Right now, it seems as though it’s Kyle Larson’s world and the rest of the NASCAR Cup field is just living in it.
Larson staged another dominating performance leading a race high 130 laps of 267 Sunday at Kansas Speedway to score his ninth win of the 2021 season and his fourth in NASCAR’s Playoffs.
Larson took the lead for a final time on a re-start with 39 laps to go and survived a charge from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott for the victory.
“It’s cool to get another win and I don’t really know how that happened but, our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really fast,” Larson said. “I thought we were like a third-place car, really. William (Byron) was really good. I hate to see that unfortunate luck there again for that team. They’ve been really, really strong. I’m glad we could capitalize and get another win.”
Elliott hung on to finish second despite getting loose and slapping the wall three times in the final six laps as he tried to close the gap.
“I felt like we had something for Kyle (Larson) there,” Elliott said. “Just got the wall there off of (turn) two. It’s so hard to get up to him when you are running the fence like that. It’s just tough because every few feet you get closer, the harder it gets. It was a lot of fun. I’m really proud of the way we ran today. I feel like it was a really nice step in the right direction.”
Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Playoff driver Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Larson led from pole but early on it was fellow Hendrick driver William Byron who had the car to beat. Bryon won both the Stages and led 57 laps, but a late race pit road error forced him back into the pits for a loose lug nut from the lead and restart 14th. Byron would rally but could only manage sixth.
Several of the 8 Playoff drivers suffered bad days that have them needing a win to advance to the final four.
Chief among them was Kyle Busch who suffered a flat tire and had to pit under green on lap 23 while running inside the top 10. He was able to recover and was back inside the top 10 once again when another tire went down on lap 133 and his Toyota suffered a hard hit. Busch finished 28, 6 laps down.
Brad Keselowski also had a forgettable day after contending for the lead at one point. Keselowski got together with Playoff driver Martin Truex Jr. and scrapped the wall on lap 34. He had to pit in the closing laps with debris on the grill of his Penske Ford and finished 17th one lap down.
Truex later had issues of his own. A flat tire sent him to the pits under green on lap 53 and he was 2 laps down at one point but stayed out of trouble in the closing laps and finished 7th.
Joey Logano and his crew gambled during a round of green flag stops hoping for a caution. He stayed out as the rest of the leaders pitted and was credited with leading 22 laps, but finally had to pit on lap 146. He would finish 9th just behind Christopher Bell in 8th.
No one had a worse day however, than Ryan Blaney. He was running 4th on lap 72 when a cut tire sent him into the pits. He recovered and was running inside the top 10 when Austin Dillon got loose on a restart on lap 224 underneath and send Blaney’s Ford into the outside wall exiting Turn 2. Blaney was done for the day and was the only Playoff driver scored with a DNF. Dillon finished 10th.
Larson’s win was made more impressive as unlike several others, his meeting with the wall on lap 209 while trying to hold off those behind with older tires, didn’t result in disaster.
“I felt like I did an okay job trying to hold those guys off as long as I could on the older tires,” Larson said. “But, yeah, then I just got a little too impatient. The race was kind of closing down at the end and got loose off of 2, got in the wall, and thought for sure my chances of winning were done.
“But had a couple good restarts that worked out for me. The 4 (Harvick) got to the 9 (Elliott) inside at the flag stand and kind of choked that lane up and got me clear to lead. Had to do some blocking there and Chase was really fast at the end. Glad I didn’t have to fight him too much.”
The win also came 17 years to the day that Hendrick Motorsports lost 10 people – including Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky and brother John – in a plane crash near Martinsville, Virginia.
In victory lane, Larson’s No. 5 Chevy team turned their hats backward in tribute to Ricky’s favorite style and pointed upward in tribute to the organization’s lost members.
“I want to dedicate this win to Rick and Linda (Hendrick),’’ Larson said. “I didn’t ever get to meet Ricky or the other men and women who lost their lives that day, but I felt the importance of this race, no doubt.”
The race started on time, but a brief shower and lightning forced a 15-minute red flag on lap 11. Larson becomes the first driver to score three consecutive wins twice in one season since Dale Earnhardt Sr. did so in 1987.
With his second-place finish, Elliott is 34 points above the cutline; Hamlin 32, and Busch 1. Blaney, Truex, Keselowski and Lagano are below the cutline. The final race in the Round of 8 that will determine the final three drivers who will join Larson and race for the championship will be next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Hollywood Casino 400
Kansas City, Kansas
Sunday, October 24, 2021
- (1) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 267.
- (5) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 267.
- (11) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.
- (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267.
- (6) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.
- (9) William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.
- (7) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
- (10) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 267.
- (8) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 267.
- (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
- (25) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.
- (21) Chris Buescher, Ford, 267.
- (24) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 267.
- (27) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 267.
- (16) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 267.
- (18) Michael McDowell, Ford, 266.
- (3) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 266.
- (22) Cole Custer, Ford, 266.
- (19) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 266.
- (40) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 266.
- (32) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 265.
- (12) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 265.
- (15) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 265.
- (28) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 265.
- (23) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 263.
- (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 263.
- (31) Ryan Newman, Ford, 263.
- (4) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 261.
- (17) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 260.
- (26) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 259.
- (36) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 258.
- (39) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 256.
- (30) Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, 256.
- (38) David Starr(i), Ford, 255.
- (35) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 255.
- (34) Ryan Ellis(i), Chevrolet, 254.
- (2) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, Accident, 224.
- (29) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, Accident, 171.
- (33) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 165.
- (37) Chad Finchum(i), Toyota, Handling, 47.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 130.728 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 3 Mins, 49 Secs. Margin of Victory: 3.619 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 33 laps.
Lead Changes: 23 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Larson (P) 1-14;B. Keselowski (P) 15-16;K. Larson (P) 17-24;M. DiBenedetto 25-27;K. Larson (P) 28;M. DiBenedetto 29;K. Larson (P) 30-32;C. Elliott (P) 33-34;W. Byron 35-36;K. Larson (P) 37-87;C. Elliott (P) 88-121;W. Byron 122;K. Busch 123;J. Logano (P) 124-145;W. Byron 146-163;K. Larson (P) 164-167;W. Byron 168-169;K. Larson (P) 170-172;T. Reddick 173-178;K. Larson (P) 179-185;W. Byron 186-219;K. Busch 220-222;C. Elliott (P) 223-228;K. Larson (P) 229-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Larson (P) 9 times for 130 laps; William Byron 5 times for 57 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 3 times for 42 laps; Joey Logano (P) 1 time for 22 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 6 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 2 times for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 4 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 1 time for 2 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,24,9,1,11,4,48,42,18,8
Stage #2 Top Ten: 24,9,5,1,4,8,48,11,23,42