CONCORD, N.C. -- Kyle Larson’s pit crew overcame a series of mechanical issues in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and set him up to capture his seventh points-paying win this season, advancing him to the Round of 8 of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
The No. 5 team had to replace the battery on lap 34 and the alternator belt at the end of stage two, pushing Larson to the back of the field twice in the 109-lap event. But the challenges proved to be no match for Larson and his crew as they made the right strategy calls to move through the field. The 29-year-old driver secured his third road course victory and in the 2021 season.
“I thought my race was going to be over with the battery going down,” Larson said. “Then we were able to get through the end of the second stage with no fans and I thought ‘Man, this is going to be a tough race if I have to do this all race long.’ But (engine tuner) Steven (Legendre), (car chief) Jesse (Saunders) and (crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) and the pit crew did a really good job of getting it all fixed and from then on, we had no issues, and I knew if I just stayed out of trouble, didn’t crash or anything like that, we were going to be okay and could make it in on points.”
Without the fast and intentional work done by his crew, Daniels knows that Larson’s night and championship dreams could have been in jeopardy. He credited the team effort for not only keeping Larson firmly in the playoffs but putting him back in first place in the playoff standings.
“Jesse and Steven did an amazing job; pit crew did awesome with so many different things being thrown their way,” Daniels said. “If it weren’t for the team we have, working through that would have not been nearly as calm or organized.
“It takes the whole shop, the whole company to have in place what we needed to have in place to be able to execute something like we did today where we had to change a battery, fix an alternator belt, change tires the way we did – it’s a testament to what we have at our company right now, it’s a testament to this team. I am very proud of our guys and very thankful it worked out.”
Larson’s win secured his spot in the next round of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs set him up with 4,065 playoff markers. He sits 42 points above of the cutline and 35 ahead of the second-place driver as the No. 5 team prepares to compete against seven other drivers for the championship.
“The Round of 8 is going to be fun, it’s going to be tough,” Daniels said. “Texas is a good place for us, Kansas will be pretty good for us. I think Martinsville could go either way but luckily, we had a good run there in the spring. It’s going to be challenging every week but if we keep bringing fast cars to the track, we just have to do our job and hopefully it works out.”
Tune in this Sunday, October 17 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC to see Daniels, Larson and the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports teams bring the heat to Texas Motor Speedway for the first race of the Round of 8.