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USA Insider Race for the Championship

Jeff Gordon on Whether Kyle Larson's a Better Driver Than He Was: "Uh, Yes"

The Rainbow Warrior delved deep into what impresses him about Yung Money the most.   

By Andrew Woodin
Split of Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson

Having a boss that was arguably once one of the best at the job you currently have can be tricky. But Kyle Larson makes it look easy.

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In the wake of Larson's action-packed week that included taking his first IndyCar laps in preparation for his attempt to the run the legendary Memorial Day “Double” — racing in the Indy 500 in the morning, followed by the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race that night — Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon weighed in on Yung Money’s sublime talent behind the wheel.

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After witnessing the Elk Grove, California native narrowly hold on by the skin of his teeth to edge out Christopher Bell for his 23rd win in his Cup Series tenure, his fifth track where he’s scored multiple wins, Gordon didn’t hold back his praise for the dirt demon when asked if Larson is better than he was.
“Uh, yes!,” Gordon emphatically answered, according to NASCAR. “I’m glad I didn’t have to race him. I got my butt kicked by one guy at Hendrick Motorsports as my teammate, I didn’t need to have two of them.”

Kyle Larson enters his car before a qualifying race

While comparing Larson to seven-time Cup Series winner Jimmie Johnson is high praise, Gordon, a four-time champ in his own right, also illuminated what truly sets the 31-year-old Larson apart from the other wheelmen in a stacked field.

“You take a guy like Kyle with capabilities and his talent, and he’s impressed me with his work ethic too," the Hall of Famer said. “I wasn’t sure how he approached the Cup Series and especially with [HMS crew chief] Cliff [Daniels] and all the data and all the homework that Cliff gives him and all the meetings that they have. Cliff’s an intense guy, and he brings a lot to the table, so that’s a lot of information you have to absorb.”

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Clearly, Larson’s been absorbing the info because in comparison to his two wins by this time last year, his Sin City victory marks his fourth first-place finish on the season, one that includes an impressive 13 top-five finishes — the same amount that his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Bryon has earned.

The prospect of Larson somehow becoming even better would be an awe-inspiring concept for fans and scary nightmare for the competition. 

Kyle Larson celebrating after a win

“This year, it’s just all about getting the car and the team and everything to align,” Gordon said. “They’ve kinda been up and down this year, made some mistakes earlier in the year, but it seems like in the playoffs, I feel like they’ve been bringing fast race cars and stepping up to the plate. Texas was tough because he was in such a good place, and that battle he and Bubba [Wallace] and the result of that, and then what happened in the Roval, you’re like, ‘Oh gosh, is this gonna be a repeat of the year before?’”

“But I knew when they got through the Roval, this round was gonna be extremely good for them,” Gordon continued. “They run good really at all three of these tracks but especially at this one [Las Vegas] and Homestead.”  

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Coming down the postseason stretch, Larson hasn’t just been good at the tracks in the Round of 8, he’s been superb. Among Homestead-Miami, Las Vegas and Martinsville, Yung Money has amassed a whopping five wins and seven top-five finishes, according to Driver Averages. While history points to the next two races to potentially set Larson up for his second Cup Series title, should he fall short at the end of the day in Phoenix, all signs point to Gordon still being a happy jefe.

“He’s stepped up to the plate and has done everything that the organization could possibly ask out of him and then some,” noted a content Wonder Boy. “It’s been a great relationship.”