NASCAR & Auto Racing

‘It’s painful’: Why Kyle Larson’s NASCAR title hopes went up in smoke Sunday

Kyle Larson was once a favorite to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. However, a blown engine Sunday ended the Elk Grove native’s title hopes.
Kyle Larson was once a favorite to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. However, a blown engine Sunday ended the Elk Grove native’s title hopes. The Associated Press

Kyle Larson is having his best season in NASCAR’s top tier. With four victories and several top-10 finishes this year, he was considered by many a favorite to win the Monster Energy Cup.

However, an engine failure during Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 put his title bid up in smoke.

“It’s painful,” the Elk Grove native told NASCAR.com’s Holly Cain. “It sucks.”

Larson, who began the race 33 points above the cut line, originally went to pit road late in the first stage of the race to have his engine problems looked at. After returning to the track, his engine blew a few laps later. His race was done, and he sat in 39th place out of 40 drivers.

Larson still had a shot to advance, but Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch scored enough points Sunday to finish in the top eight and advance to the next round of the playoffs. Also eliminated with Larson were Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

“Disappointing way to finish our race and our season,” Larson told NASCAR.com. “But we’ll be all right. Things happen.

“I’m not stunned because freak things happen in every sport. ... Not always does the best team win.”

Series leader Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s race, his seventh victory of the season and the second time this year he’s won at Kansas Speedway. The win came one day after Jim Watson, one of Truex’s crew members, died of a heart attack while in town for the race. Watson was 55.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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