By James Hayes | Field Pass
Kyle Larson capped off his unbelievable 2021 season with a victory in NASCAR in Phoenix on Sunday night which secured him the 2021 NASCAR championship. He finished the season with 10 wins in NASCAR's top series, which included the regular-season championship but let's take a step back and look at the journey it took to get there.
In April of 2020, Larson was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing for comments he made during an iRacing event. One day later, NASCAR barred him indefinitely, and things were not looking very bright for the young driver. Larson complied with NASCAR and completed the sensitivity training that was required for his reinstatement and also had continued requirements to fulfill in order to keep his NASCAR membership current.
In the meantime, while going through the sensitivity training and reflecting on why this all happened, Larson took his talents to dirt racing throughout the summer of 2020. Larson went on to have one of the most legendary seasons in the history of dirt track racing. Kyle won 46 races on dirt out of 97 races he entered and actually led the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in victories with 12 wins even though he only competed in 54 events. In addition, he jumped behind the wheel of a dirt late model for the first time ever, and nobody on the track would have been able to tell you that he hadn't done it before.
After a very successful dirt racing campaign in 2020, NASCAR owner Rick Hendrick decided to be the guy that would give Kyle Larson a second chance in the premier series of NASCAR. Larson didn't miss a beat coming into 2021. He even continued to run dirt races all over the country and won some of the most prestigious races in the dirt racing world. Those wins include the Chili Bowl, which is an indoor midget race held annually in Tulsa, OK, that dirt racers from all over the globe enter with hopes of getting their names written into the history books. Larson also won the King's Royal at historic Eldora Speedway. The Kings Royal is a race that legends in the sprint car world have their names etched into the history books, with likes Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, and Donny Schatz taking home the crown. In the Late Model world, he took home the crown in the 2021 Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury Speedway, a race every dirt late model driver has marked on their calendars. Oh, yea Larson also took home a trophy from arguably the biggest sprint car race of the season, the Knoxville Nationals, which is every bit as prestigious as the Kings Royal at Eldora.
Larson did all this on top of more than doubling his career total in wins in the NASCAR Cup series at 10. He took home wins at Las Vegas, Charlotte in the Coke 600, Sonoma, Nashville, Watkins Glen, Bristol, the Charlotte Roval, Texas, Kansas, and the championship-clinching win at Phoenix. The victory in the Coke 600 was the first of a career-best three wins in a row that were followed by Sonoma and Nashville. If you take a step back and look at the wins in the Cup series this season, you can see there isn't any type of track too big or small that this man can't win at.
When the 2021 season came to a close at Phoenix, Larson came out victorious, capping off an unbelievable season. The win didn't come easily by any means, though. With 30 laps to go under caution, Larson was sitting in fourth place behind the other three drivers in the championship four. However, Larson's pit crew put together the kind of pitstop you only dream about in Larson's position, and he came off pit road in first place. He held off a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. to lead the final laps of the race. After the checked flag dropped, you could see the emotion in Larson's eyes as he burned the tires off during his victory lap celebration.
Kyle Larson is the hottest thing in motorsports right now. After Sunday night's championship victory, the bar may have been set higher than we have ever seen before. As a fan of all things motorsports, I can't wait to see what the 2022 racing season brings as long as it involves Kyle Larson.