With a driver as young and talented as Kyle Larson, it was just a matter of time until he won again.
But let’s not forget what comes with that victory Sunday at Dover: a spot in the Round of Eight, and an ultra-valuable five extra playoff points to help him compete for a spot in the Championship Four.
If Larson can get to the Championship Four, it’s a winner-take-all (or best finish takes all) battle between those four drivers at a track where Larson has shown his prowess. In 2016, he finished second, leading nearly half the laps. In 2017, he led more than half the laps and finished third.
However, that Dover win might’ve been best for Larson’s psyche. Next week we’re at Talladega, where not much separates a top-five finish from a sub-30th finish. Dover is far less volatile than Talladega, and look what happened to Joey Logano (entered fourth in points, left tied for eighth) and Chase Elliott (sixth to 11th).
For now, however, let’s take a look at some of the numbers surrounding Larson’s victory.
Second to none
Larson’s previous victory came in September 2017 at Richmond. Between that victory and Sunday, he finished second on nine occasions, including six times last season.
That set a Cup Series record for the most runner-up finishes between victories. The previous record of eight was done five times:
• Kevin Harvick (all in 2015)
• Jeff Gordon (from 2009-11)
• Jeremy Mayfield (2000-04)
• Bobby Allison (1970)
• Bobby Isaac (1968)
That 75-race winless streak between victories might seem like quite a wait, but it’s nothing compared to Alex Bowman, who picked up his first career win in his 133rd start earlier this season. Aric Almirola went 149 races between victories, snapping the drought last year in the playoff race at Talladega.
Late to the party
Larson picked up his first win of the season in the 30th race, but recent history shows that we’re probably not done with drivers getting the first victory of the season.
In the previous 10 seasons (2009-18), eight times a driver has picked up his premiere victory of the year in the 31st race or later. In 2018, it was the aforementioned Almirola win; it was Matt Kenseth in 2017.
Or maybe this will be closer to 2013, when the final six races had four drivers get their first victory of the season.
There are still three playoff drivers who haven’t won yet this year who could pull off the same feat that Larson did: Clint Bowyer, William Byron and Ryan Blaney.
Hitting the century mark
It’s been a big year for centennial races. Sunday’s race at Dover was the 100th in the track’s history, as the Monster Mile became the 10th track in series history to host 100-plus points races.
Unbelievably, three of those have taken place this season, along with Larson and Dover, there was Joey Logano winning at Michigan and Chase Elliott at Talladega.
No driver has multiple wins in the 100th race at a track. The others to win a track’s 100th: Kyle Busch (Bristol), Kurt Busch (Atlanta), Jeff Burton (Charlotte), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Richmond), Jimmie Johnson (Darlington), Ricky Rudd (Martinsville) and Jeff Gordon (Daytona).
It’ll be a while before anybody has another chance. Besides the tracks above, the active track with most races hosted is Pocono, at 84. If the Tricky Triangle keeps hosting two races a year, we’ll get the 100th race in track history in 2027.