This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series crowned Kyle Larson its champion Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway. The Hendrick Motorsports driver captured the top starting spot Saturday and then capitalized on a late-race pit stop to gain track position and drive away to his 10th victory of the season. This championship was the result of teamwork, as Larson was watching the trophy slip through his fingers late in the race only for his crew to come up with one of its fastest pit stops of the season to put Larson out front for the final restart. That move gave Larson the track position he needed to fend off Martin Truex Jr. for the final 24 laps of the race to win and claim his first series championship. Denny Hamlin finished third behind Truex, while Chase Elliott failed to defend his 2020 championship and finished fifth behind Team Penske's Ryan Blaney.
Next season could be entirely different than what fantasy players have grown accustomed to the past two years. The biggest change will be the introduction of the new car, which all teams will be working to understand as quickly as possible. That change is enough to level the playing field and put even the strongest 2021 contenders on the back foot. On-track practice and qualifying will also return with significant changes. A shorter practice time than the past, coupled with qualifying immediately following the brief session, will add a new wrinkle to the proceedings. Teams and drivers will be challenged to