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Cody Kluge Cody Kluge BVM Sports Journalist/Editor

Kyle Larson hoping to ‘go on a run’ following Martinsville win

LINCOLN, Ala. (BVM) – Two years ago, Kyle Larson had one of the best seasons NASCAR has ever seen, earning 10 wins to claim the Cup Series championship. Following a three-win season in 2022, Larson is attempting to regain his 2021 form again this year.

Larson has started out strong through the first two months of the Cup Series schedule. Following top-five finishes at Las Vegas and Phoenix in March, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports earned his first victory of the year at Richmond three weeks ago. Last week, Larson got win No. 2 on the season in a tightly-contested short-track race at Martinsville.

Per usual, there were multiple cautions that came out during the back half of the race at the half-mile track, and it was the decisions Larson and his team made during them that ultimately propelled him to victory. The first important call came with just under 100 laps left in the race, as the No. 5 team decided to stay out on the track rather than hitting the pits, allowing Larson to vault into the front row. 

The second key decision came about 50 laps later, as Larson did pit this time, getting two fresh tires that allowed him to take a late lead and earn a relatively dominant 4.142-second win.

“That was one of the important calls,” Larson said during an interview on BVM Sports’ Cup Connection. “That kind of surprised me a little bit, but I was obviously happy about it in the end. We had enough grip on two tires, probably the best grip I had all race, and was able to drive by them guys and stretch away for the win.”

Larson’s second win of the year was also a special one for his team, as it was the 28th victory all-time for Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville Speedway, a track the team has dominated at over the years.

“I feel like they put a lot of emphasis on every single race, so I don’t think that they put any more on Martinsville,” Larson said. “They understand the geometry of the suspension and everything of what it takes to be faster. I think you’ve seen that now throughout so many different generations of racecar, that they’re still super competitive in one of their best tracks, Martinsville.”

The victory was also the 295th all-time for owner Rick Hendrick’s team, putting them just five shy of the prestigious 300-win mark.

“It’s amazing,” Larson said. “Rick, he’s a great person and a great leader, and everybody enjoys working for him, so I think that’s kind of where the success stems from, is just directly from him and his work ethic. Everybody wants to make him proud. I think that shows and the results come with that.”

Just under two years ago, Hendrick Motorsports passed Petty Enterprises to become No. 1 on NASCAR’s all-time wins list as Kyle Larson earned the team’s 269th victory in the 2021 Coca-Cola 600. Now, he hopes he can be the driver to bring Hendrick win No. 300.

“We’re on pace now to definitely get to 300, hopefully here in the next couple of months,” Larson said. “Selfishly, I think all of us would wanna be that guy to get Rick to 300.

“I’m thankful to be a part of such a great organization, get to drive awesome race cars, and get to be part of the legacy that is Hendrick Motorsports.”

While that win is likely to come sooner than later, Larson is dialed in on what he can accomplish at this week’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Although he hasn’t had great success on superspeedways historically, Larson is optimistic he and his No. 5 Chevrolet team can put together a good race on Sunday.

“I’m excited about this weekend,” Larson said. “It’s a great opportunity for everybody to get a win. I think the whole field kind of gets excited about going to Talladega because you feel like you have a shot … I’m energized to get there, because I know if I can make a couple of right decisions, I can position myself in the right spot, and ultimately, at least contend for a win. We’d just love to go there and have a good run.”

While his second win of the season was special, Larson earned an even more prestigious honor earlier last week, being named to NASCAR’s Greatest Drivers list as the sport celebrates its 75th anniversary with the addition of 25 new racers to the original list of 50 that was revealed in 1998.

For the 30-year-old Larson, the honor came as a bit of a surprise considering his age and the fact that he has only competed in the Cup Series for about a decade. However, it’s clear his resume already stacks up with some of the best drivers in the sport.

“It means a ton,” Larson said. “I feel like I’m really early still in my career, and honestly, I was surprised to be a part of that top 75, just because I felt like there’s a lot of others that have done more than I have … I feel like there’s a lot left to accomplish, and being part of a list like that right now feels weird at 30 years old. But it also just shows, I think really, how strong that 2021 season was and where that season kind of ranks in the history of NASCAR.”

It’s the 2021 season that likely earned Larson a spot on the list, and is a year that will never be forgotten by the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet. But now, he is looking to recreate some of that magic and hopes it’ll come throughout the remainder of this year.

“It was a year that I hope someday I can have another season like that,” Larson said. “To win 10 races plus the All-Star race that year, it’s just spectacular. And I feel like our cars are good enough this year, we could maybe go on a run like that.”