Engine failure at Kansas stuns Kyle Larson, ending his Playoff run
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Kyle Larson, long considered a lock to advance to the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff, stood in the garage with a dazed look on his face.
For the first time in 139 Cup events with Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson had blown an engine. Sixty laps into Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas, Larson dropped a cylinder in the engine of his No. 42 Chevrolet.
On Lap 65, he brought the car to pit road, where his pit crew raised the hood and tried to diagnose the problem. Larson returned to the track three laps down, but the sour engine exploded on the frontstretch on Lap 77, knocking Larson out of the race in 39th place and out of the Playoff.
Before the final verdict was in, Larson watched the remainder of the race, hoping for a miracle, but Jimmie Johnson salvaged an 11th-place finish after two spins to knock Larson out of the Playoff by nine points.
"I guess I'm not stunned, because freak things happen in every sport," Larson said. "I mean you look at every year in the past and a lot of times, most every time at least in the new Playoff format era, not always does the best team win.
"Not saying we're the best team, but we have been one of the contenders all season long. So I'm not stunned, because it's a long 10-race Playoff, so anything can happen, but we have had a solid Playoffs. We've been consistent and just now got bit."
Larson entered Sunday's elimination race third in the standings but will have to wait until next year for another shot at the championship.
"I hate that we blew an engine and blew our shot at the championship, but luck is a big factor of our sport," Larson said.
JIMMIE JOHNSON SURVIVES CLOSE CALLS TO ADVANCE IN PLAYOFF
On Lap 188 of Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Jimmie Johnson's hopes for a record eighth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship appeared to take a telling blow.
With Kurt Busch's No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford tucked close behind him in Turn 4, Johnson spun and slid through the infield grass. He brought the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to pit road, where his crew inspected the suspension and made quick repairs to a hood that was bowed up on the right side.
"Car's fine-nothing wrong with it," crew chief Chad Knaus radioed to his driver.
In Turn 3 after a restart on Lap 193, however, Johnson spun again. Miraculously, the cars behind him all were able to dodge the out-of-control Chevrolet.
A subsequent 14-car wreck on Lap 198 proved the undoing of Matt Kenseth, Johnson's closest rival for the final Round of 8 spot, and the seven-time champion advanced by nine points after finishing a hard-fought 11th.
"I had one (spin) off of (Turn) 4 and the other in (Turn) 3 on the restart," Johnson said. "The car was extremely loose. We fought the balance throughout the day, and the car would swing so hard. We were trying for short-run speed to free the car up, and we just got too far with it and I spun out twice. Thankfully I didn't hit anything too hard.
"And when things really changed was down the back straightaway in that wreck. Somehow, I went through there at a high rate of speed and missed everybody. I don't know how, but I made it. And then the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) car was sitting there, and I thought I had him lined-up for a square impact, but fortunately he slid out of the way.
"It wasn't a pretty day, but we got it done."
MATT KENSETH PARKED-AND BOUNCED FROM PLAYOFF-AFTER RULE VIOLATION
Matt Kenseth's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff ended abruptly under a red flag, after his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was damaged in a 14-car pileup on the backstretch.
Erik Jones, who will replace Kenseth in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing ride next season, lost control of his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota and ignited the wreck. Kenseth brought his wounded car to pit road, where seven crewmen-one more than the six allowed by rule--began repairs.
Under NASCAR's damaged vehicle policy, the penalty for that violation is disqualification, and Kenseth was informed by his crew chief that he was out of the race-and consequently out of the Playoff.
"I don't know a lot about it," Kenseth said of the rule that ousted him. "Honestly, I've never heard of disqualifying somebody from a race if you got one too many guys over the wall, or whatever happened there. I don't really know.
"I really don't have a lot of good things to say at the moment, so I'll probably try not to say much. Pretty disappointing way to end. Can't even go back on the race track because of the error we made. It's just - couldn't be any more disappointed."
--- NASCAR Wire Service ---