Kyle Larson returned to NASCAR last season after being fired for his off-track actions. This season, his decisions and actions on the track may catch up to him sooner rather than later.
A three-day rain delay at the October 2020 playoff race Texas Motor Speedway was all NASCAR needed to break the news that everyone had been waiting for: Kyle Larson was returning to the sport for 2021, signing with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the #5 Chevrolet.
It marked the return of a historic number, coupled with the addition of the hottest free agent by an A-list team. It began the process of building the bridge that Larson had almost burned.
Coming off a NASCAR-issued suspension and a firing by Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson knew there were questions to answer regarding his iRacing incident. He answered those questions in an essay titled “Kyle Larson: My Lessons Learned“.
Once he was back into the Cup Series, he made the most out of his second chance on and off the track. Giving back to the community, learning his lesson, and scoring checkered flags left and right earned him the right to be crowned 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.
But since returning to NASCAR this season as reigning champion, he may find himself answering for his actions on the track.
Larson has been no stranger into taking risks on the race track. His finishes with Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch at Chicagoland Speedway in 2018 and Denny Hamlin at Darlington Raceway last season shows the Elk Grove, California native’s desire to ”send it” at all costs.
But this year has been different, and the intent has seemed different as well. In a non-points race at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Larson ran Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley hard into the inside wall, ruining Haley’s car and day. Just a few weeks later at Auto Club Speedway, he threw a late block on teammate Chase Elliott, claiming it to be an honest mistake.
Then this past Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, the same mistake happened. Coming to the checkered flag, Larson threw a late block into 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch, destroying the Toyotas of Busch and teammate Bubba Wallace in the process. The 23XI Racing duo didn’t comment on it, but team co-owner Hamlin did.
When it’s once or twice, maybe it comes down to simply being a mistake. But the third time is charm for much in life, and now that seems to be the case in NASCAR. It seems as if the trend is starting to catch the attention of drivers and team owners, and it could catch up to Larson sooner rather than later.