Martinsville Has Been Tough For Larson To Figure Out

5 KYLE LARSON

Age: 28 (July 31, 1992)

Hometown: Elk Grove, California

Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels

Standings: 4th

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No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

LEADER OF THE PACK: Courtesy of a victory (five playoff points) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and three stage wins (one playoff point each) in 2021, Kyle Larson has amassed eight NASCAR Cup Series playoff points – the most accumulated through seven races. The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year also leads the series in laps led (379) and is tied for most wins (one). Larson ranks second in laps run in the top five (845).

CAREER YEAR: Through seven races, Larson has collected three stage wins, five top-10s and has led 379 laps – all career highs for him through seven events to begin a season. He has won an event in the first seven races twice (2017 and 2021). In 2017, he led the Cup Series standings for 11 of 36 races – nearly one-third of the season.

MADDENING MARTINSVILLE: On a track Larson describes as “one of his worst,” the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet has one top-five finish and two top-10s in 12 starts at Martinsville. His best finish of third on the paperclip layout occurred in spring 2016.

WATERED-DOWN TRACK: Last week, Larson and the No. 5 team participated in a NASCAR test with wet-weather Goodyear tires at the .526-mile Martinsville short track. NASCAR’s focus with the test was finding a way to race on smaller tracks under damp conditions.

SMOKEY MOUNTAIN RAIN: In the rain-delayed March 29 event on the dirt track at Bristol Motor Speedway, Larson started at the rear of the field in the 250-lap race due to an engine change but quickly showcased his dirt experience by maneuvering up to fourth in only 52 laps. Unfortunately, he was collected in an incident in turn two on lap 53 and ultimately finished 29th and five laps down due to damage sustained to his No. 5 Chevy.

LIVE 5 CREW: The No. 5 HendrickCars.com pit crew is ranked third in fastest average time for four-tire stops in 2021, posting a 13.77-second average. The team is comprised of front-tire changer Donnie Tasser, rear-tire changer Calvin Teague, tire carrier R.J. Barnette, fueler Brandon Harder and jackman Brandon Johnson.

CLIFF’S NOTES: No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE crew chief Cliff Daniels was atop the pit box for Jimmie Johnson during the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s final full-time season in 2020. In June at Martinsville Speedway, Johnson led 70 laps en route to the Daniels-led team finishing 10th in the 500-lap event. Previously, Daniels was a race engineer for Johnson, who posted nine Martinsville wins in his career.

YOUR CAR NEEDS: This weekend, Larson will again drive the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. From the convenience of home, customers can select the category, make, model and vehicle packages that are important to them from the nearly 30,000 new, high-quality pre-owned and certified cars, trucks and SUVs available at HendrickCars.com. The website also makes it easy for customers to find one of Hendrick Automotive Group’s 93 dealership locations nationwide.

VICTORY-VILLE: In 74 appearances, Hendrick Motorsports has posted 25 points-paying victories at Martinsville Speedway, which is the all-time record for total team wins at any active or inactive NASCAR Cup Series racetrack. Junior Johnson and Associates posted 21 wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 20 at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.

PAPERCLIP PERSPECTIVE: Hendrick Motorsports has posted 265 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victories, just three from tying the team record of 268 held by the legendary Petty Enterprises. The organization’s 25 Martinsville wins alone would rank Hendrick Motorsports 21st on the all-time list. Rex White Racing is 20th with 26 Cup Series wins between 1958 and 1964, two ahead of Dale Earnhardt Inc., which raced from 1996 until 2008 and posted 24 total victories.

CLOCKING WINS: Six drivers have posted at least one Martinsville victory for car owner Rick Hendrick, who grew up two hours from the track in Palmer Springs, Virginia. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each logged nine wins there during their legendary careers. Darrell Waltrip won four times at Martinsville for Hendrick Motorsports, with Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Geoff Bodine each posting a victory.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: On April 29, 1984, Hendrick Motorsports posted its first of 265 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series wins in the team’s first appearance at Martinsville Speedway. The organization also led its first-ever laps (55) that day when Bodine drove the No. 5 Chevrolet to victory lane.

THE BIG SHORT: No active NASCAR Cup Series team has more short-track victories than Hendrick Motorsports. Going into Saturday night’s race at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway, the organization has 51 short-track wins – 10 more than next-best Joe Gibbs Racing.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: In the seven races prior to the NASCAR Cup Series’ annual Easter break, Hendrick Motorsports led nearly 100 laps more than any other team. The organization has led 582 laps in 2021, which is 94 more than second-place JGR.

THE NEXT SIX: Including its 25 victories at Martinsville, Hendrick Motorsports has won a combined 89 races at the next six tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Following Saturday night’s event, the tour visits Richmond (10 Hendrick Motorsports wins), Talladega (13), Kansas (seven), Darlington (14) and Dover (20).

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on Martinsville’s challenges: “Martinsville is probably one of my worst tracks – it’s been the toughest for me to figure out since there are so many challenges there. It’s a different style than what I grew up racing. You’re hard on the brakes and you need to be consistent with that while hitting your marks lap after lap. It’s such a challenge to do all that and keep up with the changing lines throughout the race. Hopefully, someday I can win a Martinsville clock.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on working with Larson at Martinsville’s wet weather tire test last week: “Testing was cool, and it’s always good to have more time with Kyle. It helps our team continue the rhythm we’re in – just being able to cut laps around the place with him in one of our cars is always helpful. NASCAR has some good rain tire options if they choose to use them in the future.”

Daniels on finishing 10th with Jimmie Johnson in 2020: “We led a lot of laps early but didn’t keep up with the track as well as we should have. We were just an adjustment behind. We got up front, we led laps, and we knew the car was fast, but we didn’t want to over-adjust so we made small adjustments. After looking back at our notes, the track really tightened up throughout the race. Our teammates got aggressive with their changes and we were just a step behind.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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