Despite his nine victories, Kyle Larson doesn’t see himself as the favorite

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 04: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, speaks to the media during the 2021 NASCAR Championship 4 Media Day at the Phoenix Convention Center on November 04, 2021 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Sean Gardner)

Unlike all three of his Championship 4 opponents, Kyle Larson has never won a NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway.

In fact, this year’s three other title aspirants collectively have been victorious in three of the last four races at the one-mile track in the Sonoran Desert—Denny Hamlin in the 2019 Playoff race, Chase Elliott in last year’s season finale and Martin Truex Jr. this past spring.

But Larson’s status as a non-winner at Phoenix can hardly be deemed disqualifying when it comes to handicapping the championship race. All of his series-best nine victories this season have come on tracks where he had never won before.

Of greater concern is Larson’s performance on tracks that feature NASCAR’s 750-horsepower competition package. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was seventh at Phoenix in March, fifth and 14th in two Martinsville races, 18th and sixth in two Richmond events and seventh at one-mile New Hampshire.

Those numbers don’t portend well for a championship outcome, and that’s why Larson doesn’t consider himself a clear favorite to win the title.

“I don’t think you can look at any of the four of us and really pick a favorite,” Larson said. “A lot of the races I won this year are the 550 package, high-downforce stuff. You could look at it maybe that’s what would hinder me.

“We’ve been good at the 750 races, too. I think it’s pretty equal. Yeah, I’m excited to compete with these three other guys.”

Greg Engle