KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Kyle Larson is staring at elimination from the NASCAR playoffs after an engine failure ended his race Sunday after just 73 laps at Kansas Speedway.
Larson entered the day with a 29-point edge on the cushion on ninth in the standings, but that dropped 19 points just one stage into the Hollywood Casino 400 and it appeared Larson would likely be among the four drivers eliminated after the race ends as NASCAR cuts its championship playoff field from 12 to eight.
"It's disappointing," the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said. "There's still a long race left to go. Maybe we can get lucky [but] ... 29 points isn't going to be enough. It's painful."
Drivers advance in the three-race playoff rounds with either a win or by not being the four playoff drivers who are the lowest in points following the third race.
Larson had finishes of 10th and 13th in the opening two races of the three-race quarterfinal round, but his four wins this year and helped give him enough "playoff points" to have the cushion going into Kansas.
"I'm not stunned because freak things happen in every sport," said Larson, whose team gets its engines from Hendrick Motorsports. "If you look at every year in the past ... at least in the new playoff format era, not always does the best team win. Not saying we're the best team, but we've been one of the contenders all season long.
"It's a long 10-race playoff season. Anything can happen."
Larson's car started to sputter about 10 laps before it blew. The team was trying to develop a plan to diagnose the issue but never got that opportunity.
"You're not going to create a magic potion and have your engine start running," Larson said. "Oh well. I knew as soon as I felt it or heard it, I was done. ... It just stings. It is what it is."