Yes, And It’s One Of The Most Interesting Races You’ll Ever See
Racing at its core is a lot like poker; there’s a mix of skill and luck involved and you never know who’s going to come out on top. It turns out, though, that there is an element of luck when it comes to auto racing as well and sometimes it runs very deep. For example, how is it that Kyle Larson managed to get so much better as a driver as the 2018 season went on without any mechanical mishaps? Well, sometimes a team manager has to intervene and give the man in the middle a break. Sometimes, a bad call can make the difference between winning and losing and that’s what happened to Larson and his team – they were in the right place at the right time but things just worked out poorly for them. We’ll get to Larson’s improvement in a minute but first, a little backstory on the 2019 Hudson Speedway race.
An Upset At The Starting Line
The 2019 Hudson Speedway race was one of the most interesting and unpredictable in recent memory. Going into the race, there were a number of people who believed that Danica Patrick’s return to the track after a 10-year hiatus would result in a competitive edge for her – and perhaps even a win for her and her team. One of those people was Kevin Buckhanje, a racing journalist who frequently covers the NASCAR scene.
“There are a lot of drivers that want to beat her because she’s so popular,” Buckhanje said. “They think that everyone is going to tune in to see what she’s doing. I think that she’s going to win the race because I don’t think there is anyone else who is faster than her.”
The problem for Danica was that she had an unprecedented advantage going into the race – the ability to practice and qualify on the same day. All she had to do was show up and perform well enough to qualify for the race which could mean a top five or a top three finish. In other words, her window for victory was huge.
The Return Of The King
With the qualifying results in the books, it looked as though Danica and Richard Petty Motorsports had it won when it came to taking the early lead in the race. That is, until they came to the checker flag in the center of the track. There, they encountered one of the largest gatherings of blue-clad fans you’ll ever see, as well as one of the most intense cheering sections in the sport’s history. And they weren’t there to see Danica win the race. They were there to support Kyle Larson and his bid for a second consecutive championship.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Larson about that moment. “I’ll never forget seeing all those fans in those colors. It was definitely cool to be able to race in front of such a large crowd.”
Larson’s team mate, Jamie McMurray, who had qualified in second place, agreed that it was a unique experience. “I had never seen anything like it,” said McMurray, who finished the race in third place. “They were great seats even if you weren’t running.”
A Record-Breaking Season For Kyle Larson
The previous season, Kyle Larson had a dominant year. He won at least one race and posted a top five finish in every single one of NASCAR‘s top three series – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, the Gander Mountain 500 and the Xfinity Series. One of the biggest surprises of the season came at the end of July when he announced that he would be taking a break from racing for the rest of the year. The break would come as a huge shock to everyone, especially Larson himself. He had never done anything like this before. Going into the 2019 season, there was speculation that he might suffer from burnout or even lose his driving license.
Thankfully, those fears were unfounded. In fact, Larson turned in a phenomenal 2019 season and, at times, was arguably the best driver in the entire sport. He won four times, leading the way to an incredible 10 victories on the year and he also scored a career-high 28 top fives. He also set a new track record at six of the 10 tracks he visited this year. That’s an incredible feat given that he had to qualify on the same day as the race rather than a few days beforehand like in previous years. Not only that but he often had to park his car on the pole in order to make sure he set the tires correctly – what a privilege to be able to do that at a place like Hudson! As if all that wasn’t enough, Larson became just the third-ever driver to capture four championships in a single season. The other two are Richard Petty and Junior Johnson.
An Improving Crew Chief And Pit Crew
One of the main reasons why Larson had such an incredible season is that he has a phenomenal crew chief in Jack Earl. It’s been a tough road for crew chiefs this year and 2019 was no different. The last place Larson would want to be is on the wrong end of a crew chief argument. During the season, he and his crew chief got into a number of disagreements and at one point, Earl even filed a lawsuit against the 24-year-old driver. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the two worked through their issues and Earl won the lawsuit. It’s also worth noting that Larson’s legal team was very helpful in navigating this challenging period and ensuring that Earl’s reputation was protected while the lawsuit was still pending. With Earl at the helm, Larson was able to put in an extremely solid performance year and make the right calls at the right time. That, in turn, allowed him to maximize his ability and, ultimately, win the four titles he was after.
The Talent Is Just Undetected
Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, including the coaching staff and even Larson himself, he wasn’t able to entirely hide his extreme talent this year. Even now, as he prepares for the 2020 season, there are people wondering how long it will take Larson to reach the height of his ability. Just as with poker, it’s a matter of when, not if, Larson will begin dominating the sport once more. The difference is that this time, he’ll be better equipped to do so – both mentally and physically.