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Kyle Larson wins the NASCAR Cup Series championship

Kyle Larson celebrates winning the NASCAR Cup Series championship with his son Owen. (Ivan Veldhuizen photo)

AVONDALE, Arizona – A year after being out for most of the NASCAR season, Kyle Larson was crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Larson won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship, securing his first series championship behind the wheel of HendrickCars.com’s No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. It’s Hendrick Motorsports 15th NASCAR Cup Series championship.

“I can’t believe it. I wouldn’t even have thought I’d be driving a Cup car a year and a half ago,” said Larson, who was banned from NASCAR for most of last season and fired from Chip Ganassi Racing after he had used a racial slur during a race at iRacing event. “Winning a championship is insane.”

The 29-year-old native of Elk Grove, California, was the favorite for the championship in Sunday’s finals and lived up to the hype. He started from pole and led the first lap, but struggled through the first stage and part of the second before his team, led by Cliff Daniels, made the right adjustments to his race car.

He led the final 29 laps of the second stage and started first at the start of the second stage, but it was a late warning and a pit stop that led him to the Cup series title.

A warning with 65 laps left just as Larson’s championship rival Martin Truex Jr. pitted allowed Truex to jump to the top of the race while Larson had a poor pit stop and dropped to fourth on the track.

However, another precaution with 30 laps remaining due to debris from David Starr’s car set the final lap of pit stops. Larson entered the pit lane in fourth, but a lightning-fast pit stop by Larson’s crew got him off the pit lane first.

Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup Series championship on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.  (Sean Gardner / Getty Images Photo)Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup Series championship on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. (Sean Gardner / Getty Images Photo)

Larson held the lead during the restart that followed and despite Truex’s best efforts in the final laps, Larson crossed the finish line first to win the race and the championship.

“Thanks to Rick Hendrick, HendrickCars.com, Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, every single one of my supporters in the stands watching at home, my family, I have so many of my family and friends here,” said Larson. “There were so many points in this race that I didn’t think we’d win. Without my pit crew at the last stop, we wouldn’t be here. “

Larson’s first championship in the NASCAR Cup Series is in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports and in his seventh full season at NASCAR’s highest level. He achieved 10 wins, 20 top five and 26 top 10 placements. He won four of the last five races that year as well as the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.

He is the 35th driver to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship in 72 seasons.

The NASCAR Cup Series championship is the newest award for Larson this year, the 60th) Speedway and the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa, Okla. Expo Raceway.

Truex finished the day second in the championship standings while Denny Hamlin finished third in the race and the championship. Chase Elliott, who started the race as the reigning champion of the NASCAR Cup Series, lost to fifth place on the checkered flag and ended the year fourth overall.

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