Kyle Larson's dominant win in Sunday's NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway may have been his second win of the NASCAR Cup Series season (and his 21st Cup win overall), but it marked an important milestone in his nearly decade-long career. The driver of the No. 5 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports had historically struggled at Martinsville in the past, having never won at the half-mile Virginia track. In his previous 17 races there, he had only three top-five finishes and never finished better than third. That all changed last Sunday, when he passed Joey Logano with 29 laps to go and held on to win by more than four seconds.
In the post-race press conference, Larson talked about just how meaningful it was to get his first victory at Martinsville, especially considering his rocky history there. It was so meaningful, in fact, that Larson may have gotten just a little bit teary-eyed in the moments before seeing that checkered flag.
"This is an extremely special win for me," Larson said. "I've worked very hard to get better here. I feel like every time there's a test available, I get put on that list to test here, because I struggle and we want to get better. So, I've got tons of laps around here and not many top-10s. Honestly, probably more races where I've finished a lap down than on the lead lap."
"When you can win at a place like this, it's definitely up there. I was teared up the whole last lap. I heard (pit crew chief Cliff Daniels) was teared up, too. So, that feels really, really special, because he's so strong — emotionally strong. So, to hear that means a lot. You know, this win here today means a lot for everybody. And, to Hendrick Motorsports as well, with everything that this racetrack and trip means to them."
While Darlington Raceway may be famously known as the "Track Too Tough to Tame," for Larson that moniker used to belong to Martinsville. In a post-race interview immediately following his big win, the 30-year-old California native was a little more honest about how frustrated the track had made him in the past.
"I've left here just mad. I've hated this place, and I've wished it would flood," Larson said. "I wished a lot of bad things on this place."
Finally, after years and years of disappointing finishes, Larson's time at Martinsville finally came. It's only fitting that he now has a grandfather clock trophy to show for it.
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