Make it nine for Kyle Larson.
The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway ended in what has become a familiar sight this season as Larson dominated on his way to victory. Larson, once again, looked untouchable as he led 130 of 267 laps, won the first stage, and won for the ninth time. While it’s Larson’s fourth win in the playoffs, it is his third straight victory and the second time Larson has won three consecutive Cup Series races this year.
The victory carries significant meaning for Hendrick Motorsports. Sunday marked the 17th anniversary of the 2004 plane crash that killed 10 people either related to Hendrick or associated with the race team. Among those was Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky. Larson’s HendrickCars.com paint scheme is the same one Ricky Hendrick ran during his career.
“I want to dedicate this win to Rick and Linda [Hendrick],” Larson said. “I didn’t get to ever meet Ricky or the other men and women who lost their lives that day, but I felt the importance of this race, no doubt. So, crazy kind of how it all worked out there for me to win. I know they were all looking down, helping me out there on all the restarts and stuff, and after getting in the wall.
“Again, thank you to Rick Hendrick. I know this means a lot to you, and I’m glad I could get it done. So, cool to get another win. I don’t really know how that happened, but our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really fast. I thought we were like a third-place car, maybe. William was really good. I hate to see the unfortunate luck there for that team; they’ve been really, really strong. So, glad we could capitalize and get another win, and hopefully, we can go to Martinsville and get a clock.”
Larson took the lead for the final time off a restart with 39 laps to go. It was the final restart of the race and, after initially fending off a charging Kevin Harvick, who got to his bumper with 30 laps to go, drove away to a comfortable gap.
Larson is the only driver locked into the title as the Round of 8 wraps up next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Chase Elliott finished second to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Elliott took the spot from Kevin Harvick with 13 laps to go and initially made some gains cutting into Larson’s lead but then hit the wall with six laps to go off Turn 2, and again a lap later. The margin of victory was 3.619 seconds.
LARSON VS. HARVICK!
It’s on for the lead with less than 35 to go in the #HC400! (: NBCSN) pic.twitter.com/sGaoB0HwzE
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 24, 2021
Harvick finished third, Kurt Busch finished fourth, and Denny Hamlin completed the top five. William Byron finished sixth and won the second stage.
When the caution flew with 50 laps to go because of a Ryan Newman spin, Byron came off pit road as the leader. However, his Hendrick Motorsports team didn’t get all the lug nuts tight, and it forced Byron to make an extra pit stop and took him out of contention for the race win.
Martin Truex Jr. finished seventh. Truex rallied from a flat right-rear tire that forced an unscheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 56 and put him two laps down. He then ran out of fuel and had to pit under green on lap 143.
Christopher Bell finished eighth, Joey Logano finished ninth, and Austin Dillon finished 10th. Five of the eight playoff drivers finished inside the top 10.
Brad Keselowski finished 17th one lap down. Keselowski suffered two flat tires that set him behind.
The same issues hindered Kyle Busch’s day. Busch finished six laps down in 28th.
The worst finishing playoff driver was Ryan Blaney, who crashed out of the race with 44 laps to go. Austin Dillon got loose underneath Blaney in Turn 2, tagged Blaney in the left rear, and sent the Team Penske driver hard into the outside wall. Blaney finished 37th.
Here’s a look at what happened to @Blaney coming off of Turn 2. #NASCARPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/Vky0eduGd8
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 24, 2021
Blaney, Truex, Keselowski, and Logano are the four drivers below the cutline going into the elimination race at Martinsville.
There were 23 lead changes among eight drivers on Sunday afternoon and seven caution flags.