Sunday’s Cup Series finale came with mixed emotions after the checkered flag flew.
There were so many things that came to an end, and with endings come new beginnings.
Sunday marked the last race for Chip Ganassi Racing, whose history in the sport goes back to 1989. It was what could be the last race for Ryan Newman, a former Rookie of the Year and Daytona 500 winner.
It also marked the end of the Generation 6 race car, which will be replaced in 2022 with a new chassis and build specs.
There was also the matter of a championship that was to be decided between the four best drivers of this season. Kyle Larson would start on pole, with his Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott not far behind. Hamlin would start sixth and Truex 12th. It didn’t take long for the cream to start to rise to the top.
It also didn’t take long for the first caution to come out.
Bubba Wallace backed his #23 Camry into the fence after contact with Corey Lajoie on lap seven. Wallace would finish in 39th, a sour end to a somewhat sweet season for the first year team. 23XI racing will add Kurt Busch to its driver lineup next season.
Larson made an early pit stop to change tires. A few laps later, Lajoie spun and made contact with the wall to bring out a caution. By lap 45, Truex found his way to the lead. He held on to the lead until the end of stage one and found himself atop the standings for the time being.
As stage two began, the Championship Four all took their places in the top four positions. It would stay that way until about lap 190 with Larson winning the second stage.
The final stage saw more of the same, but as the race came to its final moments a key piece of NASCAR history would come into play.
Needing a good pit stop at the end of the day, Larson’s #5 crew came through with four tires and fuel in a blistering 11.8 second stop. Even more amazing was the fact that all five lugs in each wheel were secured as well.
The race resumed on lap 289 and the battle came down to Kyle Larson and the hard charging Truex. Truex found his way to the bumper of Larson several times, but could never make his way around him. Larson held on to collect the race win and his first championship.
In his first season with Hendrick Motorsports, Larson won 10 times and had 20 top fives. This was statistically one of the best NASCAR seasons for a first time champion.
Normally we’d give a primer as to who could be our next championship challenger, but with a new race car, new teams, and new faces in new places, 2022 looks to be an exciting season.
Featured photo from @NASCAR on Twitter.