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Could Kyle Larson become the greatest NASCAR driver of all time?
Kyle Larson has won 21 races in his NASCAR Cup Series career, 15 of which have come in his last three seasons with Hendrick Motorsports. (Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Could Kyle Larson become the greatest NASCAR driver of all time?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BVM) – Kyle Larson may only be 30 years old, but he has already put together a resume that stacks up with some of the best drivers NASCAR has ever seen. There’s no telling just how far Larson’s career could go, and that became a recent topic of discussion on the “Stacking Pennies” podcast hosted by Corey LaJoie.

Alongside co-hosts Ryan Flores and Chuck Bush, LaJoie brought up a conversation regarding what it would take for Larson to finish his career as NASCAR’s greatest driver of all time. 

“I think five championships, 60 races, it’s a legitimate conversation,” LaJoie said.

“Seven championships, 84-plus wins,” Flores added. 

The guys continued their conversation further by discussing Larson’s potential, and how the rules and regulations of today’s NASCAR Cup Series may limit his ability to catch who they think is currently the sport’s greatest driver of all time: Jimmie Johnson. 

However, they also acknowledged that what fans are seeing from Larson right now is something that is rare, and should be truly enjoyed.

“These are great conversations for right now,” Flores said. “I just appreciate what he’s doing right now in his own time.”

Larson has been on the path to greatness for quite a while. After growing up dirt racing in California, he made his NASCAR Truck Series debut in 2012, earning his first win in 2013. That same year, Larson also made his debut in the Xfinity Series, earning his first win there a year later. The driver also debuted in the Cup Series in 2013 before becoming a full-time driver in the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014.

Despite Larson’s talent, it took him a couple of years to earn his first Cup Series victory which came at the Pure Michigan 400 in 2016. 

Since, there has been no slowing down. In 2017, Larson reached victory lane four times in the No. 42, and would add one more victory for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019.

In 2021, Larson began driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, and had one of the best seasons in Cup Series history, winning an incredible 10 races including the season’s final event at Phoenix Raceway to claim his first Cup Series championship. 

“It was a year that I hope someday I can have another season like that,” Larson said on BVM Sports’ Cup Connection in April. “To win 10 races plus the All-Star race that year, it’s just spectacular.”

While winning just three races in 2022 could be seen as a down year following what he did in 2021, Larson still finished seventh in the points standings.

Now in 2023, he is trying to recapture some of the magic he had two years ago. There have been plenty of ups and downs so far this season for Larson, including a tough 18th-place finish at the Daytona 500 after beginning in second, and some wrecks where he has been taken out of races, most recently by Trackhouse Racing driver Ross Chastain.

Yet, Larson has continued to look like arguably the best driver in the sport more often than not, finding victory lane at both Richmond and Martinsville in April, finishing second earlier this month at Kansas, and winning last weekend’s All-Star race for the third time in five years. 

Off the track, he was also named to NASCAR’s Greatest Drivers List. 

“It means a ton,” Larson said about the honor on Cup Connection. “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.”

As things stand going into the second half of the 2023 NASCAR regular season beginning with the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, Larson has 21 Cup Series victories in addition to his one championship. He has also won 14 times in the Xfinity Series, and three times in the Craftsman Truck Series.

When comparing Larson to the likes of Johnson, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson or Dale Earnhardt Sr., there is no doubt the driver of the No. 5 will have to accomplish a lot to finish his career as part of that elite group. It’s highly unlikely he or anyone ever catches Petty’s 200 career wins, or even Pearson’s 105. Perhaps more attainable is the seven Cup Series championships Petty, Earnhardt Sr. and Johnson have won, but even that will be hard to match.

Yet, if there is a driver in the sport right now that might have any shot at doing so, it very well could be Larson. His 15 Cup Series wins in under three seasons are a number not seen often, and he seemingly gets better with every passing week, and in every race, whether competing in the Truck Series, the Xfinity Series or the Cup Series.

It will be a long time before Larson could be deemed the greatest NASCAR driver of all time, but regardless of what happens, the driver of the No. 5 has put himself on the trajectory to be in the conversation.