I like that he made it to NASCAR based on his driving skill. I like that he has no ego. I like that he does not over think racing and, in fact, often just discounts what people say about his racing and racing in general. He says that he drives the cars and leaves the rest of the stuff that occupies those around him, to them. He is focused and seemingly cannot get flustered or manipulated by outside forces. People, especially the media, like to play head games. Kyle Larsen does not play, he races. He is diminutive in manner and humble in presence. Sometimes I wish he were more demonstrative and that he would get mad, like when Joey Logano, Kyle Busch or Austin Dillon spun him out in the past. His handling of the ethnic-slur deal was unbelievable. I compliment him for how he responded and wonder if his lack of push back empowered the media and others to elevate him to the sacrificial lamb for decades of racism in the sport. I do not know. I now feel redeemed for all the years of saying that he was racing for a “B- level” team with Chip Ganassi whose performance with good drivers was mediocre at best. Kyle Larsen spoke well of his then crew chief Chad Johnston who was also not good at his job and was offed shortly after veteran Matt Kenseth took over the “42” car. Larsen seems to like everyone and seldom, if ever says anything bad about anyone. He had cause.
After a year of setting the sprint car world on its ear with 46 wins across the nation in a multitude of major series, Larsen ended up with Rick Hendrick. Hendrick believed in Kyle Larsen and went against the tide to give him an opportunity. After sixteen CUP races behind the wheel of the #5 car and with little support from the media and others, Larsen has become the talk of the town. He has three CUP wins, nine top five finishes and eleven top ten finishes. He has won all the stage segments in the last two races and has two wins in a row. One could argue that he could have won at least three other races but for lady luck or circumstances intervening. He has closed within 47 points of Denny Hamlin for the regular season point championship that pays fifteen playoff bonus points. He is hot.
Now the dialog is about how to beat Kyle Larsen in NASCAR CUP racing and whether or not he is the odds-on favorite to win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship. In less than one year he has gone from persona-non-grata in NASCAR to the top of the heap. Wow.
As stated earlier, Larsen did win the NASCAR Cup race at Sonoma Raceway last weekend and he did win all three stages. The week before he won the Coke 600 at Charlotte including all three stages. This weekend he will start on the front row for the first of a series of intermittent events that will make up the All-Star Race at the Texas Motor Speedway. At the Sonoma road-course Chase Elliott ran second. It was a good Sonoma race partly due to some clever camera angles and also as a result of the battles between Larsen, Elliott and third place finisher Martin Truex Jr. it was Larsen’s first road course win ever and it was not a fluke or a win resulting from officials calling the race short of the finish due to weather.
There are ten races left in the regular season not counting the All-Star race this weekend which offers no points. I guess it is possible that Larsen could go on a rampage and really win a bunch more, or not. We will see. With eleven winners so far and ten races to go, the possibility of sixteen different winners diminishes. If Larsen continues to demonstrate that he is a cut above everyone else with a car that is too, we can only speculate if there will be twelve CUP feature winners. Clearly the odds for last year’s big winners, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick to win, are shrinking. Stay tuned.
A.J Almendinger won the Xfinity race at Mid-Ohio last weekend in what was also a good race. Allmendinger came from behind after a pit penalty and out drove Austin Cindric who was punted off track with two laps top go in a door banging incident with Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs flawless grandson. The kid-Gibbs made some political errors in his post-race interviews saying things that kids with good cars and connected relatives should not say. We will see if this grows legs. I doubt it will because of who Ty Gibbs is related to.
The trucks, Xfinity cars and the CUP cars all race this weekend at Texas. This is the last weekend for FOX Sports. They may just have the All-Star Race[?]. If you like Jeff Gordon and Clint Boyer catch the television show and enjoy. Next week it all goes to NBC Sports and the trio of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, and Steve Letarte.
The All-Star format this weekend is different so you will need to do some homework or listen to the pre-race show to know how it works. For the record, there are three open races that add three drivers to the main-event field joining a host of “winners” of various things. The last entry to the million-dollar to win race will be one driver who is selected by a Fan Vote. The voting has been going on for some time now. Best to just watch and see.
Sergio Perez won in Formula one last weekend in a weird race at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel was second flowed by Pierre Gasley. This is three different race teams on the podium, all of whom were making a rare appearance there. Max Verstappen would have won had a blown tire not sent him into the fence. Lewis Hamilton would have won next but he made a rare mistake entering a turn on the last restart causing him to go off track and out of contention. Entertaining to see circumstances override budgets and skill.
Racing at all levels continues throughout the summer around the world and here locally for you to see or watch on various television mediums. Enjoy! End