Kyle Larson has been one of the best drivers in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season through the season’s opening 14-races, but his penchant for losing races in which he dominates has continued to be a disturbing trend for the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports car.
In Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Larson led 327 laps and he won all three stages leading into the final Stage. However, this time, there was no late-race fade. Larson stayed stout from flag to flag and cruised to the win by more than 10-seconds over his teammate Chase Elliott.
While the boxscore will show an easy decisive win for Larson, the California-native says that the victory — the eighth of his NASCAR Cup Series career — was anything but easy.
“Yeah, it feels good. It was not easy,” Larson explained. “I felt I had to fight off William (Byron) and Chase (Elliott) a lot. It kind of worked out there on that last run. The No. 43 had to pit and pulled out in front of me, and I just towed with him for a while and stretched my lead out.”
In capturing his second win of the 2021 season, Larson snapped a three-race second-place streak. This win also moved Hendrick Motorsports into the all-time race win lead, passing Petty Enterprises. Hendrick Motorsports has now recorded 269 NASCAR Cup Series wins since their inception in 1984.
“Awesome. Feels great to help Mr. H break that record, finally,” Larson exclaimed.
Following the Hendrick duo of Larson and Elliott across the finish line was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch.
Busch was the lone non-Hendrick driver inside the top-five on Sunday, as William Byron and Alex Bowman came home fourth and fifth.
Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-10 finishers in the 2021 Coca-Cola 600.
While Sunday’s race was definitely not an action-packed thrill-fest, 13 different drivers were able to reach the lead at one point or another — mostly through cycling under green-flag pit sequences.
In all there were 23 lead changes, and aside from the three pre-planned stage break cautions, there were only two natural cautions in the event. Kurt Busch lost an engine on lap 171, which brought out the yellow. And on lap 294, Ryan Newman cut a tire while running 12th and slammed into the wall to bring out a caution.
Despite the lack of action in the race, Hendrick Motorsports went on to score a historic win and Kyle Larson finally seemed to shed the label of being a driver who can’t close out a dominating performance.