Kyle Larson didn’t just win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series championship. He also solidified his place as a bonafide superstar of the sport. On the way to his championship, the first-year Hendrick Motorsports driver set a record for most laps led in a 36-race season. His 10 race wins were more than twice as many as any other driver, and his 18 stage wins far surpassed everyone else as well. The Elk Grove, California native became the first driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 to earn 10 victories in one season and won more races in 2021 than he did in his previous years in Cup combined, when he competed for team owner Chip Ganassi.
“I’m just very fortunate to have all the opportunities I’ve ever been given, and it’s hard to think about what else I would like to accomplish, but I love winning races, and I love driving all sorts of vehicles,” said Larson, who in addition to his duties as a full-time Cup driver competes regularly in sprint car races across the country. “I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to top this year, but I hope I can someday.” Among those most impressed by Larson in 2021 was his first-year boss, NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick.
“I had heard stories that he couldn’t close, that he was fast and he would run near the wall and he’d wreck,” Hendrick said. “When we got him in the car, it was pretty obvious that he was pretty quick, that he could run the whole race, and he was fast, and he took care of the car. I knew his talent from watching him when he was driving for Chip and could see some of the things he could do with the car. So he’s impressed me. I think his ability to know how to race has impressed me a lot this year because he’s fast, but he knows how to race, and he knows when to race, and when he needs to just take care of it.”