Kyle Larson did it. Even if he didn’t have the fastest car of the four Championship 4 contenders all the way throughout Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway, his crew nailed the perfect pit stop when it counted the most, and Larson was able to skillfully hold off Martin Truex Jr. for the race win.
Here was the call from NBC of Larson taking the 2021 Championship:
RETWEET to congratulate @KyleLarsonRacin on his FIRST @NASCAR Cup Series championship!
His 10th win of the season is the biggest of his career! pic.twitter.com/nloOjUQePh
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) November 7, 2021
After climbing from the car, Larson had a laundry list of folks to thank, who helped him work from the lowest of lows, to the highest of highs over the course of one calendar year.
“I have got to say, first off, thank you so much to Rick Hendrick, HendrickMotors.com, Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, every single one of my supporters in the stands, watching at home, my family,” Larson stated to an eruption of the crowd at Phoenix Raceway. “I have so many of my friends and family here.”
Sunday’s win for Larson marks his 10th victory of the year, the first time a NASCAR Cup Series driver has recorded double-digit wins since Jimmie Johnson in the 2007 season.
“There were so many points in this race, where I did not think we were going to win,” Larson said of his crew’s clutch pit stop. “Without my pit crew on that last stop, we would not be standing right here.”
In one year, Larson has gone from suspended indefinitely and hoping to get back into the sport, to being the NASCAR Cup Series Champion. Incredible.
“I cannot believe it,” Larson started with emotion. “I didn’t even think I’d be racing a Cup car a year and a half ago. To win a Championship is crazy.”
Larson, who started from the pole, led a race-high 107 laps on the day.
Truex, who had been the fourth-highest running contender at the time, made a decision to pit early at lap 246. When a caution came out on lap 247 for Anthony Alfredo cutting a tire, it handed the lead to Truex when everyone else came to pit road under the caution, as he was able to stay on the lead lap.
It looked like Truex was in the driver’s seat for his second-career NCS Championship, but then the caution came out again on lap 281 for debris. When the field hit pit road, Larson won the race off pit road, while Truex lost three spots and fell to fourth.
Truex was able to rally, and had a faster car at points in the closing laps, but just couldn’t get to Larson.
Denny Hamlin came home third in the championship race behind Larson and Truex.
Chase Elliott, who finished fifth in the race, was the fourth-highest finishing Championship contender. Elliott was attempting to become a back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Ryan Blaney finished fourth in the race and was the best of the non-Championship contenders.
Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.
Results: 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix