Kyle Larson Overcame a Terrible 2020 and Has Become an Unexpected Issue for Rick Hendrick in 2021
A year ago, Kyle Larson was on the outside looking in, completely out of the NASCAR Cup Series and racing on short tracks across the nation after being indefinitely suspended for using a racial slur. Now, Larson is unquestionably the best driver in the sport and dominating on a weekly basis, winning the last four races, including the All-Star Race at Texas.
Interestingly, Larson’s success has created an unexpected issue for Rick Hendrick. And according to the Hendrick Motorsports top man, the good problem is allowing him to rake in the cash from his own car dealerships around the country.
Kyle Larson is the best Cup Series driver in 2021
Prior to the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Kyle Larson had a total of six career wins, four of them coming in 2017. This season, less than halfway through the schedule and Larson has already amassed five wins. Incredibly, it could be a lot more.
Larson has had a realistic chance to win on at least four occasions where he’s finished second. Two other times, he’s finished in the top 5.
While the 28-year-old has been a force to be reckoned with all season, his run during the last seven weeks has been at historic levels. Since his 19th-place finish at Kansas in early May, Larson finished runner-up in three consecutive races and has improved on that by winning the last four races at Charlotte, Sonoma, the All-Star race at Texas, and Nashville.
Kyle Larson has become an unexpected issue for Hendrick
Rick Hendrick hasn’t been a successful businessman and team owner by accident. He thoroughly vetted Kyle Larson before hiring him for the 2021 campaign. Despite his confidence in Larson’s character, not to mention his ability, Hendrick also knew full well that it would be a tough sale getting sponsors for Larson after what happened last year.
While Hendrick had a pair of existing partners willing to sponsor a couple of races early in the season, big-name companies weren’t beating down Hendrick’s door to sponsor Larson. As a result, he opted to go with hendrickcars.com, and promote Hendrick Automotive and his 93 dealerships in 13 states — the largest privately held dealership group in the nation.
With Larson’s increasing success on a weekly basis, sponsors are now clamoring to be on the No. 5 Chevrolet, knowing that there’s not only a good chance it will make it to victory lane, but at a minimum, will get plenty of TV time with Larson staying somewhere near the front.
And that’s where it’s become an issue. Not surprisingly, the Hendrick dealerships want to remain as the primary sponsor after seeing a dramatic increase in website traffic of 124 percent since the Daytona 500.
“My guys don’t want to take ‘Hendrick’ off the car. All the dealerships, they’ve got all kinds of promotions,” Hendrick told the Associated Press. “I keep jacking the price up to the automotive group, and they haven’t said no yet.”
Incredibly successful outside of NASCAR
While Larson has been the dominant driver throughout the Cup Series this year, unbelievably, he hasn’t stopped there. After the Cup event each weekend, Larson is typically found racing three more times during the week at a variety of tracks across the nation.
After winning the All-Star Race at Texas, Larson made his way to Ohio, where he won the All-Stars Circuit of Champions 410 Sprint Car race at Waynesfield Raceway Park. He then proceeded to win at Nashville last weekend. That victory pushed Larson’s win total to 13 in 42 starts across NASCAR, Sprint Cars, Midgets and Late Models since January 1.
Kyle Larson’s ascension to the top of the racing world this year has been nothing short of remarkable. And Rick Hendrick looks like a genius for taking a chance on Larson who has rewarded the team owner with wins and an increasing flow of cash into his bank account.
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