NASCAR: Hendrick Motorsports Picks Replacement Crew Chief for Kyle Larson Amid Suspensions

by Jonathan Howard

When NASCAR was in Sonoma, California, Kyle Larson lost a wheel. That cost him his crew chief and more for four weeks. So, starting this week in Nashville, Larson’s No. 5 team is going to be without Cliff Daniels for the next four Cup Series races. That’s the same thing that has happened to each team this season that has lost a wheel during a race.

NASCAR was very clear about their feelings related to loose and free-rolling wheels. If a car loses a wheel on the track, then that’s a four-race suspension for the crew chief and the two crew members directly involved. Front tire changer Donnie Tasser, as well as jackman Brandon Johnson, will miss four races as a result of the suspensions.

After a few days of searching, Hendrick Motorsports has tabbed Kevin Meendering to take over. That will be the decision moving forward, and they will hope to have some success in the four races that Meendering is in the tower.

In his career, Meendering has some good Cup Series experience. With 21 starts as a crew chief for Hendrick. That record also includes almost 100 Xfinity Series starts. Three wins, 39 top fives, and 77 top-10s. He was able to get his driver Elliott Sadler to the regular-season title in the Xfinity Series back in 2017.

You just knew that Hendrick Motorsports would be able to make a good decision here. Looking forward to the schedule, Meendering will be with Kyle Larson for Nashville this weekend, then Road America, Atlanta, and New Hampshire. The good news is Larson has a win on the year, and for now, it’s win and you’re in.

Will there be another Larson win while under a temporary crew chief?

Can Kyle Larson Make a Run for the Regular Season Title?

If Kyle Larson is on the track, then you can bet he’s going to be a threat to win. The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion is always in the mix of things. Even with a dilapidated team, that No. 5 car is going to be fast in Nashville and everywhere else moving forward. In Sonoma, that loose wheel likely cost him the win. It cost him the chance to even challenge for the win, anyway.

With a win and six top-5 finishes this year, Larson is having a good season. However, that hasn’t put him where he’d like to be at this point in the schedule. Chase Elliott leads the series with 536 points. Larson is down in 7th place with 476 points. It isn’t impossible, but it’d be tough for Larson to take the regular-season title.

Twelve drivers have at least one win on the year and that’s something that could come into play. If that number goes above 16 then we could see a driver with a win not make it to the postseason. Kyle Larson isn’t in danger of that, but he has work to do if he wants to repeat as the Cup Series champion. Never count him out, though. Even with an interim crew chief.