NASCAR reinstated previously-suspended driver Kyle Larson on Oct. 19, opening the door for him to return to the Cup Series in 2021. He did not have a team at the time but is now set after joining one of the more successful motorsports organizations. Larson will join Hendrick Motorsports on a multi-year contract while helping bring back a dormant number.
HMS announced the move on Wednesday morning and confirmed that Larson would get behind a Chevrolet Camaro's wheel once again. He will pilot the No. 5, which had not seen the track since 2017 when Kasey Kahne raced for HMS. The No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro, driven by Alex Bowman before his departure to the No. 48, will go away. Larson will now partner with Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron to form one of the younger teams in NASCAR, creating an average age of 26.
"Kyle is unquestionably one of the most talented race car drivers in the world," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a press release Wednesday. "He has championship-level ability and will be a significant addition to our on-track program. More importantly, I have full confidence that he understands our expectations and will be a tremendous ambassador for our team, our partners and NASCAR.
"Kyle and I have had many, many conversations leading up to today's announcement," Hendrick continued. "I'm confident about what's in his heart and his desire to be a champion in all aspects of his life and career. Kyle has done important work over the past six months, and Hendrick Motorsports is going to support those continued efforts."
Bringing back the No. 5 Chevrolet shows Hendrick's faith in Larson to find success on the track. The number is one of the winningest in NASCAR history, and it was the first used by HMS when Hendrick formed the team in 1984. The No. 5 has appeared in more races (1,129 starts) for HMS than any other car in the organization's stables.
According to HMS, Larson is the 10th driver to get behind the No. 5 Chevrolet wheel. If he wins a Cup Series race, he will become the seventh driver to do so. Larson does not have sponsors for the team just yet, but officially joining the team will likely pave the way for future deals.
"The '5' is special to me. It's the original," Hendrick said. "I view it as Hendrick Motorsports' flagship team in a lot of ways. To bring the car back to the racetrack is meaningful for my family and for many of our team members and fans. We plan to build on its winning history with Kyle and [crew chief] Cliff [Daniels]."
HMS has seen plenty of wins with the No. 5. Terry Labonte won 12 races, as well as the 1996 Cup Series championship. Geoff Bodine won seven races While Kahne won six. Mark Martin (five), Kyle Busch (four) and Ricky Rudd (four) all found success as well.