The win was the 23rd of Larson’s NASCAR Cup Series career and the fourth of his 2023 season, and Las Vegas became the fifth track where he’s recorded more than one win.
The other four? A mixture of 2-mile ovals (Auto Club Speedway and Michigan International Speedway), a short track (Richmond Raceway) and a road course (Watkins Glen International). Between these types of tracks, Larson has recorded 13 of the 23 wins in his Cup career.
Intermediate tracks – used in this column to denote tracks between 1- and 1.5 miles in length – have been Larson’s bread and butter since joining the Cup Series. He’s run well on them and finished well on them, but winning has often eluded him.
On paper, that sounds like a ridiculous statement. He now has 10 Cup wins on intermediate tracks, and nine of them have come since he joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2021.
And make no mistake, 10 wins is nothing to scoff at; it’s just that a deep dive into his career statistics shows that he has been in contention to win many, many more.
|Track||Length||Starts||Wins||Laps Led||Most Laps Led||2nd-Place Finishes|
Larson’s 10 intermediate wins have come in 159 career starts. What has also come in his 159 starts are 24 runner-up finishes, 62 top-five finishes, 5,263 laps led and 22 races where he led the most laps.
To put all those numbers into better context: Larson’s wins on intermediates combine for 43.5% (10/23) of his career total.
- 43.5% (10/23) of Larson’s wins have come on intermediates.
- 48.5% (159/328) of Larson’s starts have come on intermediates.
- 70.5% (5,263/7,460) of Larson’s laps led have come on intermediates.
- 60.2% (62/103) of Larson’s career top-five finishes have come on intermediates.
- 68.8% (22/32) of the races where Larson led the most laps have come on intermediates.
- 70.6% (24/34) of Larson’s runner-up finishes have come on intermediates.
- Larson has more runner-up finishes on intermediates (24) than he has wins in his entire career (23).
If there’s one thing to take away from the above list, it’s domination. Absolute domination. Domination to where 10 wins doesn’t do justice to how much of a force Larson has been on intermediate tracks in his entire Cup career.
It’s also a rare sight to see Larson come away with an intermediate win without leading the most laps, as he’s only accomplished the feat twice: Dover Motor Speedway in October 2019, where he led 154 of the 400 (Denny Hamlin led 218), and this year’s Southern 500, where he led 55 of the 367.
The rest of Larson’s intermediate wins have come in races where he led the most laps, of which he is 8-for-22 (36.4%) in sealing the deal with a win.
|March 2021||Las Vegas||103/267||38.6||Win|
|Oct. 2023||Las Vegas||133/267||49.8||Win|
History shows that when Larson has the dominant car, he will more than likely finish up front, win or lose. Alongside the eight wins, Larson has finished between second and fourth in 11 other races where he led the most laps.
What’s also important to note, is that when leading the most laps on an intermediate track, Larson was 1-for-11 in winning the race to start out his career. The lone win was his first victory at Vegas – and his first at Hendrick – in March 2021. Among the losses were the 2018 Southern 500 and the 2021 Atlanta Motor Speedway 500-miler, where Larson led more than 75% of the race only to come home empty both times.
After a career of dominant performances and near misses, Larson put the perfect race together in a 2021 Coca-Cola 600 that saw him lead north of 300 laps.
And that’s all it took for the floodgates to open.
Ever since that Coke 600 victory, Larson is now 7-for-11 in winning an intermediate race where he leads the most laps. That race also kickstarted his 2021 reign of terror, as he won nine of the final 22 races en route to his first Cup championship.
After years of multiple near misses for Larson in his beginnings at Chip Ganassi Racing, he, crew chief Cliff Daniels and the No. 5 team are firing on all cylinders and turning race-long speed into a plethora of wins.
And as the field approaches Homestead-Miami Speedway, one of Larson’s best tracks, and the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway – where Larson led more than 200 laps in the spring – that’s only bad news for the rest of the competition.
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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