NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane after winning the Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen

Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports won a NASCAR Cup Series championship in their first season together in 2021, and are serious contenders again this year.

Get used to this potent combination, NASCAR rivals, because now Larson and Hendrick are joining forces long term.

Hendrick announced Friday that it has reached an agreement that will keep Larson in the No. 5 Chevrolet through the 2026 season. Hendrickcars.com has been extended as the primary sponsor.

“I can’t explain how much this opportunity means,” Larson said in a media release. “The chance to compete for the top team and best sponsors in racing is something every driver dreams about. I’m humbled to have incredible people in my corner and amazing support from so many fans. Thanks to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group for believing in me, Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and our team. Even though we’ve done some great things so far, I truly believe our best is ahead of us.”

Since joining Hendrick, the driver who won only six races in six full seasons with team owner Chip Ganassi has taken his career to an entirely different level. The 30-year-old California native scored 10 wins last year on his way to the series championship, and he has two victories this season.

That’s not enough for the NASCAR fans who haven’t forgiven Larson for the incident that led to him joining Hendrick. Larson signed with the team before the 2021 season after being reinstated to the sport after a six-month suspension for using the N-word during a live stream of a virtual race.

Larson paid his penance and offered his apologies for that transgression. Still, Twitter lights up every time he wins a race with fans rehashing the incident and labeling him a racist. The fallout could go beyond those social media attacks. Some observers suggested NASCAR downplayed Larson’s Cup Series championship in 2021 because of that incident.

Team owner Rick Hendrick has been pleased with Larson on and off the track.

“When Kyle joined our team, the expectations were sky high from both inside and outside the organization. To say he’s exceeded them would be an understatement,” Hendrick said. “Not only has Kyle proven himself as a champion driver, he’s performed at a championship level outside of the race car. … The years to come are very bright.”

[Hendrick Motorsports]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.