NorCal Racing

It was a long time coming for Kyle Larson

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Kyle Larson’s win drought may not have been the longest in the NASCAR Cup Series, but his sixth career victory was a long time coming.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson took the checkered flag at Dover International Speedway to open up the round of 12 of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with a victory in the Drydene 400.

This victory was the sixth victory of Larson’s career, but it was his first since he won the 2017 regular season finale at Richmond Raceway more than two years ago.

Larson’s 75-race win drought may not have been the longest win drought in the Cup Series. In fact, it wasn’t even as long as that of Jimmie Johnson, one of only three seven-time champions the Cup Series has ever seen, and it wasn’t even the longest win drought of his own career.

But in the case of the 27-year-old Elk Grove, California native, this victory was a long time coming.

Since securing his fifth career victory at Richmond Raceway back on Saturday, September 9, 2017, Larson had gained a reputation as somewhat of a choker.

He finished in second place nine times, third seven times, fourth twice and fifth four times.

Any other driver might take these statistics over the course of 75 races over the course of hesitation.

But “any other driver” may have accrued several victories during this span as opposed to 22 top five finishes without one. Unfortunately for Larson, he failed to capitalized on several great opportunities during these two-plus years.

Last April, he led a race-high 200 laps of the 500-lap race at Bristol Motor Speedway. But he was passed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch late in the race after Busch moved him out of the way, and he was unable to pass him back.

The following month, he started in last place in the 267-lap race at Kansas Speedway, and he rebounded to lead a race-high 101 laps. But late in the race, he made contact with Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, causing damage to his #42 Chevrolet. He rebounded, but only to finish in fourth.

At Chicagoland Speedway in July of 2018, it was another top two Kyle sweep. Larson took the lead away from Busch when they made contact on the final lap after Busch had led 58 laps of the 267-lap race. But Busch then retaliated, sending Larson spinning. He recovered, but only to finish in second place behind the other Kyle.

The race at Darlington Raceway in September of 2018 provided one of the most dominant performances of the season, and it was turned in by Larson. He led 284 of the race’s 367 laps, but a slow final pit stop during the race’s final caution flag period and poor execution on the ensuing restart relegated him to a third place finish.

The inaugural race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval later in the month provided another dominant performance by Larson. But after leading 47 laps, he crashed late in the 109-lap race and nearly missed out on advancing to the round of 12 because of it.

Larson led 45 of the first 163 laps of the 267-lap season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one of his best tracks due to his prowess on the high line. But after hitting the wall on lap 199, he was only able to climb back up to 13th place.

This season in the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February, Larson was dominant, leading 142 of the 325-lap race’s first 223 laps. But his failure to recover from a pit road speeding penalty resulted in him finishing in 12th place.

Chicagoland Speedway history nearly repeated itself in late June. Larson ran down Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman, who was searching for his first Cup Series victory, and took the lead late. But instead of pulling away from Bowman, he was quickly reeled in by Bowman, and Bowman ended up retaking the lead and going on to win ahead of Larson in second place.

Then at Dover International Speedway…

…Larson actually won.

And he couldn’t have done so at a more opportune time.

His victory is his first career playoff victory, and he is slated to advance to the round of 8 for the first time in his career as a result of it. Additionally, he is the first Chip Ganassi Racing driver to ever advance past the round of 12.

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Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff victory at the Monster Mile was a long time coming. Now that he has the monkey off his back, can Larson add to his win total throughout the remainder of the playoffs, and perhaps even capture his first career championship just a few weeks after finally shedding the “choker” moniker?



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