NASCAR's Kyle Larson led 107 of 312 laps to win the 2021 Cup Series Championship on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Photo by Zach Catanzareti Photo/Wikimedia Commons
Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Kyle Larson's blue No. 5 Chevrolet crossed the finish line first Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, clinching the 2021 Cup Series Championship in NASCAR's season finale.
"I had a pressure, but there were so many points in this race I didn't think I would win," Larson told NBC. "Without my pit crew on that last stop, I wouldn't be standing here.
"They are the true champions."
Larson's win capped one of the most-dominant season's in Cup Series history. His 10 victories in 2021 are the most since Jimmie Johnson won 10 races in 2007.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second, followed by Denny Hamlin. Fellow Championship 4 driver Chase Elliott finished fifth. The race featured 18 lead changes among seven drivers.
Larson led a race-high 107 of 312 laps on the one mile, D-shaped oval. Elliott, the defending champion, led for 94 laps. Truex led for 72 laps. Hamlin never led.
"I thought our team did a really good job preparing this week," Elliott said. "I thought we had a really good car and did a lot of things we wanted to do, but it just didn't work out."
Ryan Blaney, who finished fourth, led for 33 laps. Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch also led through various segments.
Truex Jr. won Stage 1 and Larson won Stage 2.
Larson used a quick pit stop on the race's final caution to move from fourth to first place. He edged Hamlin and Truex on the restart with 24 laps remaining.
"Congratulations to Larson and his team," Hamlin told NBC. "Anytime you can win 10 races in a year you are absolutely a deserving champion."
Larson's championship comes more than a year after he used a racial slur while competing in an iRacing event in April 2020.
He was suspended from NASCAR due to the incident and lost his job at Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson, 29, was reinstated in October 2020 and joined Hendrick Motorsports that same month and debuted for his new team this season.
"I cannot believe it," Larson said. "I didn't even think I'd be racing a Cup car a year and a half ago and to win a championship is crazy."
Larson's five playoff wins tied Tony Stewart's record from 2011 for the most in NASCAR history through a single playoff run.