Commentary

OBSERVATIONS: NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway

By: Ashley McCubbin

For the longest time, we have watched Kyle Larson be victorious behind the wheel of a midget, sprint car, and anything else he has driven. However, the question kept remaining when he would break out as a NASCAR star.

Ladies and Gentleman, that happened in 2021 and has ended in a big way with him capturing the NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

Larson asserted his dominance all season long, scoring 10 victories (11 if you count the All-Star event), and becoming a threat to win weekly. The performance he put together at Phoenix Raceway, though, was a culmination of everything.

As he showed there in the spring, despite a pit-road speeding penalty, there was speed in the No. 5 Chevrolet. He proved it by qualifying on the pole, and running up front all race long. Despite fading back midway due to not having the best long-run car, it was a combination of driver and pit crew when it mattered. They were able to get him out first into the lead, where he utilized the short run speed to drive away when it mattered.

Everything falling into place, performing when it mattered is what handed them the championship. It’s the type of day that dreams are made of, right?

If the late-race caution had not come out, it may have been Joe Gibbs Racing celebrating instead. Denny Hamlin was closing the gap and putting down the best times, while Martin Truex Jr. had a car that would come in after 20 laps. Though with late-race cautions having becoming the norm this year through the playoffs, it should have been in your preparation kit.

Elliott also showed speed, though ultimately saw the handle on the No. 9 go away in the last stage, combined with contact with the outside wall. It was the same thing that hurt him a week ago at Martinsville Speedway, and something that should be the focus this off-season.

When you come into these events, you want to see a fair race across the board, all the contenders up front, and battling to outsmart each other.  Phoenix Raceway delivered that. They also had cars able to pass through the run, thanks to the resin and the dog-log. We may not have gotten the theatrics of the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but it was still the perfect crowning on the season.

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