Having already qualified for the championship race, Kyle Larson can take it easy for the next two races.
After his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 driver secured himself a spot for the final four race, while the seven other drivers will fight for the remaining three places.
One such driver is Denny Hamlin, who is currently occupying the fourth spot. Having seen Larson qualify for the race already, Hamlin believes that the No. 9 driver will now have an advantage in the final race of the season as he doesn’t have to worry about performing well in the next two races. Speaking in his Actions Detrimental podcast, Hamlin said:
“What that means when some says, and you’ll see it a lot this week, Larson’s got an advantage. They’ll talk about Larson having an advantage because he can now shift his resources and thoughts into Phoenix,” Hamlin said. “What that basically means is that he’s going to spend extra time, instead of doing a bunch of work for Homestead, and meeting with his crew chief about Homestead this, Homestead that, how can we do this, what’s our strategy — they’ll shift their focus into, what do we need to do to run well and win at Phoenix? You know, while it’s a very, very small advantage, it is still an advantage.
“He’s not having to hyper-focus hours and hours and hours on, what’s our strategy for this race or that race, or Martinsville. What are we going to do there? Do we need to run extra sim time? It’s not historically been a great track for him. He can forget all that. Pass that up, and go right to Phoenix, and apply that extra time.”
Hamlin is right that Larson will have additional time to prepare for the final race. However, how much of an advantage that will turn out to be will only be known in that race.
Among the last six Cup champions, three of them won the first race of the Round of 8, with Larson being one of them when he won the championship in 2021.