The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro is nearing the end of a career season, but he still has more to achieve. Kyle Larson has the opportunity to surpass both Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon while claiming the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most laps led in a 36-race season.
According to Racing Reference, NASCAR switched the top series to 36 races in the 2001 season. Gordon led 2,320 laps and won six races to claim the fourth and final championship of his career. Harvick, on the other hand, led 2,294 laps during the 2015 season en route to three wins and a second-place finish in the standings behind Kyle Busch.
Larson led 256 laps during a dominant victory at Texas Motor Speedway on October 17. This performance took his season total to 2,267. Now he only needs to lead 28 laps to pass Harvick for second on the all-time record list. 54 laps led over the final three weeks would help him secure the record.
The Remaining Schedule Bodes Well for Larson’s Pursuit of History
Considering that Larson has remained the dominant force in the Cup Series, he will be a favorite to win entering each of the three remaining race weekends. He will also have favorable odds to break Gordon’s record based on his past performances at Kansas Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and Phoenix Raceway.
Larson has made 13 starts at Kansas during his Cup Series career — 12 with Chip Ganassi Racing. He has never won, but he has led laps on four different occasions. He led three in 2015, 101 in 2018, 60 in 2019, and 132 during the Buschy McBusch Race 400 on May 2, 2021.
The driver of the No. 5 has achieved the least amount of success in his 13 starts at Martinsville Speedway. He has only led laps in three separate races. Larson led six in 2016, 12 in 2017, and six more in 2019 without registering a win.
The championship race, which will feature practice and qualifying, will serve as Larson’s final opportunity to break the record and win the first title of his career. He has led laps in four of his 14 previous trips to Phoenix Raceway without winning. He led a combined 15 in 2017, 54 in 2018, and one in the spring 2021 race.
“I definitely care [about the record]. I don’t know what the mark is or what the number is, but yeah, I’m probably 2,300 or so now, close to it,” Larson told media members after winning at Texas Motor Speedway. “So yeah, that would be really, really cool. I led a lot more laps today than I thought I would, so yeah, it’s definitely a goal of mine. I think somewhere in the back of my mind like it’s a goal. It’s not like something I am upset about if I don’t lead any laps in a race or anything, but once I am leading I want to stay in the lead to help catch that record or whatever.”
Larson Has Already Made NASCAR History
If Larson can pass both Harvick and Gordon, he will only add to his career-best season. He already reached Victory Lane eight times, joining 16 other drivers who have won at least eight times in a single season. He also made history at the Charlotte Roval on October 10.
The driver of the No. 5 won his seventh race of the season and secured his spot in the Round of Eight. This win was his third on a road course, also including Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen, which made history. Larson is the first driver in NASCAR history to win at three different road courses in a single season.
According to NASCAR, Larson’s three road course wins place him in a tie with four other drivers for the most road course wins. Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty, David Pearson, and Mark Martin all won three times at road courses during their respective careers. Kyle Busch, Tim Richmond, and Martin Truex Jr. are all next on the list with four wins each on road courses while Gordon has a series-record nine victories.