Larson drove the No. 5 Chevrolet to victory lane at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, the 17th anniversary of a Hendrick plane crash that killed all 10 people aboard. The plane was traveling to a race in Virginia and among those killed was Rick Hendrick’s only son.
Ricky Hendrick used the No. 5 during his driving career and the 24-year-old was the heir apparent of NASCAR’s winningest team at the time of his death. Larson’s car is stylized to resemble Ricky Hendrick’s scheme, and hours before Sunday’s race, team owner Hendrick texted Larson to stress what a win would mean to him on this date.
“I didn’t ever get to meet Ricky or the other men and women who lost their lives that day,” Larson said. “But I felt the importance of this race. So crazy how it all worked out for me to win. So again, thank you to Rick Hendrick, I know this means a lot to you and I’m glad I could get it done.”
The victory was Larson’s third consecutive and fourth win over the last six playoff races. Larson has now won three-straight races twice this season and is the first driver to do that since the late Dale Earnhardt in 1987.
Larson is locked into the Nov. 7 championship finale, and the remaining three spots in the winner-take-all title race will be settled next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia — where the Hendrick flight was headed on that 2004 race morning.
Larson beat reigning Cup champion and Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott by 3.619-seconds for the win. The Hendrick cars have been far and above the strongest on tracks in which NASCAR uses its 550 horsepower package, but Kansas marked the final race of the season with those rules.
Kevin Harvick finished third in a Ford and there was no chance of another incident with Elliott since NASCAR two weeks ago demanded the two end their feud.
Kurt Busch was fourth and followed by Denny Hamlin, the highest-finishing Toyota driver.
It was a terrible day for Team Penske despite Joey Logano’s ninth-place finish. Brad Keselowski finished 17th and Ryan Blaney was wrecked on a late restart and finished 37th.
All three Fords from the Penske camp go to Martinsville below the playoff elimination cutline. Martin Truex Jr. is also below the cutline.
UP NEXT: The penultimate race of the season, at Martinsville Speedway, where the final three spots in the championship finale will be decided. Elliott is the defending race winner; Truex won at Martinsville in the spring.