Kyle Larson has to be feeling good.
He finally ended a two-year winless streak (75 races) Sunday at Dover International Speedway. On top of that, it was in the playoffs.
The victory sends him and Chip Ganassi Racing to the third round of the postseason for the first time.
“You know, depending on who makes it out of this round, I’m still going to be a ways back on points to Martin (Truex Jr.), Kyle (Busch), Kevin (Harvick and) Joey (Logano) to start the next round,” Larson said Sunday. “To start today, I was (eighth in the standings) like 18 points back from Keselowski (in seventh), so like that’s still a lot to overcome. It’s going to be even bigger probably to start the next round.”
Larson’s win puts him at fifth in the standings overall, but he only has 11 playoff points. That trails the totals of Busch (46 playoff points), Truex (42), Hamlin (31), Logano (29), Harvick (28), Chase Elliott and Keselowski (24).
Larson gave his assessment of the three tracks awaiting him in the Round of 8.
“Texas we could go there and win,” Larson said. “We could go to Phoenix and have a good shot to win, Martinsville, hopefully we can go have a good run there. But we’ll see. It’s just nice to get a win, get some playoff points and just kind of chip away at our deficit …. compared to those guys.”
Larson’s win Sunday is the 15th time a Cup playoff driver has earned their first win of the season in the playoffs.
It first happened in 2005 with Ryan Newman at New Hampshire and Mark Martin at Kansas Speedway. Since then it’s occurred at least once in all but four seasons.
Only once out of those 15 occurrences has the first-time winner gone on to win the championship.
That distinction belongs to Tony Stewart, who did it in spectacular fashion in 2011.
After winning the playoff-opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Stewart then reeled off five wins in the 10-race playoff, including winning consecutive races twice and then claiming the race win and title at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Further, since the elimination format began only one first-time winner in the playoffs has wound up in the Championship 4. That was Jeff Gordon after he earned the last win of his Cup career in the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway in 2015.
If Larson can stay relatively mistake free over the next five races and possibly grab another win in the Round of 8, he’d get the chance to match Stewart’s feat.
“To move on to the next round is special, but we’re not just satisfied with being in the Round of 8,” Larson said. “We want to go and make it into that final round of (Miami), where it’s my best track. It’s the final year for the championship race to be at (Miami), so I’ve looked at this ever since they released next year’s schedule as this is my best opportunity to win the championship. I’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Here’s every instance of a playoff driver earning their first win of the season in the playoffs.
Event Date Track Race Winner
10/6/2019 Dover Kyle Larson
10/14/2018 Talladega Aric Almirola
9/30/2018 Roval Ryan Blaney
11/1/2015 Martinsville Jeff Gordon (advanced to championship race)
10/27/2013 Martinsville Jeff Gordon
11/11/2012 ISM Kevin Harvick
9/19/2011 Chicago Tony Stewart (went on to win championship)
11/14/2010 Phoenix Carl Edwards
9/19/2010 New Hampshire Clint Bowyer
10/5/2008 Talladega Tony Stewart
9/14/2008 New Hampshire Greg Biffle
9/16/2007 New Hampshire Clint Bowyer
9/24/2006 Dover Jeff Burton
10/9/2005 Kansas Mark Martin
9/18/2005 New Hampshire Ryan Newman