping me there with the restarts and all that stuff and getting into the wall.
“Again, thank you to Rick Hendrick. I know this means a lot to you, and I’m glad that I could get it done,” Larson continued. “Cool to get another win, and I don’t know how that happened, but our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really fast. I thought we were like a third-place car maybe.”
The Hendrick Motorsports Team Paid Tribute Early in the Race
Larson’s post-race interview was not the only way in which the Hendrick Motorsports team paid tribute to those that passed away 17 years prior to the playoff race. Every member of the No. 5, 24, 9, and 48 teams took part in a special show of support for those who died in the airplane crash.
The moment took place early in the race. The crews stood up on the walls of pit road, turned their hats backward, and pointed to the sky. Larson’s Crew chief Cliff Daniels also turned his hat backward while celebrating the win in Victory Lane.
Ricky regularly wore his hat backward during his NASCAR career, which became a sort of calling card during his races in the Truck Series and Busch Series. 17 years later, the teams used this gesture to pay tribute, as well as show support for team owner Rick Hendrick and his wife Linda.
Larson’s Victory Took Place Where Ricky Previously Won
The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro won his ninth race of the season on the 17-year anniversary of the tragic plane crash. He also returned to Victory Lane at the track where Ricky won his only career national series race.
The late NASCAR driver captured the only checkered flag of his career in 2001, his long full-time season in the Truck Series. He suited up and climbed into the blue and white No. 17 GMAC Financial Chevrolet for 167 laps around the 1.5-mile track.
Ricky started second overall next to Dennis Setzer, and he proceeded to lead 32 laps on the day. He held off Ted Musgrave in the closing laps and captured the checkered flag. Ricky then climbed out of his truck and dedicated the win to his grandfather, who was in the hospital on the day of the race. He also celebrated with an emotional Rick and Linda.
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