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October 22, 2017

Engine trouble ruins Kyle Larson’s day, championship hopes

RELATED: See who’s in, who’s out for Round of 8

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Moments after climbing out of his car, the smoke still settling after a massive engine failure early in Sunday’s playoff cutoff race at Kansas Speedway, Kyle Larson stood outside his team’s trailer and succinctly and honestly summed up his feelings to a waiting crowd of reporters.

“It’s painful,” Larson said quietly. “It sucks.”

As crewmen stood around his No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet yards away, one of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoffs favorites could only shake his head and be philosophical about the situation. He entered the Hollywood Casino 400 ranked third in the championship standings and was considered a favorite to advance to the Homestead-Miami season finale in four weeks to race for his first NASCAR championship.

Instead, he parked his car in the Kansas garage and patiently and politely answered reporters’ questions – trying to put his massive disappointment into words.

After doing so, Larson walked away to watch the rest of the race in the privacy of his team hauler. Soon after Larson closed the door, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin approached and walked right inside — undoubtedly ready to comfort the 25-year-old.

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Larson was scored 39th out of 40 drivers by the time the first stage was complete Sunday. His only hope was for those ahead of him in the standings — specifically Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson — to have their own issues. Kenseth was caught up in a wreck and exited the race early, but Johnson and Kyle Busch drove to strong finishes to advance into the Round of 8.

Larson was left one spot below the cutoff line.

“Disappointing way to finish our race and our season,” Larson said. “But we’ll be all right. Things happen. The 78 had the engine issue last year after being the best car all year and then us this year. Disappointing.

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