CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Larson’s ninth win of the season had a little more meaning thanks to his close relationship with Hendrick Motorsports owner owner Rick Hendrick.
The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE added insurance to his NASCAR Cup Series playoff run by winning the second Round of 8 event at Kansas Speedway last Sunday. The victory came on the 17th anniversary of the plane crash when Hendrick’s son, Ricky, and nine others lost their lives. The team owner made sure to text Larson after Sunday’s race to let him know how much this victory meant.
“He was obviously very excited was just thanking me a lot for getting him and his family and this organization a very special win,” Larson said. "I think that all just makes me feel really good and to hear how special the win was for Rick and his wife – the Vegas win and this Kansas win feel special, emotionally.”
Larson already was locked into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway from his win at Texas Motor Speedway, making him the only driver to win in the Round of 8 so far. Larson said after the Texas race that he was still going to do his best to lead as many laps as possible en route to a win at Kansas. The 29-year-old driver made that a reality when he led 130 laps, including the final 39, at Kansas to secure the victory.
"I wanted to win the race," he said. "I can't believe how it all worked out for us to win. There were definitely people helping from up above, I believe, to get us that win 17 years to the date. Brian Vickers texted afterward - I didn't realize Ricky Hendrick's truck number was 17 that date he won at Kansas - and said seven at 17 were his favorite numbers.
"There's no doubt in my mind there was something extra special going on to help us get that win."
Even though Larson has the option take it easy for this weekend’s Round of 8 race at Martinsville Speedway, he isn’t wired to relax and cruise during a race. Larson still will compete for a win on Sunday but will also use the Martinsville event to prepare for the 1-mile championship race at Phoenix the following weekend.
“Although it’s a really short track, it’s nice to go to a short track and get used to the braking and stuff like that and setting up passes before we go to Phoenix,” he explained. “I think it’s nice to get in the rhythm of the downforce and the horsepower package. We get practice at Phoenix, too, which will help quite a bit.”