A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway…
Kyle Larson – As he was in May, Kyle Larson was again dominant at Kansas. But on Sunday, he finished the job to score his ninth win of the season and continue the No. 5 team’s roll toward the Championship 4 in Phoenix. “What this means for us moving forward … There is a cadence to how our whole team prepares. Everybody is bought in, everybody believes in it,” he said. “If I went to them tomorrow and said we’re going to ignore Martinsville and focus on Phoenix, they’re just not going to listen to me.”
Chase Elliott – Runner-up finish came with 52 points, including 17 from the stages. He’ll have a 34-point cushion entering next Sunday’s Round of 8 eliminator at Martinsville, but Elliott isn’t feeling safe. “I don’t know if (that cushion) allows you to do much of anything now,” he said. “As you saw today, I am not sure that any amount of points is safe. I think anyone in this round can win next week. So, we are really going to have to be on it, but looking forward to the opportunity and excited for the challenge.”
Kevin Harvick – Third-place finish gave Harvick back-to-back top five finishes in the last two races on 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished fifth last week at Texas Motor Speedway. “We closed a huge gap at 1.5 mile race tracks and everyone is doing a great job,” he said.
Kurt Busch – Fourth-place finish was only his second top-five result in his last nine races (fourth at Talladega). “I wanted to give them a good run and we were there,” he said. “… It’s the little things that make the big difference. We freed it up on that last run; it got too tight. When you’re running with the big dogs, you have to do everything right.”
Martin Truex Jr. – Did well to recover from early damage and a cut tire to finish seventh. Even with no stage points, he moved from 22 points below the cutline to three points below heading to Martinsville, where he won back in April. That victory was his third in the last four races there.
William Byron – Byron kept the lead following pit stops under caution with less than 50 laps to go, but had to pit again for loose lug nuts. He took the restart in 14th and could only recover for sixth at the finish. “I feel like we were executing a really good race and probably had the best car,” he said. “We just had that issue and it took us out. We will rebound.”
Kyle Busch – Finished 28th after getting in the wall twice and pitting for flat tires on both occasions. The second also left him with significant damage to his car’s right-rear quarter panel and ruined his day. He holds the final spot in the Championship 4 by a single point over Ryan Blaney. “I was expecting much worse (points-wise),” he said. “Still a shot, it’s just going to be tough. Just going to be a hard-fought dog fight for that final spot.”
Ryan Blaney – Wrong place, wrong time for Blaney. Austin Dillon got loose underneath him and tried to correct, but ended up taking Blaney out of the race with 44 laps to go. Instead of having a decent points cushion, he’ll be in the aforementioned dogfight at Martinsville.