CONCORD, N.C. – The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season was a test for crew chief Cliff Daniels, driver Kyle Larson and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team.
The previous season had seen the stars completely align for the squad. A 10-win season, an All-Star Race victory and a championship were all delivered in 2021 by Larson, Daniels and the No. 5 team.
"We went into 2022 with high expectations," Daniels told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this week. "We certainly had a fairytale kind of year in 2021. It was a big deal for our team, Kyle and the way we all went through that year and learned and grew together.
"What a contrast it was for us with how 2022 went. Every step along the way in 2022 – I’ve told the team this several times – our character was tested. For whatever reason, God put it on us that it was going to be that type of year. It took me a little while to see. It took the team a little while to see how there was just always going to be a challenge ahead of us outside of just competing in a normal race."
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The 2022 season saw Larson and the No. 5 team win three races – Auto Club Speedway in February, Watkins Glen International in August and Homestead-Miami Speedway in October. The team made the Championship 4 for the owner’s title thanks to the Homestead win and finished third in the owner standings.
However, Larson was eliminated in the driver playoffs following the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and would go on to finish seventh in the driver standings.
"I’m still struggling to accept that what kept us from moving forward the way we wanted to in the playoffs was poor execution and things that we could control," Daniels said.
"We are certainly going to remember those moments. We are going to take them and learn from them and be better because of it. Wrap all that up with a bow and that’s how we are going to learn and attack going into 2023. I think it’s going to set us off with a really good start.
"I think we’ve learned enough and we’ve had to dig deep enough to build our character to take it into next year. Not just for the start of the season but to really carry it all the way through the season. I’ve got a lot of faith in our team, in Kyle and all the people working on our car and going over the wall."