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Could We See A Split Title In NASCAR's Cup Series? Kyle Larson’s Homestead Victory Fuels Rare Chance

Kyle Larson may be out of the running for the Cup Series driver's title, but he and Hendrick Motorsports still have a shot at the owner's championship. 

By Andrew Woodin
Next on Race for the Championship: Episode 8

It’s been a hell of a couple weeks for Kyle Larson. Hendrick Motorsports’ superstar was eliminated from contention in the second round of the driver playoffs at Charlotte. Then, the recent fracas with Bubba Wallace in Las Vegas ensnared him in a messy, headline-grabbing news cycle that must’ve been taxing to say the least. Yet, despite those low notes, you just can’t keep “Yung Money” down. After his impressive win over the weekend at the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, during which he led 199 out of 267 laps, it’s clear Larson’s weathered the storm, and though he’s not competing for the solo glory of a Cup Series Championship, he’s now chasing a reward of equal magnitude if not greater: owner points.

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While the champion’s champagne shower in Victory Lane may make for the splashier photo, NASCAR’s owner points are crucial because they decide how the financial payouts from the points fund are allocated to teams at the end of the year.

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Valvoline Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400

What does this mean for the 2022 Cup Series season? Funny you should ask. Kurt Busch’s win in May propelled 23XI Racing’s No. 45 car into the owner playoffs, but after a serious concussion derailed Busch’s title hopes, he withdrew from the driver playoffs in August, leaving Ty Gibbs – grandson of NASCAR and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs – to fill in for him. This unprecedented void produced a NASCAR rarity that saw Ryan Blaney notch the final, coveted spot in the 16-driver playoffs, yet Busch’s car would still compete in the owner playoffs. Similarly, Larson may have been eliminated from the driver playoffs after his Charlotte finish, but his car wasn’t because it was still ahead of the No. 45 in the owner point standings.

Thus, if Larson – the 2021 Cup Series Champion – takes home the checkered flag in the Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway November 6th, he’ll win the owner title for his team at Hendrick Motorsports while the highest-finishing driver of the Final Four would take home the driver title. If this scenario were to manifest, Larson would go down in the history books as the first split title winner in the modern NASCAR era (after 1972) and only the second driver to do so since 1963.

Only one race remains before the Cup Series Championship at Phoenix, and that’s the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Catch all the high-octane action on NBC, and tune into USA Network’s “Race For The Championship,” for an insider’s look at the life of Larson and all your favorite NASCAR drivers, Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network. And you can catch up on the series now on Peacock.