Unbeatable Larson Wins at Kansas

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Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, KS — October 24, 2021

Three spots remain open for the Championship Four at Phoenix in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Seven contenders are eager to grab one of those positions. Another driver could lock in a spot with a win today at Kansas Speedway in the Hollywood Casino 400.

A couple of the remaining eligible drivers are looking to score enough points to remove the concern of what might happen on the tight confines of Martinsville next Sunday. Four drivers are looking to improve their position and get above the cut line.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Texas Motor Speedway
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Kyle Larson (P) 4,123 8 16 65 In On Wins
2 Ryan Blaney (P)* 4,072 3 4 24 +17
3 Denny Hamlin (P) 4,064 2 10 30 +9
4 Kyle Busch (P) 4,063 2 7 23 +8
5 Chase Elliott (P) 4,055 2 4 22 -8
6 Brad Keselowski (P)* 4,048 1 2 8 -15
7 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 4,041 4 5 29 -22
8 Joey Logano (P)* 4,020 1 5 13 -43

*Ford Mustang Drivers

How the Remaining Playoff Drivers Have Performed at Kansas Speedway

  • Ryan Blaney has made 13 series starts at Kansas posting three top fives and six top 10s.
  • Denny Hamlin has made 26 series starts at Kansas posting three wins, eight top fives, and nine top 10s.
  • Kyle Busch has made 27 series starts at Kansas posting two wins, nine top fives, and 13 top 10s.
  • Chase Elliott has made 11 series starts at Kansas posting one win, five top fives, and seven top 10s.
  • Brad Keselowski has made 23 series starts at Kansas posting two wins, seven top fives, and 13 top 10s.
  • Martin Truex Jr. has made 26 series starts at Kansas posting two wins, nine top fives, and 13 top 10s.
  • Joey Logano has made 24 series starts at Kansas posting three wins, eight top fives, and nine top 10s.

Today’s Race

Kyle Busch(18) is the defending champion of the race, he starts 4th today. Kyle Larson(5) sits on the pole with Ryan Blaney(12) sitting next to him on the front row. It takes 279 trips around the 1.5-mile Speedway to complete the 400.5 miles of today’s race. Stages are 80/80/107 laps.

Joey Logano(22) likely needs a win to advance as he sits 43 points below the bubble after blowing an engine last week at Texas. Logano has two wins at Kansas (2015 & 2018) and starts 8th, the last of the playoff drivers to take the green.

Defending Cup Series Champion, Chase Elliott(9) sits eight points below the cut line and starts in the 5th position. Expect a real battle for Stage points as everyone needs the bonuses awarded at the end of Stage 1 and Stage 2.

The Start

At the drop of the green flag, the field remained in the order they started 2-wide through Turns 1 & 2 and down the backstretch. Larson led the first lap with Blaney on his rear bumper. Behind the leaders, it was three-wide for 3rd.

Light rain in Turns 3 & 4 brought out the caution, but the cars remained on the track. Radar indicates the clouds should pass quickly without causing enough precipitation to warrant bringing out the jet dryers.

Unfortunately, lightning in the area brought the cars to pit road and drivers were forced to exit their race cars. NASCAR brought out the red flag after just 12 laps.

Stage 1

After a 15:46 delay, the cars were back on the track to resume racing. On the restart, Larson and Brad Keselowski(2) led the field to the green. Keselowski led the first green flag lap, but Larson returned to the top spot.

With the passing rain shower, the wind changed direction and picked up in velocity. Drivers were complaining of tight race cars and the inability to turn properly. Kyle Busch hit the wall and flattened a tire bringing out the caution again on Lap 21.

Kyle Busch / NASCAR Photo

NASCAR informed crews that the yellow flag period would serve as the competition caution scheduled for after Lap 25. Busch had to make several pit stops to repair his car which had the right side scrapped flat after contact with the outside retaining wall.

Matt DiBenedetto(21) and Aric Almirola(10) led back to the green. Almirola dropped back quickly, DiBenedetto held the lead for a lap before Larson returned to the front. Elliott passed his teammate to lead for the first time, he was followed by William Byron(24) as the Hendrick cars ran 1-2-3. Logano and Blaney rounded out the Top 5.

Keselowski hit the wall off Turn 2, again the wind being a factor. With flat right-side tires, Brad had to pit and lost two laps to the field as his crew performed repairs pulling out the fender on the right rear.

Larson moved back to the front and 50 laps in Byron, Elliott, Blaney, and Kevin Harvick(4) followed in the Top 5.

More trouble for Playoff drivers, Martin Truex Jr. hit the wall, his right rear tire went flat and Truex lost two laps in the pits. Blaney scrapped the wall and he also suffered a right rear tire failure with just eight laps to go in the Stage. Blaney’s pit stop cost him Stage points as he went a lap down.

Larson held on for the Stage win, only 4 playoff drivers finished in the Top 10 at the end of the Stage.

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 5 Kyle Larson (P) 10
2 24 William Byron 9
3 9 Chase Elliott (P) 8
4 1 Kurt Busch 7
5 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 6
6 4 Kevin Harvick* 5
7 48 Alex Bowman 4
8 42 Ross Chastain 3
9 18 Kyle Busch (P) 2
10 8 Tyler Reddick 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

Larson, first out of the pits, leads Byron on the first lap of green flag racing. Elliott moves to the front as Harvick, Denny Hamlin(11), Kurt Busch(1), and Logano join the lead group. Truex starts Stage 2 a lap down, Keselowski is two laps behind the leader.

Green flag pit stops started just before the halfway point of the Stage. During the pit stop cycle, Kyle Busch scraped the wall again and caused more damage to the right rear of his car. The quarter panel split on the body seam and the rear panel flares out at racing speed acting as a wind catcher and slowing the car down.

After all of the drivers had made their stops, Byron was out front with a second and a half advantage over Elliott. Byron grabbed the Stage win. This time only three playoff drivers cashed in on Stage points.

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 24 William Byron 10
2 9 Chase Elliott (P) 9
3 5 Kyle Larson (P) 8
4 1 Kurt Busch 7
5 4 Kevin Harvick* 6
6 8 Tyler Reddick 5
7 48 Alex Bowman 4
8 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 3
9 23 Bubba Wallace 2
10 42 Ross Chastain 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Chase Elliott was the big winner on Stage points, garnering 17 extra over the course of the first two Stages.

Chase Elliott / NASCAR Photo

The Final Stage

With only 15 cars on the lead lap heading into the Final Stage, several Playoff drivers are struggling. Martin Truex is the next to last car on the lead lap, Keselowski is two laps down, and Kyle Busch is four laps down to the leader. All are looking at must-win situations at Martinsville.

Larson was the first car off pit road with Byron in 2nd. As the pair battled for the lead, Tyler Reddick(8) took them three-wide and was out front when Anthony Alfredo(38) hit the wall with 95 laps to go bringing out the caution flag for the 6th time.

Reddick and Larson stayed out during the caution period while the rest of the field came to pit road for fresh tires and fuel. Larson grabbed the lead on the drop of the green as Reddick got swallowed up by Kurt Busch and Byron going high and low. Reddick dropped to 11th after getting sandwiched in the middle of the track.

Larson led Kurt Busch, Byron, Harvick, and Logano as the fight for the top spot heated up. Byron drove past Larson as the #5 car appeared loose. Elliott got around Logano and took advantage of Larson’s ill-handling race car to move to 4th.

With 75 laps to go the Top 3 were all non-playoff drivers. Byron, Kurt Busch, and Harvick. All the playoff drivers on the lead lap held the next six positions Elliott, Larson, Hamlin, Blaney, Truex, and Logano.

Ryan Blaney / NASCAR Photo

Keselowski took advantage of the Alfredo caution to take the wave around and get back to one lap down. Making a late charge Brad worked his way into the free pass position and can get back on the lead lap if there is a caution.

Bad Timing, Good Timing

Keselowski pitted with 52 laps to go and virtually took himself out of contention as Ryan Newman spun bringing out the caution two laps later. For the leaders, the caution could not have come at a better time as the fuel window was fully open to finish the race. Everyone on the lead lap came to pit road for what they hoped was their final pit stop.

Byron had to make a 2nd pit stop for a loose lug nut and restarted in the 14th position. Kurt Busch led coming to the restart, followed by Harvick, Elliott, Truex, and Larson. As drivers went three and four wide for positions, Blaney got loose and hit the Turn 2 wall. He limped the car to pit road, but a broken right front suspension sent Blaney to the garage and out of the race.

Just like at Texas Motor Speedway, late cautions breed more cautions. With 39 laps to go the race restarted with Elliott, Larson, Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Truex in the Top 5.

With 20 laps to go Larson led, Harvick was 2nd, Elliott 3rd, Kurt Busch, and Hamlin the other two cars in the Top 5. With all the late-race drama the points have tightened considerably. Drivers who were counted out crept back into contention with Blaney crashing out and Larson leading.

Larson held a 1.5-second lead as the laps wound down, Elliott pushed hard and cut the interval to a half-second. Overdriving, Elliott tapped the wall several times, he had to back off to make sure he did not flatten a tire. Larson wins again and Elliott finishes 2nd to improve his position in the points standings.

In their post-race interviews, both drivers made mention of the importance of the victory for Hendrick’s organization. It was 17 years ago to the day that a tragic plane accident claimed the lives of Hendrick’s son Ricky and nine other members of the team including the flight crew.

Playoff Standings

Position Driver Points Status
1 Kyle Larson 4181 In Win
2 Chase Elliott 4107 +34
3 Denny Hamlin 4105 +32
4 Kyle Busch 4074 +1
NASCAR Playoff Cut Line
5 Ryan Blaney* 4073 -1
6 Martin Truex Jr. 4071 -3
7 Brad Keselowski* 4068 -6
8 Joey Logano* 4048 -26

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Larson’s win was actually good news for the other title contenders, four drivers have a realistic chance at advancing based on points. Elliott and Hamlin are virtual locks. If a playoff driver other than Larson, Elliott, or Hamlin wins at Martinsville it will likely seal the fate of the other four.

Logano is in a must-win situation. However, between Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski any of the four could claim the final spot for the Championship Race at Phoenix.

Results of the Hollywood Casino 400 from Kansas Speedway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 5 Kyle Larson (P) 267
2 9 Chase Elliott (P) 3.619 267
3 4 Kevin Harvick 4.790 267
4 1 Kurt Busch 6.735 267
5 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 7.113 267
6 24 William Byron 8.905 267
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 9.353 267
8 20 Christopher Bell 10.109 267
9 22 Joey Logano (P) 11.488 267
10 3 Austin Dillon 13.591 267
11 48 Alex Bowman 15.134 267
12 17 Chris Buescher 17.198 267
13 42 Ross Chastain 18.390 267
14 23 Bubba Wallace 21.121 267
15 99 Daniel Suarez 23.387 267
16 34 Michael McDowell -1 266
17 2 Brad Keselowski (P) -1 266
18 41 Cole Custer -1 266
19 14 Chase Briscoe -1 266
20 96 Parker Kligerman -1 266
21 37 Ryan Preece -2 265
22 8 Tyler Reddick -2 265
23 21 Matt DiBenedetto -2 265
24 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -2 265
25 7 Corey LaJoie -4 263
26 10 Aric Almirola -4 263
27 6 Ryan Newman -4 263
28 18 Kyle Busch (P) -6 261
29 43 Erik Jones -7 260
30 78 BJ McLeod -8 259
31 51 Cody Ware -9 258
32 53 Joey Gase -11 256
33 52 Josh Bilicki -11 256
34 13 David Starr -12 255
35 0 Quin Houff -12 255
36 15 Ryan Ellis -13 254
37 12 Ryan Blaney (P) -43 224
38 38 Anthony Alfredo -96 171
39 77 Justin Haley -102 165
40 66 Chad Finchum -220 47