NASCAR Championship at Phoenix: Kyle Larson wins 2021 Cup Series title to cap off dominant season

nascar-cele-larson.jpg
Getty Images

A year and a half ago, Kyle Larson's NASCAR career looked like it may have been over. He was exiled from the top level of stock car racing after losing his sponsors and job over the ill-advised use of a racial slur. There was doubt regarding whether or not he would return to NASCAR. But he did –- and his 2021 season ended with a championship on Sunday.

In the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway, Larson earned the lead thanks to a quick final pit stop and then held off Martin Truex Jr. to earn his 10th win of the season and his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Truex finished second and second of the Championship 4, followed by Denny Hamlin in third and Chase Elliott in fifth.

NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race unofficial results

1. #5 - Kyle Larson
2. #19 - Martin Truex Jr.
3. #11 - Denny Hamlin
4. #12 - Ryan Blaney
5. #9 - Chase Elliott
6. #10 - Aric Almirola
7. #18 - Kyle Busch
8. #4 - Kevin Harvick
9. #20 - Christopher Bell
10. #2 - Brad Keselowski

After a well-timed caution while he was making a green flag pit stop earned Martin Truex Jr. the lead, it looked as though Larson's championship hopes were slipping away as he ran fourth, well behind Truex, over the next to last run. But when a caution came out for a mechanical failure by David Starr, quick pit work by Larson's crew and the No. 1 pit stall allowed Larson to jump from fourth to first and take the lead on pit road.

Despite being pressured by Truex throughout the final 24 laps, Larson was able to hang on and score the victory, putting the finishing touch on one of the most dominant NASCAR seasons in recent memory.

"There were so many points in this race where I did not think that we were gonna win. And without my pit crew on that last stop, we would not be standing right here," Larson told NBC Sports. "They are the true winners of this race, they are the true champions. I'm just blessed to be a part of this group.

"Every single person, men and women, at Hendrick Motorsports -- this win is for all of us and every one of you. This is unbelievable. I'm speechless."

Throughout the course of the race, the frontrunner of the Championship 4 was dictated largely by the flow of the race. Larson's and Elliott's cars were the class of the field on shorter runs, while Hamlin's and Truex Jr.'s were better on longer runs. With the final run being just 24 laps, the race ultimately fell Larson's way, allowing him to win the race and hoist the Bill France Cup.

Larson finishes his championship season with:

  • 10 wins
  • 20 Top 5s
  • 26 Top 10 finishes
  • A NASCAR record 2,581 laps led

Larson's finest stretch came over the final five races of the year, as he won four out of five races en route to the Cup Series title.

Live updates
(203)
Pinned

Kyle Larson's comeback is complete. He holds off Martin Truex Jr. to earn his 10th win of the season and become the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series CHAMPION!

1. #5 - Kyle Larson
2. #19 - Martin Truex Jr.
3. #11 - Denny Hamlin
4. #12 - Ryan Blaney
5. #9 - Chase Elliott
6. #10 - Aric Almirola
7. #18 - Kyle Busch
8. #4 - Kevin Harvick
9. #20 - Christopher Bell
10. #2 - Brad Keselowski

See New Posts
Pinned
@NASCARonNBC via Twitter
November 7, 2021, 11:57 PM
Pinned

White flag is out. Last lap for Kyle Larson, but Truex is closing quick.

Pinned

Martin Truex is starting to push it. Two to go and the gap is now half a second.

Pinned

Denny Hamlin is now catching Martin Truex. Lapped cars pull over for Kyle Larson with three to go.

Pinned

Leaders are coming up on lapped traffic. Four to go.

Pinned

Five laps to go for Driver 5.

Pinned

Gap is remaining stable. Eight tenths from Larson to Truex. Denny Hamlin has not closed in significantly.

Pinned

Denny Hamlin was the fastest car on the racetrack last time by. 7 to go.

Pinned
@NASCARonNBC via Twitter
November 7, 2021, 11:45 PM
Pinned

Martin Truex has started to close the gap somewhat. Seven tenths of a second with 8 to go.

Pinned

10 laps to go for Kyle Larson. Denny Hamlin makes the pass on Elliott for third. He has a second to make up on Truex.

Pinned

Denny Hamlin is on it. He's started running the high side and now has caught Chase Elliott for third. Do or die time for Driver 11.

Pinned

Kyle Larson has opened up his lead to seven tenths of a second on Truex. The lapped car of Joey Gase lays over and gives the leaders room.

Pinned
@NASCARonNBC via Twitter
November 7, 2021, 11:42 PM
See More