How one win has made Kyle Larson a 2019 title contender

Kyle Larson is the latest example of how one win in NASCAR’s playoff system can completely change the championship fortunes of a driver.

How one win has made Kyle Larson a 2019 title contender
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Clover, celebrates after winning.
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Clover
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Clover
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Clover, celebrates after winning.
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Credit One Bank
 Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Credit One Bank
 Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Credit One Bank

It was just a little over two months ago that Larson was anguishing over having to “race backup cars” as he wrecked his primary car in practice sessions on two consecutive race weekends, forcing him to start races from the rear of the field.

At the same time he was in the midst of what turned out to be a 75-race winless streak in the Cup Series and trying to fight his way into the playoffs. 

A string of five races with finishes of eighth or better helped propel him into the 16-driver playoff field based on points.

But on Sunday, his win at Dover (Del.) International Speedway not only ended his winless streak but in an instant made Larson a plausible title contender.

We want to go and make it into that final round of Homestead, where it’s my best track

Kyle Larson

That’s not only because of how strongly his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team has performed of late, but also because of the setup of the 10-race playoff.

Thanks to his win Sunday, Larson will advance to the semifinal round of the playoffs regardless of how he finishes this weekend at Talladega and the following week at Kansas.

“Obviously you can breathe a little bit easier going into Talladega, being we all know what Talladega is like. But I think we still have to try to put points on the board, whether it's bonus points or race win points,” Larson’s crew chief, Chad Johnston said.

“There’s a lot of guys that have five, six wins and a lot of bonus points that are going to roll over to that next stage, so anything we can do to close the gap on that, obviously with Martinsville being in that last round, that’s not the greatest place for us, but we feel like Texas and Phoenix are places we can win at.”

Whatever Larson is able to carry into the semifinal round will help his points situation but he will likely still be at a disadvantage to the likes of Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, all of whom have amassed a lot of playoff points through multiple wins.

But as Johnston pointed out, Larson is likely to be in contention for wins at Texas and Phoenix and a win at either would automatically send him into the Championship 4 at Homestead.

That’s where the fun could really begin.

Read Also:

Making it to Homestead

While Larson has never been one of the four drivers to contend for the championship at Homestead, it’s a track where he has put in some amazing performances in his career, including leading 322 of 802 laps in the last three races.

Having the opportunity to not only race on a track where he performs well but to do it with a championship on the line is something that Larson does not want to squander, especially when the title race will move to ISM Raceway near Phoenix next season.

“To move on to the next round is special, but we’re not just satisfied with being in the Round of Eight. We want to go and make it into that final round of Homestead, where it’s my best track,” Larson said.

“It’s the final year for the championship race to be at Homestead, so I’ve looked at this ever since they released next year’s schedule as this is my best opportunity to win the championship.

“I’ve got to take advantage of that.”

While others have won more this season, Larson’s timely win in the NASCAR playoffs has provided his own path forward to Homestead.

It may be a rocky one but it’s a plausible one nonetheless.

shares
comments
DiBenedetto: "We have been contending like a playoff car"
Previous article

DiBenedetto: "We have been contending like a playoff car"

Next article

Aric Almirola, sponsor re-sign with Stewart-Haas Racing

Aric Almirola, sponsor re-sign with Stewart-Haas Racing
The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team Prime

The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team

Saddled with uncompetitive Minardi machinery, Tarso Marques didn't manage to score points in his three partial seasons of Formula 1. But now the Brazilian has the chance to show what he can do in NASCAR, and explains the story of his comeback with new Cup Series entrant Team Stange

NASCAR Cup
Apr 13, 2022
The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car Prime

The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car

NASCAR’s new stock car generation is encouraging an influx of fresh blood into its top tier. But there are concerns that parts are in short supply as the entire paddock tries to build up stocks at the same time

NASCAR Cup
Feb 22, 2022
How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style Prime

How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style

After holding his nerve and hip-checking his teammate on the run to the line, Austin Cindric made a perfect start to life as a full-timer in the NASCAR Cup Series by winning the Daytona 500. Here's how the Penske Ford man emerged first across the line in the first points-scoring race for the much-anticipated Next Generation cars

NASCAR Cup
Feb 21, 2022
Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season Prime

Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season

There are plenty of uncertainties ahead of the 2022 NASCAR Cup season as an all-new fleet of cars take to the track for the first time. Ahead of this weekend's Daytona 500, our experts explain what you need to know

NASCAR Cup
Feb 17, 2022
How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival Prime

How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival

The NASCAR Cup kicks off with the Daytona 500 this weekend, but a major engine overhaul and a subsequent mountain of work has been required to be ready for the arrival of the Next Gen cars.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2022
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021