Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson has won the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship Presented by Coca-Cola and was awarded the trophy after the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has led the point standings since his fifth win of the season at Watkins Glen International earlier this month. For the season, he has five wins, 14 top fives and 18 top 10s — all of those marks are the best in the Cup Series this season. In his first year with Hendrick, Larson also won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600, Sonoma Raceway and Nashville Superspeedway as well as the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. In July, Larson inked an extension to keep him at Hendrick through the 2023 season.
Clinching the regular-season title hands Larson a 15-point bonus heading into the 10-race NASCAR Playoffs, which begin Sept. 5 with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The top-1o finishers in the regular-season standings receive bonus points on a sliding scale, starting with 15 for first and ending with one playoff point for 10th.
With five victories, paired with a series-high 12 stage wins, Larson will carry 52 playoff points and will enter the postseason as the top seed.
Kevin Harvick won last year’s regular-season championship, Kyle Busch took the honor in 2018 and 2019, while Martin Truex Jr. scored the prize in 2017. Truex and Busch (in 2019) are the only regular-season champions to date to win the playoff title in the same season as the regular-season title.
The following 16 drivers are in the postseason field:
Kyle Larson, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: 2,052 points
Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Team Penske Ford: 2,024 points
Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota: 2,024 points
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota: 2,022 points
Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: 2,021 points
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: 2,015 points
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota: 2,015 points
William Byron, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: 2,014 points
Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford: 2,013 points
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Team Penske Ford: 2,008 points
Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet: 2,008 points
Christopher Bell, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota: 2,005 points
Aric Almirola, No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford: 2,005 points
Michael McDowell, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford: 2,005 points
Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: 2,003 points
Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford: 2,002 points
All drivers in the playoffs will see their point totals reset to 2,000 with their playoff point totals then added in ahead of the three-race Round of 16 that includes Darlington Raceway, Richmond Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway. Any playoff eligible driver that wins a Round of 16 race is automatically locked into the next round. Following the Bristol race, the drivers with the four lowest point totals (who haven’t won in that round) will be eliminated.
To start the Round of 12, all drivers will see their point totals reset to 3,000 with their playoff point totals then added in ahead of the three-race round that includes Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Any playoff eligible driver that wins a Round of 12 race is automatically locked into the next round. Following the Charlotte race, the drivers with the four lowest point totals (who haven’t won in that round) will be eliminated.
To start the Round of 8, all drivers will see their point totals reset to 4,000 with their playoff point totals then added in ahead of the three-race round that includes Texas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. Any playoff eligible driver that wins a Round of 8 race is automatically locked into the Championship 4. Following the Martinsville race, the drivers with the four lowest point totals (who haven’t won in that round) will be eliminated.
The Championship 4 will see their point totals reset to 5,000 only playoff points will not be added in and these drivers will not be awarded stage points in the final race on Nov. 7 at Phoenix. The title winner will be the highest finishing driver among the four Championship-eligible drivers. Since this format was adopted in 2014, the championship winner has also won the final race.
An Interview with: Kyle Larson
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kyle Larson. Congratulations on winning the NASCAR regular season championship. Give us a quick recap of the race from your vantage point, but also the opportunity to take home that regular season championship trophy.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, the race went well until the last lap. We didn’t get any stage points the first time, first stage, and the 11 did. I felt like after thinking about it a little bit more if I could just kind of follow him and stay close to him in the second stage, he wouldn’t gain much on me.
It actually ended up where I beat him in the second stage. That gave me a little bit more comfort going into the final one. We were able to dodge a couple wrecks. He actually got collected in one of them. Then it was kind of go for the win at that point.
Just things didn’t work out for me in the green-white-checkered. Ended up getting shuffled back, then getting right in the middle of that wreck. Yeah, bummer that we didn’t get to finish well, but we accomplished the goal going into tonight, which was coming away with the regular season title.
Got those 15 bonus points. Now we can look forward to the next 10 weeks and hopefully get some more wins.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for Kyle.
How special is it to lead the way with an historical team and number?
KYLE LARSON: It’s cool. I think just racing the car in general for Mr. H, what that paint scheme and number means to him, it means a lot to me for him to kind of have that trust in me to carry it on. Had a lot of success with it this year, have ourselves positioned in a good spot to chase the championship.
Would have loved to put that car and that paint scheme with HendrickCars.com on it in Victory Lane more often throughout the rest of the year, especially in Phoenix.
You’ll have a huge points lead going into the round of 16. With that margin, what tracks do you have circled in the Playoffs that you feel more confident about?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, I think there’s a lot of good tracks for us. I don’t know which ones specifically. I feel like we have a shot to win anywhere right now. That’s encouraging.
I really just look forward to getting it started next week, kind of getting into the flow of that, racing in the Playoffs against multiple other drivers chasing points and wins.
Yeah, I feel good about it.
What is the possibility seeing all Hendrick cars make the Final 4?
KYLE LARSON: It would be hard to get all of us in the Final 4 at Phoenix, but it’s not impossible either. We’ve all four been really strong I feel like all season long. It’s been nice to have us all win this year and challenge for many other wins. Yeah, it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely going to be tough. That would be awesome.
You’re a guy that’s used to going out and your philosophy is win, win, win. How are you going to temper that balance to win a championship? You’ve never really been in a position to be the favorite going into the Playoffs, at least at the Cup level?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know, I feel like we’ve kind of had that mindset the last month or so already. It’s not been all about just winning. Once points kind of came into the picture of us being able to beat the 11, kind of points racing against him. I think getting into that mindset, that kind of style it takes to not be so go for broke, which I feel like is a lot of what you need. You obviously have to have that go for broke somewhere in your arsenal.
Yeah, I think a lot of it, you can’t make any big mistakes and take yourself out of it. That’s what we’ve been doing this last month and a half or so. I feel like that’s been good to prep us leading into the Playoffs.
Is there anything you’re looking at as far as changing what you have been doing? Will you continue to race as much outside of NASCAR?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I mean, I’ve answered that question a lot. Naturally the schedule, there’s not a lot of midweek racing. There’s no speedweeks and stuff this time of year. I can’t go race as much as I have been.
I’m still going to race. I think it’s been a big part of what’s made me, what’s gotten us to this point, this strong on Sundays, is being fresh throughout the week. Competing is a big part of me.
Yeah, I’m going to race when I can. Hopefully we do a good job in the Playoffs.
From your point of view, what differences did you see with the package compared to Daytona and Talladega earlier this season?
KYLE LARSON: I didn’t really get to race Talladega. Race ended before the race started almost.
The 500, from what I remember of that, I feel like the runs were maybe just a touch smaller. Maybe it was a little easier to block runs and stuff because of that.
But really I didn’t think it was way different. The other drivers who kind of were up front would maybe have a different opinion. From where I was, I didn’t think it was way different.
Looking forward to the Playoffs, are there any tracks in particular that you’re looking forward to the most?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, I think I’m happy to start off at Darlington. It’s a fun racetrack. There’s a lot of good racetracks for us and our race team. I’m really looking forward to Bristol. It’s my favorite race of the year, favorite racetrack. We only get to go there really once this year I feel like. Hopefully take advantage of that and have a good time and get my first win at Bristol.
Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of good tracks. Really we look forward to all of them.
Talladega is not that far away. Did you learn anything you can take to Talladega from tonight?
KYLE LARSON: I’m not sure. Obviously there’s always something that you take away from each race. I think after going back and looking at some video, really studying this race, I think you’ll be able to learn a little bit more going to Talladega.
Yeah, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it yet.
Looking ahead to the Playoffs, is there a certain driver or team you feel is your biggest competition?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, I think everybody has had their moments of being really strong this year. I think the three others, my teammates, are going to be really tough. I think I look at obviously Denny, Martin, Kyle Busch as probably being the three others besides our team that stand out.
I feel like there’s always one or two guys that you don’t really notice that much during the regular season, maybe don’t even notice that much in the first round, but really start hitting their stride after that. There’s probably definitely a few wild cards out there. You won’t really know who they are until we get a few races in.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, thank you for joining us. Congratulations once again. Best of luck in the Playoffs this season.
KYLE LARSON: Thank you.