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.