Kyle Larson dominates Coca-Cola 600 to make Hendrick Motorsports the winningest NASCAR team

·4-min read

Hendrick Motorsports now has the most Cup Series wins of any team in NASCAR history. 

Kyle Larson got the team's 269th win on Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600 to break a tie with Petty Enterprises atop the NASCAR Cup Series win list. Hendrick tied Petty the week before when Chase Elliott won the rain-shortened race at the Circuit of the Americas. 

Larson was absolutely dominant. He led 328 of the race's 400 laps as all four Hendrick cars finished in the top five. Elliott was second, William Byron was fourth and Alex Bowman was fifth. Kyle Busch broke up the Hendrick group in third.

Larson sprinted away at the end and was unchallenged. He won the race by 10 seconds. 

The win is Larson's second of the season. He started on the pole and led 89 laps in the first stage. Sometimes the cars that are the fastest at the beginning of the 600 aren't the fastest at the end. That was not the case on Sunday night. 

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 30: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Metro Tech Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 30, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson now has two wins in 2021. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

While he doesn't lead the points standings, Larson has been the fastest driver in the Cup Series all season in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports. Larson has led the most laps of any driver and has been a threat to win in recent weeks. 

Larson entered Sunday night's race with three consecutive second-place finishes. He was second at Darlington and Dover and then could have won at COTA had the race gone on long enough to force Elliott to make his final stop. 

It's the first season that Larson has been a true championship contender. He always showed flashes of how he could dominate the Cup Series at Chip Ganassi Racing, but the team never seemed to have the equipment capable of keeping up with Larson. 

The team fired Larson in April 2020 after he said the N-word during a virtual race that was broadcast on NASCAR's website. After Larson spent the rest of the season out of NASCAR and won sprint car races across the country, Hendrick picked him up ahead of the 2021 season and gave him the best opportunity of his Cup Series career.

And so far, Larson is showing that he's worthy of it on the track. Each of the four Hendrick cars has won a race in 2021, and all four drivers have a case for making the final eight of the playoffs. But Larson has been the best through the first third of the season. He's the Hendrick driver who looks most like a title threat. 

Two non-stage cautions

While the Indianapolis 500 was compelling with just two cautions earlier in the day, the Coca-Cola 600 tried to match it with a lack of cautions. But thanks in part to Larson and Hendrick's excellence, it was not nearly as compelling.

There were just two cautions outside of stage breaks during Sunday night's race. The first came for Kurt Busch's blown engine and the second was for Ryan Newman's crash after he had a flat tire. No driver had a wreck outside of Newman's incident. 

NASCAR has struggled to produce compelling Cup Series racing at Charlotte in recent years, and Sunday night's race was no exception. Drivers struggled to pass each other and — thanks to NASCAR's love of added downforce and reduced horsepower — off-throttle time was penalized severely. 

The preferred way to make a pass on a driver is to use a lapped car as a pick and that was evident as Busch made a late-race pass of Byron by pinning him behind slower cars. 

With drivers running nearly flat-out every lap, they don't have many opportunities to gain speed on the others. And it's not like they were running close to each other throughout the field either. Just 14 cars finished on the lead lap and the 15th-place finisher was two laps down. 

Race results

1. Kyle Larson

2. Chase Elliott

3. Kyle Busch

4. William Byron

5. Alex Bowman

6. Austin Dillon

7. Denny Hamlin

8. Chris Buescher

9. Tyler Reddick

10. Kevin Harvick

11. Brad Keselowski

12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

13. Ryan Blaney

14. Bubba Wallace

15. Daniel Suarez

16. Erik Jones

17. Joey Logano

18. Matt DiBenedetto

19. Corey LaJoie

20. Michael McDowell

21. Cole Custer

22. Aric Almirola

23. Chase Briscoe

24. Christopher Bell

25. Anthony Alfredo

26. Ryan Preece

27. Ryan Newman

28. Justin Haley

29. Martin Truex Jr.

30. Cody Ware

31. BJ McLeod

32. Quin Houff

33. James Davison

34. Garrett Smithley

35. Josh Bilicki

36. David Starr

37. Ross Chastain

38. Kurt Busch

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