As Kyle Larson continues to make the NASCAR Cup Series his personal playground, there are a few different reactions. Respect. Disbelief. Maybe frustration for those who are not fans or associated with his team.
Laughter probably isn’t on the reactions list. But it was hard not to bust out in broken fits of laughter after Larson won for the fourth time and third straight, Sunday afternoon at Nashville Superspeedway.
It is funny what the 28-year-old is doing. Funny in an unbelievable type way of what he’s doing. It makes you shake your head and laugh because Larson looks like he’s playing a video game. He, along with the No. 5 team from Hendrick Motorsports, are crushing the competition as the season hits the four-month mark.
A series-leading four wins and three consecutive; four consecutive if counting the non-points paying All-Star Race. A series-leading 12 stage wins. A series-leading 1,426 laps led.
“It’s awesome to get multiple wins in a row now in the Cup Series,” Larson said. “Really, it’s four wins in a row. Just cool to do that. I didn’t think that was ever possible for me in the Cup Series anyways. I’ve gone on streaks in dirt racing and stuff before, but never been close to doing anything like that in Cup.
“It’s been awesome. To get to now double-digit (10) point paying wins is great. I’d like to keep winning and keep inching my name up the winner’s list not only at NASCAR but at Hendrick Motorsports, too. I think that’s important to me.”
Larson winning in Hendrick equipment wasn’t in question. How much he could win and how quickly it would happen might have been up for debate. Larson’s talent was never in doubt or the problem.
Raw talent and speed. Two words that get tossed around a lot but only truly attach to a select few in auto racing. But Larson is one of those rare breeds of drivers who can jump in anything adapt and win – doing so in all three NASCAR divisions, ARCA, and dirt tracks across the country. And that’s in both sprint and midget cars, Silver Crown, and a late model (something he did in only his second start).
No, talent has never been an issue for Larson. At Chip Ganassi Racing, though, it’s now clear Larson’s talent never fully shined. For one reason or another, Larson was not as successful as expected, and he didn’t dominate in a Ganassi Chevrolet. Larson won six races for Ganassi in 219 starts.
The timing is perfect for Larson to be excelling now, and he has everything he needs. Hendrick Motorsports is on an upswing after years of hard work and various changes, has the horsepower advantage, and Cliff Daniels is the right guy on the pit box. When a team owner puts a good driver in a good car, the results should be precisely what Larson is throwing up.
That doesn’t mean it’s not unreal what he’s been doing. Larson is seemingly checking a new box every week. Four wins ties the most Larson has had in one season (2017), and at this rate, he’s going to surpass that by year’s end easily. Charlotte and Sonoma were the first time he’s won back-to-back races in his career, and now that streak goes to three with Nashville.
But wait, there’s more. In six races (Las Vegas, Atlanta, Kansas, Dover, Charlotte, Sonoma), Larson led more laps than he did in any race at that same track while with Ganassi. Additionally, he has already earned a career-best finish at four tracks (Vegas, Dover, Charlotte, Sonoma).
While doing all this, Larson makes it look easy. He’s hardly put a wheel wrong, and his Chevrolet rarely has a scratch on it when pulling into victory lane. Granted, he’s not let the competition get close enough to try. Larson has been smooth and steady, and dare it be said, reminiscent of former Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson.
It didn’t take long for Larson to answer whether his potential will be fulfilled with Hendrick Motorsports. Now, you just have to laugh about what he’s doing and how much more success could be ahead.
“Right now, I guess I’m not thinking about that,” Larson said. “At times, yeah, I can catch myself thinking about it. There’s definitely been a few that have slipped away. At the same point, we do have the most wins now in the series, which is great. I really am just looking forward now. You can’t change the past.
“I’d like to just continue to win, continue to win stages, keep racking up the playoff points to try to distance myself from the competition and make our final 10 weeks a little easier or give us a little bit of wiggle room in case we slip up, make a mistake or have some bad luck. That’s my goal, just to keep winning, win races, but to rack up those playoff points.”