Kyle Larson falls short with late-race charge at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - With a handful of laps left in a pitched battle between Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson joined the party.
Larson needed a victory in Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway to advance to the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, and late in the race, he began making dramatic gains on Busch, who was running second, and Elliott, who held the lead.
Larson, however, stalled out in third place and saw his chance for a championship ended two positions short at the finish of a remarkable weekend for the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team.
Larson wrecked his primary car two laps into Friday's opening practice and qualified 27th in a backup. Because of the change to the backup car, he had to abandon his starting position and drop to the rear at the start of Sunday's race.
By the end of the second stage, Larson had raced his way to sixth before mounting his charge in the late going.
Unlike in previous years, when quirky circumstances took him out of the Playoffs, Larson could cite overall performance as the reason he didn't advance to the Round of 8 this season.
"I'm actually glad that nothing stupid took us out of the Playoffs this year," Larson said. "We had that battery come out at Dover a couple years ago. Blew up an engine here last year.
"Obviously, I would have liked to have made it into the next round. But I'm glad it wasn't anything other than just us not performing where we needed to be that kept us out of the next round.
"Just trying to figure out how to make our cars better. Try to figure out this new package we're running next year, try to be prepared, good all season long."
BRUSH WITH THE WALL THWARTS SOLID RUN FOR RYAN BLANEY
Below the Playoff cut line entering Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Ryan Blaney made a concerted run toward advancing to the Round of 8.
With one of the fastest cars in the field, Blaney finished third in Stage 1, earning seven points. He added another eight points with a second-place run in Stage 2.
When Blaney was holding second place at Lap 189, he was one point to the good over Kurt Busch, who was hit with a pass-through penalty for a tire violation and lost a lap in the process. But Blaney's No. 12 Team Penske Ford slapped the outside wall on Lap 204 and quickly dropped to fifth, once again below the cut line.
He finished the race in seventh place and failed to advance to the Round of 8 by six points.
"Obviously, it was a mistake I made trying to work hard to catch those guys (Kevin Harvick and race winner Chase Elliott), and I pushed too hard and got in the fence," Blaney said. "It's all my fault. Whether it would have worked out for us or not, I don't know.
"I don't think we had the speed the 9 (Elliott) or 4 (Harvick) had. The 9 was super-fast. I don't know. I messed up and cost us a shot. The whole 12 team deserves better than that. That was unfortunate on my part."
STRATEGIC CALLS CAN'T SAVE BRAD KESELOWSKI'S PLAYOFF HOPES
Brad Keselowski desperately needed a caution in a race that produced only three-for two stage finishes and a blown engine.
Knowing Keselowski didn't have the speed in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford to win Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 heads-up, crew chief Paul Wolfe kept Keselowski on the track until the end of two successive fuel runs, hoping to catch a caution and leap-frog the cars that had already stopped.
But the caution never came, and Keselowski's eventual sixth-place finish wasn't enough to earn a berth in the Round of 8 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
"I would say about the end of that first stage it was pretty obvious that we needed something, after I saw some things on the other cars," Keselowski said. "We needed something to step up, but it just wasn't there. We just weren't as good today as we were (Saturday in practice) and I'm not sure why. Everyone else seemed to find a little from practice and we were about the same, maybe a little worse than we were in practice.
"I'm proud of what we did down the stretch of the year. We won three races and did all that. I feel like we can go win Martinsville next week, so I'm excited about that. But, of course, the ultimate goal is to win a championship and we won't have an opportunity to do that this year."
--- NASCAR Wire Service ---