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Kyle Larson’s championship bid ends early due to engine failure

Kyle Larson was a surprise elimination in the Round 2 knockout race Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400
Kyle Larson drives to pit road after a blown engine during the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 22, 2017.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kyle Larson was one of the best drivers throughout the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season, winning four races, leading the third-most laps and entering the playoffs as a title favorite.

But Larson’s championship hopes ended unexpectedly in the second round during Sunday’s knockout race at Kansas Speedway. His elimination was caused by an engine failure in the No. 42 Chevrolet, erasing what was thought to be a comfortable 29-point margin entering the final race of three in the quarterfinal bracket.

“I’m not stunned because freak things happen in every sport,” Larson said. “Most every time, at least in the new playoff format era, not always does the best team win. Not saying we are the best team, but we have been one of the contenders all season long. … We have been consistent and just now got bit.”

Had Larson scored a respectable finish Sunday he would’ve advanced to the semifinals and been seeded third among the eight remaining playoff-eligible drivers. And he was on his way to doing just that, running solidly in the top 10 before his engine began losing power.

Larson initially pitted where his Chip Ganassi Racing team attempted to diagnosis the problem. He would return to the track for seven more laps before the engine completely failed, emanating a long trail of smoke behind the No. 42 car.

Larson finished 39th in the 40-car field. Jimmie Johnson overcame two spins to finish 11th, claiming the final transfer position by nine points over Larson.

“I hate that we blew an engine and probably blew our shot at the championship,” Larson said. “But luck is a big factor of our sport.

“It just stinks, but it is what it is.”