Editor’s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
Driver: Kyle Larson
Car: No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Crew chief: Cliff Daniels
Final 2022 ranking: 7th
Key stats: 3 wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s, 4 poles, 635 laps led
How 2022 ended: Larson might have had a chance to repeat as Cup champion – or at the very least, to have made it to the Championship 4 – had it not been for a three-race stretch where he finished 18th at Talladega and was dealt back-to-back 35th-place finishes at the Charlotte Roval (which knocked him out of advancing to the Round of 8) and Las Vegas. He finished on somewhat of an up note, albeit too late, when he won at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished second at Martinsville, before ending the season with a ninth-place showing at Phoenix. Unfortunately, Larson finished a disappointing seventh in the final standings.
Best race: Larson’s best race was one that, for all intents and purposes, didn’t really count for much. He dominated the October race at Homestead, leading 199 of 267 laps, but it was too little, too late as he had already been eliminated from advancing to the Round of 8 and, ultimately, championship contention.
Other season highlights: While he also won the second race of the season at Auto Club Speedway and then Week 25 at Watkins Glen, one other race stood out: finishing runner-up at Martinsville in the penultimate race of the season. He led the first 68 laps in the 500-lap event, but was never able to get back to the front of the field, settling for the runner-up spot.
Stat to know: While some might consider three wins, 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 2022 a strong season, it actually paled in comparison to what he did in 2021: 10 wins, 20 top fives, 26 top 10s and wrapped up the year with his first career Cup championship.
Quotable: “I’ve learned that there’s still a lot of area to get a lot better and just smarter. Just doing a better job. Last year, seemed good. I was on my game and things were working out, restarts, everything. Every area was better as far as the driver goes last year. So just got to figure out how to get back to that point.” – Larson on comparing last season to 2022.
Looking ahead: Larson is not the type of driver who wallows in defeat or coming up short of expectations. Rather, he uses both as an incentive and a motivating force. He knows what went wrong in 2022, accepted much of the blame upon his shoulders, and is bound and determined not to make the same mistakes in 2023.