What Kyle Larson's Win Means for NASCAR and the 2022 Season
Kyle Larson celebrates his victory at the 2021 NASCAR Championship. (Image via Instagram/@kylelarsonracin)
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What Kyle Larson's Win Means for NASCAR and the 2022 Season

The sport of stock car racing may seem some major changes during the upcoming 2022 season.

The end of a battle, the end of a war, the end of an era. The 2021 NASCAR season reached its conclusion at Phoenix Raceway, and what a four-way duel to the end it was. This season was filled with electric storylines from start to finish, from the back of the field to the front, and from on and off the track. It all came down to the grand finale where the Championship Four drivers of Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliot and Martin Truex Jr. duked it out to decide who would be the Cup Series champion.

The ending of the NASCAR season not only meant crowning a champion for 2021, but it also served as the final installment to the modern form of NASCAR racing. By the time these cars are back on the track, they will be part of NASCAR’s new Next Gen manufacturing and spec. The cars will be drastically different in look and function than anything seen in NASCAR before. Some of the changes include the car using only one lug nut, the numbers being positioned further forward, a five-speed transmission and extremely different sounding engines. NASCAR’s new ideas are unprecedented in its history, and its audiences met them with very polarizing reactions. However, that’s not stopping NASCAR. 2022 will be the first season with the new car, and who knows what excitement or disappointment it’ll bring.

The Champion

Many saw this as the end of an era for the modern stock car that racing fans grew to love. While that may be true, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is also the beginning of a new era in motorsports: The Kyle Larson Era. After 300+ laps around the tricky Phoenix oval and a ferocious battle with three other drivers competing for the championship, “Yung Money” in the #5 Hendrick Motorsports machine came out on top. It’s safe to say that the man who won this year deserved the win. Larson led the most laps in a single season of all time, won the most races out of anybody, secured (by far) the most stage wins and the most top 5s out of the rest of the field. Larson put his picture next to the definition of dominance and produced an absolutely historic season.

Larson’s greatness may seem overstated, but the description of him is underwhelming. Larson, at this point, can only be compared to some of the greatest athletes ever. Nobody in racing has ever reigned so supremely over the sport like Larson. He can only be compared to prime athletes like Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Wayne Gretzky and Floyd Mayweather.

Here are some insane statistics of what he’s accomplished this last year: In 89 races, Larson won 30 races with an average finish of 6.8. This includes 54 top 5s, 68 top 10s and the NASCAR Cup Series championship. These wins came in four different disciplines of racing and include some of the most historic events in motorsports. According to Twitter account @Walkapedia, Larson was the winner of the Chili Bowl and Bryan Clauson Memorial in a USAC Midget, the winner of the King’s Royal and Knoxville Nationals in a Sprint Car, the winner of the Prairie Dirt Classic in a Late Model and the winner of the All-Star race and Coke 600 in NASCAR. No one has ever achieved anything like this, and motorsports fans should enjoy the ride. A new talent is here, and he will change the world of racing.

New Changes to the Sport of Racing

Besides Larson’s ascension into legendary status, there are plenty of other things to take away from the 2021 season and even more to look forward to in 2022. Denny Hamlin also finished a tremendous season with a level of never-before-seen consistency. Throughout the entire 2021 season, Hamlin only missed a grand total of four laps out of 9,200. In a world where Larson didn’t exist, Hamlin would’ve established his season as one of the greatest ever. Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliot also proved to be formidable opponents as always, showing the excitement and level of intensity drivers of the sport will have for years to come.

The sport of NASCAR is changing, and everyone can see that. With new cars, the constant altering of the playoff format and the product of NASCAR itself being reduced to lucky rich kids, a bad taste got left in the mouths of fans these past few years. However, I believe that’s changing. More road courses and short tracks are being added to the schedule. New teams are evolving and growing, and the Next Gen car will help equalize the playing field. On top of that, Larson just proved to everybody in NASCAR that talent trumps any amount of sponsorship money somebody can bring to the table. The tone is shifting, revealing that it’s the drivers who carry the sport. They are the product, and they should be some of the greatest drivers in the world.

While the 2022 season will be full of surprises, it will also be filled with hope. The changes coming may seem scary, but the sport needs to change. Hopefully, NASCAR sees all the positive things fans took from this year. We want high horsepower, more hard racing, and most of all: We want the best drivers in the world to race every Sunday. We don’t want trust fund babies representing the sport. Motorsports must transcend and become like other professional sports. No amount of money will get you into the NFL, NBA or MLB, so it shouldn’t get you into NASCAR.

Kyle Larson single-handedly proved to the world that nothing can compare to pure ability and talent. That will be his greatest impact. Hopefully, the future is as bright as champions like him make it seem.

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Daniel Buccafusca

East Stroudsburg University
Psychology & English (Creative Writing)

A versatile creative and professional racecar driver looking to be the best person I can be.

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