By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor
Looking at Kyle Larson’s career statistics, you see a lot of “buts”…
16 times in his career, he has led over 100 laps … BUT only won three of those races.
Larson has 32 times in his career finished in the top two … BUT only seven of those were victories.
Larson has led more laps this season than any other driver (774) and is second in top-five finishes only to points leader Denny Hamlin … BUT still only has one victory to show for it.
The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was once again dominant on Sunday at Dover International Speedway, leading 263 of the 400 laps … BUT finished runner-up to teammate Alex Bowman.
It looked like Larson was going to easily cruise to his eighth career victory in the Drydene 400, but Bowman’s No. 48 pit crew got him out ahead of Larson on what would be the final pitstop of the day. And with Bowman now having the advantage of clean air, Larson was never able to get back by him, despite being far and away the best car in the race up to that point.
No one could blame Larson for being frustrated after once again coming up short in a race that was his to lose, but instead the 28-year-old driver took it in stride.
“I honestly don’t know if there was anything I could have done differently to win the race after we came out second on pit road,” Larson said after the race. “I would choose the top behind him, get to second every time. Maybe I could have chose the bottom on restart, but I still don’t think I would have stayed with him till he was inside or anything like that.
“I feel like we maximized our day,” he continued. “We were all so equal. I think any of the four of us could have been out in the lead. That person probably would have won. … Their pit crew did an awesome job. Our pit crew has been amazing all year, too. Like I said, I’m not disappointed or upset about this second because I feel like there wasn’t anything else I could do.”
Kyle Larson says he's not disappointed nor upset with his second-place finish at Dover: pic.twitter.com/uyytF95g62
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) May 16, 2021
Larson’s second-place run to Bowman was part of a 1-2-3-4 finish for Hendrick Motorsports, with Chase Elliott finishing third in the No. 9 car and William Byron running fourth in the No. 24, only the third time in history a single organization has swept the top four positions.
HMS combined to lead all but 18 of the race’s 400 laps.
However, Larson said he wasn’t necessarily racing Bowman differently, even though they are teammates.
“I was really aggressive that one where I got to his bumper, pushed him through the middle of one and two, then again in the middle of three and four,” said Larson. “At that point I didn’t really care it was a teammate in front of me or not. I wasn’t going to push him any harder than I was there because I already had him pretty sideways. Same would have went for anybody else. I’m not going to try and wreck anybody.”
Though you could argue Larson hasn’t fully lived up to his potential given the number of times he could have and arguably should have gone to victory lane, there are many other teams and drivers out there who would love to have those stats and run the kind of races that Larson and his No. 5 team has been running.
In fact, Larson acknowledges that, while he would much rather have more victories, having good runs and earning points towards the Playoffs and championship could certainly pay dividends down the road.
“Winning the two stages, getting those couple points for the Playoffs is obviously really important,” said Larson. “Obviously we would have wanted five more with the win, but we’ll take what we can get and keep stacking ’em up as often as we can, just try and position ourselves to be in a good spot come Playoff time.”
For the 14th race of the season, the NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the Echopark Texas Grand Prix, the first time NASCAR will ever race on this track. Road courses are statistically some of Larson’s worst tracks, with only three top-10 finishes in 15 career starts.
The race can be seen on Sunday, May 23rd at 2:30PM ET on FS1.
Photo Credit: NKP