A quartet of drivers were eliminated from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs after Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman all missed the cut and will not advance to the Round of 8, which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway.
Larson had a challenging week coming into the race with a 36-point deficit thanks in part to a penalty for his team installing unapproved metal tabs after an accident last week in Talladega. Despite a pair of appeals, the penalty stuck and Larson had a mountain to climb to make the cut.
To make matters more challenging, he crashed in Friday’s practice session and was forced to start the race from the rear of the field in a backup. However he still made a charge to the front and wound up finishing third but not advance to advance in the playoffs.
“For the teams that start the playoffs with not many playoff points, you’re already at a pretty big deficit to those guys,” Larson explained of his plight. “You know you have to be perfect. Stage points are so important. That’s just kind of where us as a team weren’t able to get really any stage points. We didn’t have any stage points until today. Only one stage out of the six stages.
“Can’t really expect to make it to the next round without being up front all race long. So that’s kind of where our round went wrong.”
Blaney finished seventh Sunday and wound up not advancing despite having a very fast car most of the day. But he made contact with the wall late that impacted his effort.
“Obviously it was a mistake I made trying to work hard to catch those guys and I pushed too hard and got in the fence,” Blaney said. “It is all my fault. Whether it would have worked out for us or not, I don’t know. I don’t think we had the speed the 9 (Elliott) or 4 (Harvick) had.
“The 9 was super fast. I don’t know. I messed up and cost us a shot. I want to thank Wrangler and Menards and Ford for doing what they do. The whole 12 team deserves better than that. That was unfortunate on my part.”
Despite winning three straight races only a few weeks ago Keselowski missed the cut with his sixth-place finish. He and crew chief Paul Wolfe tried some pit strategy that did not pay dividends.
“I am proud of what we did down the stretch of the year,” Keselowski said. “We won three races and did all that. I feel like we can go win Martinsville next week so I am excited about that but of course the ultimate goal is to win a championship and we won’t have an opportunity to do that this year.”
Bowman made the playoffs in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports. He qualified 10th for the race but had a trying day, including a couple of encounters with the wall.
“Last year I ran four races and this year we made it to the second round of the playoffs,” Bowman Tweeted after the race. “This @nationwide88 team has a lot to be proud of and we’re only getting stronger.”