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Kyle Larson Wins NASCAR at Phoenix to Take 2021 Cup Series Championship

Erin WalshNovember 8, 2021

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

The NASCAR Cup Series season has come to an end, with Kyle Larson being named the champion at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona on Sunday afternoon. 

Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. entered the race with a chance to be crowned 2021 champion. Larson's best finish at Phoenix before Sunday's race was second, while Truex, Elliott and Hamlin each had Cup Series wins at the track. 

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

'<a href="https://twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KyleLarsonRacin</a> is the 2021 <a href="https://twitter.com/NASCAR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NASCAR</a> Cup Series CHAMPION! πŸ† <a href="https://t.co/vZSLfgtc4R">pic.twitter.com/vZSLfgtc4R</a>


Cup Series Championship Results

1. Kyle Larson

2. Martin Truex Jr. 

3. Denny Hamlin

4. Ryan Blaney 

5. Chase Elliott

6. Aric Almirola

7. Kyle Busch 

8. Kevin Harvick

9. Christopher Bell

10. Brad Keselowski

NASCAR @NASCAR

A win he’ll never forget!<a href="https://twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KyleLarsonRacin</a> is the CHAMPION in 2021! <a href="https://t.co/ZnPnjZ5QXw">pic.twitter.com/ZnPnjZ5QXw</a>

NASCAR @NASCAR

You live for winning moments like this. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Championship4?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Championship4</a> <a href="https://t.co/63Ih81w8ax">pic.twitter.com/63Ih81w8ax</a>

NASCAR @NASCAR

This TEAM won today! <a href="https://twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KyleLarsonRacin</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamHendrick?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamHendrick</a> <a href="https://t.co/SU2i0o6JdD">pic.twitter.com/SU2i0o6JdD</a>

Larson was dominant throughout the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series, with Sunday's win marking his 10th Cup Series win this season. He is the first Asian American to win the Cup Series title. 

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

It's been the year of Kyle Larson in every way.<br><br>10 Cup Series race wins. All-Star Race. Chili Bowl. Knoxville Nationals. Kings Royal.<br><br>And to cap it all, he's now the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Rob Tiongson @RobTiongson

What a season for our newest champion <a href="https://twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KyleLarsonRacin</a>! First Asian American stock car driver to win the Cup title! Congratulations to <a href="https://twitter.com/Hendrick5Team?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Hendrick5Team</a> and Larson.<br><br>Photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/TheLTFiles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheLTFiles</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/ThePodiumFinish?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ThePodiumFinish</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Championship4?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Championship4</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CupFinale?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CupFinale</a> <a href="https://t.co/zC13vqPzvd">pic.twitter.com/zC13vqPzvd</a>

Larson's championship comes one year after he used a racial slur while participating in a virtual iRacing event amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He was dropped by Chip Ganassi Racing and suspended from NASCAR before being reinstated in October 2020

The 29-year-old, who now races for Hendrick Motorsports, led over 2,500 laps in 2021, while no other driver led more than 1,600.


Highlights and Reaction

Truex won the first stage at Phoenix, with Kevin Harvick, Elliott, Hamlin and Larson finishing in the top five. However, the first 75 laps didn't lack drama as Bubba Wallace was knocked out of the race early after crashing into the wall on a hit from Corey LaJoie.

NASCAR @NASCAR

Ohhh nooo. <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyLaJoie?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CoreyLaJoie</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/BubbaWallace?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BubbaWallace</a> <a href="https://t.co/QLEwsFl2HJ">pic.twitter.com/QLEwsFl2HJ</a>

NASCAR @NASCAR

.... and there's the response. <a href="https://t.co/uYI46I8ELm">pic.twitter.com/uYI46I8ELm</a>

NASCAR @NASCAR

This is not how you want to start your day. <a href="https://t.co/7x7yIH2P3v">pic.twitter.com/7x7yIH2P3v</a>

The caution flag came back out again just four laps after Wallace was ruled out of the race as LaJoie and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bumped into each other.

NASCAR @NASCAR

more things are happening <a href="https://twitter.com/StenhouseJr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@StenhouseJr</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyLaJoie?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CoreyLaJoie</a> <a href="https://t.co/emrvcBvCpj">pic.twitter.com/emrvcBvCpj</a>

Things remained relatively calm until caution flags came out again for a crash involving Quin Houff, who hit the wall in front of Hamlin, on Lap 54 of Stage 2. 

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

Quin Houff crashes right in front of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Championship4?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Championship4</a> driver Denny Hamlin.<br><br>For the <a href="https://twitter.com/StarcomRacing?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@StarcomRacing</a> team, this is it as the team charter has been sold. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NASCAR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NASCAR</a> <a href="https://t.co/keaverdYJC">pic.twitter.com/keaverdYJC</a>

All the leaders took the caution to the pit. Shortly after the race restarted, drivers were placed under caution again as Stenhouse lost his front-left tire and hit the wall, which ended his afternoon. 

Ten minutes after Stenhouse crashed, Chase Briscoe got a flat tire and hit the wall hard, ending his rookie season early. 

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

A hard hit ends <a href="https://twitter.com/ChaseBriscoe_14?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ChaseBriscoe_14</a>'s rookie season early.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NASCAR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NASCAR</a> x NBC x <a href="https://twitter.com/peacockTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PeacockTV</a> <a href="https://t.co/szfMWS8F4o">pic.twitter.com/szfMWS8F4o</a>

The crashes benefitted Larson as he claimed Stage 2, with Elliott, Hamlin, Truex and Blaney rounding out the top five.

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

'<a href="https://twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KyleLarsonRacin</a> takes Stage 2 at <a href="https://twitter.com/phoenixraceway?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@phoenixraceway</a>!<br><br>The final laps of the <a href="https://twitter.com/NASCAR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NASCAR</a> season to crown a champion, NOW on <a href="https://twitter.com/nbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBC</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/peacockTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@peacockTV</a>: <a href="https://t.co/7NW8hhZFP9">https://t.co/7NW8hhZFP9</a> <a href="https://t.co/LCybEDtkfO">pic.twitter.com/LCybEDtkfO</a>

Larson led as the final stage got underway. However, Elliott made things interesting, passing him with just 76 laps to go in the race. 

NBC Sports @NBCSports

The defending <a href="https://twitter.com/NASCAR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NASCAR</a> champion takes the lead back! Now less than 75 to go for Chase Elliott to go back-to-back!<br><br>TV: NBC<a href="https://twitter.com/peacockTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PeacockTV</a>: <a href="https://t.co/vO5PTjQSRI">https://t.co/vO5PTjQSRI</a> <a href="https://t.co/rWBu50Mdq7">pic.twitter.com/rWBu50Mdq7</a>

Shortly after Elliott took the lead, the caution flag came out again as Anthony Alfredo blew his right tire and hit the wall.

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

That is a nasty crash for Anthony Alfredo, and a huge break for Martin Truex Jr.! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Championship4?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Championship4</a> <a href="https://t.co/YCmrW9zOdS">pic.twitter.com/YCmrW9zOdS</a>

Truex and Hamlin led the pack coming out of the pit after Alfredo's crash as Larson put himself in a rough spot, more than four seconds behind Truex for first.

Luckily for Larson, a caution came out again late in the race and the Championship 4 drivers decided to pit, a pivotal moment for the No. 5 Chevrolet driver. The California native gained a whopping three spots on pit road to take the lead with 24 laps to go, and he never gave it up. 

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

KYLE LARSON WINS THE RACE OFF PIT ROAD! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Championship4?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Championship4</a><br><br>The sprint to the <a href="https://twitter.com/NASCAR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NASCAR</a> Cup Series championship is NOW on <a href="https://twitter.com/nbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBC</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/peacockTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PeacockTV</a>: <a href="https://t.co/7NW8hhZFP9">https://t.co/7NW8hhZFP9</a> <a href="https://t.co/EQqtSzCzNK">pic.twitter.com/EQqtSzCzNK</a>

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

Kyle Larson: NASCAR Champion. <a href="https://t.co/UJVImkw24D">pic.twitter.com/UJVImkw24D</a>

This championship is Larson's first at the national series level. However, he has a 2012 title from the K&N Pro Series East. He also has 12 wins in 108 career Xfinity Series starts. 

Elliott, who finished fifth, missed out on being the first repeat champion since Jimmie Johnson.   

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