Kyle Larson Nabs Ninth Win of 2021 at Kansas

Kyle Larson pays tribute to the Hendrick plane crash victims. (Photo: Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

Kyle Larson pays tribute to the Hendrick plane crash victims. (Photo: Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

When Kyle Larson reflects on his latest achievement following Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas, he may do so in wonderment considering the company he joined.

After all, the 29-year-old Elk Grove, California native accomplished a feat last accomplished by Dale Earnhardt in 1987. In this case, Larson scored his second threepeat winning streak.

The road to win number nine wasn’t quite set in stone for the championship favorite. Starting from the pole, Larson won stage 1 in rather commanding fashion with another fast No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy Camaro ride.

Larson's relentlessness paid off in conjunction with more solid teamwork. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Larson’s relentlessness paid off in conjunction with more solid teamwork. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

As track conditions changed with overcast skies, Larson faced some heavy competition from Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Chase Elliott. Still, Larson placed third, seemingly biding his time in the 267-lap race.

Once the overcast conditions cleared for stage 3, Larson reasserted himself into the lead until lap 186 when William Byron took the top spot with Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott getting by “Yung Money” a few laps later.

As Larson worked on closing the gap on the front four drivers, he hit the turn 2 wall square on. However, crew chief Cliff Daniels urged his driver to keep at it in his No. 5 car after lap 210.

Nine laps later, Ryan Newman spun off turn 2 and into the backstretch which resulted in a lap 219 caution. As the lead lap drivers pitted a lap later for tires and fuel, Larson’s pit crew tended to the damage on the No. 5 car, losing one spot in the process.

Restarting from the sixth spot with 45 laps remaining, Larson carved his way toward the front before a caution on lap 225 when Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney tangled in turn 2. Although Dillon continued on with a 10th place result, Blaney’s day ended early with a 37th place finish.

“Obviously, it hurts,” Blaney said. “Finishing 37th is not prime. We didn’t have a great day but we did a good job of fighting back and getting back into the top-10 but then just got wiped out when we had plenty of room. That sucks. It is very unfortunate.”

Once Elliott led the field back to the lap 228 restart, Larson regained the lead with some crafty driving. Initially defending a hard charging Harvick for several laps, Elliott, who fell back to third, made his way back to the second spot on lap 256.

Initially, the final laps seemingly looked like a replay of the 2018 fall race between Larson and Elliott with the roles reversed. Elliott, who closed within a half second of Larson in the final laps, brushed the wall with eight laps remaining.

It's what we came to do. (Photo: Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

It’s what we came to do. (Photo: Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

Larson, uncontested in the final seven laps, drove to his ninth win of the 2021 season. All in all, Larson’s latest victory served as an emotional tribute on the 17th anniversary of the Hendrick plane crash.

For a majority of the season, Larson’s No. 5 car’s paint scheme echoes the late Ricky Hendrick’s colors ran during the 2001 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ’02 NASCAR XFINITY Series seasons. Following a heartbreaking outcome in the spring Kansas race in May, Larson capitalized in grand fashion in a win for more than himself and his team.

“I want to dedicate this win to Rick and Linda (Hendrick),” Larson said following his latest win. “I didn’t ever get to meet Ricky (Hendrick) or the other men and women who lost their lives that day. But, I felt the importance of this race, no doubt. I know they were all looking down and helping me out there with all the restarts and stuff after getting into the wall.”

Starting this month with a 37th place result at Talladega, Larson’s winning streak showcase his incredible talents and team’s resiliency. Overcoming issues with his car’s battery and alternator belt at the Charlotte ROVAL, the ninth year Cup racer put on a masterclass at Texas.

On this occasion at Kansas, Larson cashed in with a dominant drive and stellar teamwork. Breaking Jeff Gordon’s laps led record in a 36-race season in 2001, Larson paid tribute to team owner Rick Hendrick.

“It’s crazy how it kind of all worked out there for me to win,” Larson said. “Again, thank you to Rick Hendrick. I know this means a lot to you and I’m glad I could get it done. It’s cool to get another win and I don’t really know how that happened but, our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really fast. I thought we were like a third-place car, really. William (Byron) was really good. I hate to see that unfortunate luck there again for that team. They’ve been really, really strong. I’m glad we could capitalize and get another win. I hope we can go to Martinsville and get a clock.”

Before Larson considers his pursuit of a grandfather clock at Martinsville, he can cherish the hard work with his Kansas triumph. Ultimately, Larson acknowledged how he overcame a midrace restart and turn 2 encounter.

Kyle Larson and his No. 5 team celebrate their win in an emotional way. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Kyle Larson and his No. 5 team celebrate their win in an emotional way. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

“I felt like I did an okay job trying to hold those guys off as long as I could, on older tires,” he said. “But yeah, and then I just got a little too impatient and the race was kind of closing down in the end. I got loose off of (Turn) 2 and got in the wall and thought for sure my chances of winning were done.

“But I had a couple of good restarts that worked out for me. The No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) got to the No. 9’s (Chase Elliott) inside at the flag stand and kind of choked that lane up and got me clear to the lead. Had to do some blocking there and Chase was really fast at the end. So, I’m glad I didn’t have to fight him too much.”

Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Top 10 Finshers

Larson-Elliott-Harvick-Kurt Busch-Hamlin/Byron-Truex-Bell-Logano-Austin Dillon

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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