AVONDALE, ARIZ. -- Kyle Larson’s fairytale season received the ultimate happy ending. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was in tears after he won his first NASCAR Cup Series championship and gave Hendrick Motorsports its record-extending 14th title when he won at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday.
Larson led 101 laps en route to his first title and became the fifth different driver to win a championship for Hendrick Motorsports. His pit crew posted its second-fastest stop of the year after a caution with 30 laps to go allowed Larson to jump from fourth to first. He remained out front for the final 25 laps to secure the 2021 title.
“I cannot believe it,” Larson said after climbing out of his Chevrolet. “I didn’t even think I’d be racing a Cup car a year-and-a-half ago. To win a championship is crazy. I got to say, first of all, thank you so much to Rick Hendrick, HendrickCars.com, Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, every single one of my supporters in the stands and watching at home. My family – I got so many of my friends and family here …
“There were so many points in this race where I did not think we were going to win and without my pit crew on that last stop, we would not be standing right here. They’re the true winners of this race. They’re the true champions. I’m just blessed to be a part of this group.”
It’s also the first title for crew chief Cliff Daniels, who hadn’t won a race from atop the pit box until he and Larson were paired together at the start of 2021. This championship follows teammate Chase Elliott’s historic title run from last year and marks the first time a Cup Series team has earned back-to-back titles since Hendrick Motorsports did so with Jimmie Johnson from 2005-10.
The year has been nothing short of a dream for Larson, who sat out last season and was signed to Hendrick Motorsports in October 2020. Ever since he got behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet, he hit the ground running, earning 10 victories, winning the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race, securing 20 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s in 36 races. Larson also has paced the field for 2,581 laps, a Hendrick Motorsports record.
The organization won six of the 10 playoff races this season, five of which were won by Larson. Hendrick Motorsports now has notched 53 combined playoff wins, which is a Cup Series record. A Hendrick Motorsports driver now has won each of the last seven playoff elimination races, including Larson at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Charlotte ROVAL and Phoenix. His wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway during the Round of 8 allowed Larson to punch his ticket to the Championship 4.
“This is unbelievable. I’m speechless,” Larson said. “This event was crazy. This format’s wild. I’m glad we were able to get it done. Big shout out to my parents for getting me involved in racing … I cannot believe it.”