In less than three weeks, Kyle Larson will race for the NASCAR Cup Series championship. He earned that shot by winning Sunday’s Round of 8 playoff opener at Texas Motor Speedway.
But before the Nov. 7 title finale at Phoenix Raceway, Larson could claim a major Cup record for himself.
Sunday at Texas, Larson led a race-high 256 laps. He has now led 2,267 laps this season in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
According to Racing Insights, he still has to overtake Hendrick legend Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick to claim the record for most laps led in a season since the Cup Series went to a 36-race schedule in 2001.
Gordon led 2,320 laps on the way to his fourth and final Cup title that season.
Harvick led 2,294 laps before finishing second in the 2015 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to Kyle Busch.
Do the math. Larson needs to lead 28 more laps to pass Harvick for second and 54 more laps to pass Gordon.
For Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels, the title is Priority One – especially now. After their eighth win of the season Sunday, they both acknowledged the prospect of claiming the record.
“I led a lot more laps today than I thought I would, so yeah, it’s definitely a goal of mine,” said Larson, who has led a record 1,187 laps on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
“I think somewhere in the back of my mind, it’s a goal. It’s not something I am upset about if I don’t lead any laps in a race or anything, but once I am leading, I want to stay in the lead to help catch that record or whatever.
“But you have to have a fast race car to do that, and our race car has been really good all season long, especially (Sunday) to have a dominating run like we did. Hopefully, these next few weeks are a lot like today.”
Daniels said being in striking distance of the record was “pretty cool” and that it was “a really big deal” to his driver.
But he also noted a dream of his own: Toppling Richard Petty’s single-season record of 27 premier series wins in 1967.
“The King has got a lot, so that would be probably a pretty lofty goal to ever get to,” Daniels said. “But we’ll take laps led if we can get there at the end of the day.
“Taking our group of guys, taking our team and all the resources we have at Hendrick Motorsports and putting fast cars on track is so cool and so fun to be a part of that.
“Hopefully, we keep it going, and whatever the numbers end up, we’ll be happy about.”