CONCORD, N.C. -- With just four races left in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Kyle Larson and the No. 5 team will return to the locations of some of their biggest runs this year. With the start of the Round of 8 this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels are trying to capitalize on their hefty 35-point playoff lead over the driver second in the standings.
Larson won at Texas earlier this year for the NASCAR All-Star Race, marking the first time he had gone to victory lane at the venue. Kansas Speedway will be next for the Cup Series then the cutoff race at Martinsville Speedway before the championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Of all the playoff rounds, it’s the Round of 8 that had Larson very excited.
“I like that round a lot,” he said. “Texas is a track where I feel like I have done well at over the years and then Kansas is one of my best racetracks. Martinsville is probably my worst racetrack but we had a good race earlier this year and I think now, with me being at Hendrick Motorsports, just being in the cars and what they’ve brought to the track year after year, has made that place a little easier on me.”
Daniels is taking a very pragmatic approach to Texas despite an impressive team performance in June. Since the format of the All-Star Race was chopped into several segments instead of changes, beginning Sunday’s race on a high note will be crucial.
“Texas, we were not very good to start the All-Star Race but made a lot of changes to our car during the race to get it better, so certainly digging into what that was and making sure we get that right to start Texas will be important,” Daniels explained.
Aside from Larson’s all-star win at Texas, he has three top-five finishes and four top-10s. He almost won at Kansas over the summer after leading for 132 laps but was relegated to a 19th-place finish after hitting the wall toward the end of the race. Overall, he has three top-fives and five top-10s at the Midwestern venue.
At Martinsville, the 29-year-old driver has two top-five finishes and three top-10s. Most recently, Larson scored a fifth-place result at “The Paperclip” and scored a ninth-place finish in 2019. Even though they have been successful at all three venues this year, Daniels expects the fall races at these tracks to be a different animal. However, he is prepared for the challenge.
“The cars evolve over the course of the season,” Daniels said. “The way NASCAR enforces rules evolves over the course of the season and the track has sat for another six or eight months, so it could have lost a little bit of grip, the weather conditions could change. We certainly aren’t going to take for granted any of the success we have had at some of these places. We are going to treat it like a new week and a new track and be a student of the game, but it’s definitely nice to have the notes to fall back on.”
Larson, Daniels and the No. 5 team will continue their championship hunt on Sunday, Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. The playoff race will start at 2 p.m. ET and air on NBC.