9:37 ET Bob Pockrass NASCAR Close • NASCAR Author of ESPN.com• 2009, 2013 NMPA Author of Year• More than 25…
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – NASCAR started its playoff system for win-and-in drama. It wants tension of victory and trouble of defeat, as it eliminates four drivers after three-race rounds.
It did not happen Sunday on Kansas Speedway. And the drivers who were eliminated seemed to scratch their misery and thought they just were not good enough to advance while Chase Elliott caught the trophy.
No tears. Maybe a little frustration. But the drama at the end of the first round of three drivers tied to the last place in the stakes and a crash when they went for the win were not in the Hollywood Casino 400 cards.
Ryan Blaney never felt he had racing speed so He did not seem to know that he had given anything away at the end of the seventh. Kyle Larson could have been close to winning, but he philosophized that at least his elimination – he finished third – was caused by his team’s woes and not something without control.
Blaney, Larson, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman were eliminated from playoff battle. Blaney challenged the lead in the first half before scrubbing the wall and faded.
Larson, who started on the back of a backup car after crashing his primary in qualification, could get as high as others but eventually settled for third.
“I’m actually glad that nothing stupid took us out of the playoff this year,” said Larson. “We had the battery that came out in Dover a few years ago. We blew up a motor last year.”
“Of course, I would like to have made it to the next round. But I’m glad it was nothing but just that we did not do where we needed to be what kept us in the next round.”
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr. , Elliott, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch advanced. After running 101 rounds in May in Kansas, Larson was linked as the driver most likely to pull off win-and-in. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver had not won the whole year and also entered the race with a 36-point deficit on the cutoff.
The race was a typical Kansas Speedway store. Track position was the key. There was only one green flagpass for the route on the track (the others came under pit bikes) and that’s when Logano on four fresh tires passed Blaney when he took two tires.
“Even the runs where I felt I was well can not stop,” said Larson. “Everyone is fast. When you get faster, someone gets stuck.”
Larson looked into the mirror when he talked about being eliminated. He had won one step throughout the year. He had finished 12, 11 and 3 and failed to leave the round. He did not earn any points in the two initial races and stifled his efforts in the round.
“For those teams that start the playoffs with not many playoff points, you already have a pretty big deficit for them guys,” said Larson. “You know you have to be perfect. … We had no score points until today – just one stage out of the six steps.
“You can not really expect to make it to the next round without racing up the whole race. There was little where our round went wrong.”
The driver who probably had the best season not to move on was 2012 Champion Brad Keselowski, who had three wins this year and was closest to the cutoff in the race. He was never a factor and finished sixth.
“We were just not as good today as we were yesterday [in practice] and I’m not sure why,” said Keselowski. “Everyone else seemed to find something from practice and we were about the same, maybe even a little worse than we were in practice.”
“At the end of the first step, it was quite obvious that we needed something after I saw some things on the other cars. We needed something to get up, but it was just not there.”
Keselowski, like Larson , was philosophical: “I’m proud of what we did in the course of the year. We won three races and did everything.” I feel we can win Martinsville next week, so I’m glad about it. But of course, the ultimate goal is to win a championship and we will not be able to do it this year. “
Blaney seemed to have the best shot when he finished third in the opening phase and second in second contact with the wall ended most of his hopes when he finished six points behind Kurt Busch and Bowyer for the playoffs.
“I never thought we had winning speed,” Blaney said. “I thought we were second-or third-rate… I hit the fence.”
The Kansas competition was set for drama, because Busch and Bowyer both had trouble and lurked the edge to be eliminated, especially when Blaney drove with the leaders.
A NASCAR dear calling at Bowyer, where it ruled a gloomy deck did not go far enough into the adjacent pit box could have made things even more dramatic to him, but he would probably not have been caught in Blaney’s position by a penalty. . 19659005] There were no Cinderella stories. Those who went into the outskirts ended on outs. Only Blaney was even nearby – Keselowski missed 18 points, Larson with 28 and Bowman with 69.
“We gave it was our whole and drove very hard, Blaney said.” That’s just the essence of it. … I clamped up and cost us a shot.
Blaney said his team deserved better.
But NASCAR playoffs are about not making mistakes in swinging situations and throughout the season.
These mistakes and a lack of speed sentenced some euphoric moments. ]