For Kyle Larson, it has only been 14 starts since his last win, but the win came with Chip Ganassi Racing at Dover in October 2019, a time when driving for Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) seemed unlikely for Larson. Now, after an eventful one year and five months for Larson, he has become the 20th driver to win for HMS in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Larson won Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas by 3.156 seconds over second-place Brad Keselowski. Larson led 103 laps, including the final 30, en route to his seventh career Cup win and Hendrick Motorsports’ 265th win as an organization.
For Larson, it is a culmination of a return from a fall from grace stemming from an infamous April 2020 incident.
“Once I got the white flag and had the lead, I was all choked up,” Larson stated. “After I did my donuts and stuff, I had myself contained.”
Larson also bested a record for fewest starts before winning with HMS that was previously held by Terry Labonte. Labonte won his first race with HMS in his seventh start while Larson won in his fourth start.
Larson’s win was the first in the NASCAR Cup Series for crew chief Cliff Daniels, who worked with Jimmie Johnson in late-2019 and 2020.
Prior to serving as Johnson’s crew chief, Daniels worked under Chad Knaus as Johnson’s race engineer from 2015 to 2018, which was valuable experience for him.
“Some valuable things I learned from Jimmie and Chad, is to always think ahead,” Daniels said. “We had worked up two contingency plans so we knew what we were going to do if a caution came out.”
Larson is currently third in the regular season points standings, 40 points behind regular season points leader Denny Hamlin.