AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Everyone loves a comeback story and Kyle Larson’s is complete after winning the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
Larson was suspended from NASCAR and fired from his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020 after using a racial slur in an online racing event. Larson completed mandatory sensitivity training and got a second chance from team owner Rick Hendrick for the 2021 season. Larson went out and won ten races, including the Championship finale on Sunday.
“It was a little bit of an up-and-down race,” said Larson. “There was moments where I was like, maybe I’ve got a good enough car to win outright and there was times where I was definitely the fourth best car.”
Heading into what turned out to be the final pit stop, Larson was the fourth of the Championship leaders entering pit road but was the first coming off thanks to blistering service by his No. 5 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet.
Larson took the final green flag out front and then held off a hard charging Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag.
“For us to come in fourth behind them and come out the leader was a little bit better than I thought we could do,” Larson said about the final stop. “But my pit crew, I’ve got all the belief in the world in them. They proved all season long that they were consistent and consistently fast.
We have such a great team, and they’re a massive part of it, and they’re the reason why we won tonight.”
A journey from suspended and fired to Cup Series Champion in a span of a little over 18-month is something even Larson didn’t think was possible.
“I’m not sure I ever really thought that I could win a Cup Series championship,” reflected Larson. “I’ve always thought about winning races, not championships. I didn’t know if I would ever win a Cup Series championship. I can’t say that it was like a dream of mine. Don’t take that the wrong way because that’s not what I’m trying to make it sound like. It’s just it’s so far out there that I never thought that I would do it.”
Larson has done it, giving Hendrick Motorsports back-to-back Championships following Chase Elliott’s title run last year.
“Extremely fortunate and grateful and thankful and so many different other words that can describe how I feel about being there,” said Larson. “Rick Hendrick is one of the greatest human beings I’ve gotten the pleasure to meet and get to know a little bit more this year. He’s got a great group of people running that place, and all of us drivers there are very lucky to be there.”
Larson even took time out to thank the team owner who originally signed him to a driver development deal that eventually led to a ride in the Cup Series.
“I met with every team owner back in 2011, and Chip Ganassi was the only guy, the only team owner to even entertain me racing this car,” recalled Larson. “I met with him for probably 20 minutes, and he signed me up right then after. I owe the world to him. It was nice to see him today and see how happy and at peace I felt like he was with it, with his final event as a team owner. Very thankful for all the years that I spent at Chip Ganassi Racing.”
Racing Notebook: Logano on Darlington pole; Allgaier wins Xfinity race and more
DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – It’s NASCAR ‘throwback’ weekend in Darlington, South Carolina where all three series are on the track this weekend.
Logano Take Cup Series Pole:
- Team Penske’s Joey Logano is on the pole position for Sunday’s 3rd Annual Goodyear 400. Logano’s fast lap of 28.805-seconds (170.720 mph) was .082-seconds quicker than Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson’s 28.887. Hendrick’s Chase Elliott, Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and B.J. McCloud did not make qualifying attempts after separate issues in practice. The green flag drops at 3:30 p.m. on FS1. Darlington Cup Lineup
Allgaier Wins Xfinity Race:
- Justin Allgaier beat JR Motorsports Noah Gragson by .259-seconds to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Mahindra ROXOR 200 at Darlington Raceway. In a 2-lap shootout following a caution flag, Allgaier quickly dispatched A.J. Allmendinger – who was on 16-lap older tires and drove away with Gragson in tow. JRM drivers now have won three straight races in the series. Darlington Xfinity Results
Nemechek Wins Truck Series Race:
- John Hunter Nemechek beat Carson Hocevar by .552-seconds in overtime to win Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Dead On Tools 200 at Darlington Raceway. Wexford native Kris Wright finished 32nd after starting 21st in the No. 44 VFW Chevrolet thanks to an accident. Darlington Truck Series Results
McGriff, Shelmerdine and Kenseth elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Herschel McGriff, Kirk Shelmerdine and Matt Kenseth have been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2023. Mike Helton was also named the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
McGriff’s first race was the 1950 Southern 500, in the NASCAR Cup Series’ sophomore season, at the age of 22. His final NASCAR race was at Tucson Speedway in the NASCAR Pro Series West – in 2018 at the age of 90. McGriff started 85 races in parts of 28 NASCAR Cup Series seasons, capturing four wins – all in 1954, when he finished sixth in championship points.
Shelmerdine won four total Cup Series championships with Earnhardt (1986, ’87, ’90, ’91). Over his 16-year crew chief career with Earnhardt, Rudd, James Hylton and Richard Childress, he won 46 races and posted top-10 finishes in more than half his starts.
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series Champion, scored 39 Cup wins, which tie for 21st on the all-time list and include two Daytona 500s, the Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600 and the All-Star Race.
The Class of 2023 Induction Ceremony is set for Friday, Jan. 20, 2023 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Racing Notebook: Rinus VeeKay on INDYCAR Pole; Chris Buescher on NASCAR Cup Pole and more!
The Pittsburgh Racing Now Racing Notebook gets you up-to-speed with Saturday’s Qualifying results for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda GP of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park and the NASCAR Cup Series DuraMAX Drydene 400 plus IndyLights qualifying, IndyPro2000, USF 2000 and NASCAR Xfinity.
Rinus VeeKay wins INDYCAR Barber Pole:
- Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay is on the pole position for Sunday’s Honda GP of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. VeeKay’s fast lap of 1 minute, 6.2507 seconds in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet in knockout-style qualifying edged Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward for the top spot. O’Ward will join him on the front row after a best lap of 1:06.4003 in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Alex Palou will start third in the No. 10 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. INDYCAR Barber Qualifying
Chris Buescher wins NASCAR Cup Series Dover Pole:
- Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher is on the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series DuraMAX Drydene 400 at Dover Motor Speedway. Buescher’s fast lap of 159.207 mph around the concrete Monster Mile was 057-second faster than Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott make up row two. NASCAR Dover Lineup
Lundqvist wins Indy Lights Barber Pole:
- Linus Lundqvist is on the pole position for Sunday’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama. Lundqvist’s fast lap of 1 minute, 12.5713 seconds in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car. Lundqvist’s teammate Benjamin Pedersen starts alongside in the No. 24 Global Racing Group with HMD entry at 1:12.5929, just .0216 of a second off Lundqvist’s time. Indy Lights Barber Lineup
Josh Berry takes Xfinity Series Win at Dover:
- JR Motorsports (JRM) Josh Berry held off teammate Justin Allgaier to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series A-Game 200 at Dover Motor Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs was third followed by JRM drivers Noah Gragson and Sam Mayer. NASCAR Xfinity Dover Results
Reece Gold wins Indy Pro 2000 at Barber:
- Reece Gold of Juncos Hollinger Racing became the third winner in as many rounds of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with a dominant victory Saturday afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park. It was the second career win for the 17-year-old from Miami, Fla. University of Pittsburgh graduate Colin Kaminsky finished second in the No. #27 Slick Locks Tatuus IP-22. “I’m happy to be back up here, it’s been a while. I needed it, the team needed it,” said Kaminsky. Indy Pro 2000 Barber
Myles Rowe snags USF 2000 win at Barber:
- Myles Rowe started on the pole position and brought home his second consecutive USF 2000 victory, taking the checkered flag Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park. Billy Frazer finished second and Michael d’Orlando rounded out the podium. USF 2000 Barber