Kyle Larson stood tall above the rest of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series field for a good portion of the season, and he didn’t need long to establish himself as one of the best drivers in the series.
Although he had a slow start to the season with a 10th- and 30th-place finish in Daytona, Larson needed only three races to grab his first top-five at the Dixie Vodka 400, to which he added his first win of the season in Las Vegas. From there, it was smooth sailing for Larson, who continued racking in excellent placements and quickly rose to the top of the standings.
How They Got Here: Wins, Top 5s, Top 10s
Larson was the only driver to be locked in for the season-culminating race before the Martinsville race after winning at Texas Motor Speedway in Round of 8. What’s more, Larson’s following win at Kansas Speedway made the battle for the final four, more, exciting as he denied anyone to qualify before last weekend’s race.
Larson is by far the most successful driver of the season, with nine wins, 19 top-5s, and 25 top-10s. To put it into perspective, Larson has finished inside the top-10 in all but 10 races.
2021 Stats and Finishes
- Wins: 9
- Top-5s: 19
- Top-10s: 25
The Hendrick Motorsports driver has never won the championship. In fact, Larson never came close across eight years; there is no denying that this year is his best chance to do so.
Larson made his NASCAR debut in 2013 and has been since steadily improving, reaching his best placement in 2019 when he ended the season in sixth with 2,339 points. Larson has by that point won only five races, but he has consistently racked in 2,288 points or more between 2016-2019. He was suspended for much of the 2020 season for his use of a racial slur during an iRacing event.
It was only a matter of time before Larson’s career reached new heights, but no one expected it would come this year, nor did anyone expect Larson to skyrocket to the top of the NASCAR food chain.
In 2021, Larson has won nine races, almost doubling his career total. Now there’s only one more separating him from his first NASCAR Cup Series title.
Past Record at Phoenix Raceway
Larson heads to Phoenix Raceway as the man to watch. But that’s primarily due to his great form and not necessarily due to his past success on the track. The 29-year-old has 14 starts on the track, yet has never won there.
His best placement on the Phoenix Raceway happened in the spring of 2017 when he placed second. Another thing worth noting is that Larson’s average start (7.4) is the second-highest of the remaining four drivers, yet his average finish (11.6) on the Phoenix Raceway is the second-lowest.
More concerning is that Larson has led only 72 laps in Phoenix, which is by far the lowest of the four remaining drivers. Granted, he also has the second-fewest starts on the track behind Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
Stats at Phoenix
- Starts: 12
- Top Finish: 2nd (2017)
- Top-5s: 5
- Top-10s: 8
- Average Start: 7.3
- Average Finish: 11.6
Why Larson Will Win the Title
If you’re wondering why Larson will win the title this weekend, all you need to do is go back and check what he has achieved over the season. With nine race wins over the season, Larson has won more races than Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin combined.
What’s more, he has 19 top-5s and 25 top-10s, and if that’s not enough to convince you of his quality, Larson has led 2474 laps, nearly 1000 more than Hamlin.
Larson definitely doesn’t lack quality, and if his performances over the season mean anything, he should be set to lift his maiden NASCAR Cup Series trophy on Sunday.
Why Larson Won’t Win the Championship
There are many reasons to believe Larson will win the championship, but a few things work against him. Even though Larson has achieved a lot over the season and has proven to be the most consistent top performer, his record in Phoenix leaves a lot to be desired.
Being in good form is one thing, but doing well on a particular track is an entirely different thing. As noted, Larson’s average finish (11.6) at Phoenix Raceway is the second-worst of the remaining four competitors, better than only Truex Jr. (11.9).
What’s more, Larson is one of the least experienced drivers on the track, having made only 14 starts compared to Truex Jr. (31) and Hamlin (32).
Larson is priced at +170 to win the NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
Larson has the talent, the momentum, and the right car to win his maiden NASCAR championship, yet it’s his lack of experience and success on the track that should make you concerned about his chances to go all the way.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Larson ends up winning the race and rounds up his incredible season. But, at the same time, no one would be left in shock if Larson slips at the final hurdle, as many regular-season champions did in the past.