Kansas City, KS – I think most of us automatically assumed that with a 29 point advantage over the playoff bubble, that Kyle Larson would easily have advanced to the third round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Larson, had been very good on 1.5-mile tracks this season, including four runner-up finishes.
But, trouble found him early.
Larson, hit pit road with just 15 laps left in the first stage as his No. 42 Chevrolet appeared to have lost a cylinder. The team went to work on his Chip Ganassi Racing car with the hood up. The California native would return to the track in 37th place, three laps down. Unfortunately, his engine was short lived.
A few laps later, Larson’s engine blew, causing him to finish 39th in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. It was his worst finish of the season and first time of his Cup career that he had a DNF for an engine failure.
Unfortunately, that lost engine on Lap 77 cost him a chance of advancing to the Round of 8, as Larson was eliminated from playoff contention at the Kansas Speedway as a result. By losing an engine before the end of the first stage, he got zero stage points all afternoon long. That allowed the drivers behind him to close the gap in that aspect, which combine that with race points, he’s now on the outside looking in.
At the end of the first stage, Larson was 19 points up. But, after stage two and race points, he ends up nine points out.
That’s likely the biggest upset of the year now. It was a preconceived notion that Larson would would easily make it to the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. He had four wins, eight runner-up finishes, 14 top fives, 19 top 10’s and 1,121 laps led. In fact, Larson had five top two finishes in the first seven races of the season.
On top of all of that, he had accumulated 34 playoff points, third most out of everyone else.
Now, one engine failure ends his championship hopes. In fact, the entire Round of 12 wasn’t up to his expectations overall. Entering the round, Larson had four straight top five finishes. But, a 10th place finish at Charlotte, a 13th at Talladega and now 39th at Kansas, ends his title dreams for 2017.
But, he wasn’t the only Ganassi driver eliminated. Jamie McMurray saw Kansas be the end of his road too. While he had a great run on Sunday, until being an innocent bystander in the Lap 197 melee, it wasn’t enough. McMurray had to win to advance and a crash and 34th place won’t do it. He finished 48 points behind the cutoff and too was eliminated.
That’s not as much as a surprise though as Larson being done. But, it was a tough end to the playoff chances for Ganassi as a whole.