Kyle Larson capped off a dominate performance at Kansas Speedway on Sunday by winning the Hollywood Casino 400. After leading 130 laps, he claimed his third-consecutive win and his ninth, overall, of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“I felt like I did an okay job trying to hold those guys off as long as I could, on older tires,” Larson said. “But, yeah, and then I just got a little too impatient and the race was kind of closing down in the end. I got loose off of [turn] two and got in the wall and thought for sure my chances of winning were done. But I had a couple of good restarts that worked out for me. The #4 [Kevin Harvick] got to the # 9’s [Chase Elliott] inside at the flag stand and kind of choked that lane up and got me clear to the lead. Had to do some blocking there, and Chase was really fast at the end. So I’m glad I didn’t have to fight him too much.”
One of Larson’s teammates, reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, finished second for a Hendrick Motorsports one-two finish after getting into the wall in the final five laps in an attempt to challenge his teammate for the lead and eventual win.
“Really proud of the effort. Our entire NAPA Chevrolet team did a great job today, and I felt like we had something for Kyle, there,” Elliott said. “Just got the wall there off of [turn] two. It’s so hard to get up to him when you are running the fence like that. It’s just tough because every few feet you get closer, the harder it gets. It was a lot of fun. I’m really proud of the way we ran today. I feel like it was a really nice step in the right direction.”
Kevin Harvick finished third, Kurt Busch was fourth, and Denny Hamlin finished fifth.
The Hendrick Motorsports trio of Larson, William Byron and Elliott combined to dominate the race on the 17thanniversary of a plane crash that claimed the life of team owner Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky Hendrick, along with other Hendrick family members and Hendrick Motorsports employees on the way to Martinsville Speedway.
“Yes, I want to dedicate this win to Rick and Linda,” Larson said. “I didn’t ever get to meet Ricky or the other men and women who lost their lives that day, but I felt the importance of this race, no doubt. It’s crazy how it kind of all worked out there for me to win. I know they were all looking down and helping me out there with all the restarts and stuff after getting into the wall. Again, thank you to Rick Hendrick. I know this means a lot to you and I’m glad I could get it done. It’s cool to get another win and I don’t really know how that happened, but our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really fast. I thought we were like a third-place car, really. William was really good. I hate to see that unfortunate luck, there, again for that team. They’ve been really, really strong. I’m glad we could capitalize and get another win. I hope we can go to Martinsville and get a clock.”
All three drivers led laps in each of the two 80-lap stages with Larson winning stage one at lap 80 and Byron taking the stage two win on lap 160 of the 267-lap race.
Larson started on the pole and dominated the first stage that included a brief red flag for precipitation and lightning. Byron’s crew chief, Rudy Fugle, sustained a weather-related injury during the red flag when wind blew a canopy from atop the #24 pit box and debris struck Fugle in the head. After a visit to the Kansas Speedway infield care center, Fugle returned to his post.
After potting during the caution that followed the weather delay, Matt DiBenedetto took fuel only during a lap-23 caution for Kyle Busch after Busch hit the wall because of a flat right-front tire. As a result, DiBenedetto was first for the restart.
Larson retook the lead on lap 30. Elliott and Byron, then each led a few laps before Larson moved back into the position on lap 37. The HMS trio ran first through third throughout the remainder of the first stage and most of the laps that made up stage two.
Kyle Busch was one of four playoff drivers to suffer a tire problem in the first stage. Flat right-rear tires resulted in unscheduled green-flag pit stops for Brad Keselowski on lap 39, Martin Truex Jr. on lap 53 and Ryan Blaney on lap 71.
Busch hit the wall, again, with another flat tire on lap 133. Blaney wrecked after contact with Austin Dillon on lap 224.
“Yeah, we got run into from two lanes below me,” Blaney said. “I have no idea. Obviously, it hurts. Finishing 37th is not prime. We didn’t have a great day but we did a good job of fighting back and getting back into the top-10, but then, just got wiped out when we had plenty of room. That sucks. It is very unfortunate.”
Larson continued to lead early in the second stage with his teammates in tow. Elliott, though, took the lead on lap 88 and maintained the position until a cycle of green-flag pit stops in the middle of the stage. When the cycle finally completed when Joey Logano gave up the lead to pit on lap 145, Byron was the leader to take the stage win 15 laps later.
Larson led early in the 107-lap third and final stage of the race after beating Byron off pit road, but on lap 186, Byron took the top position. An extra pit stop for a loose lug nut during a caution for a Ryan Newman spin on lap 218 cost Byron his lead. Instead, Kurt Busch restarted with the lead on lap 223.
When the race returned to green, Elliott retook the lead for the Hendrick organization. Larson, then, took his race-winning lead from his teammate on the final restart of the race that followed the Blaney-Dillon caution.
Byron finished sixth, Truex was seventh, Christopher Bell eighth, Logano ninth, and Dillon 10th. Keselowski wound up with a 18th-place finish, Kyle Busch 28th and Blaney 37th.
HOLLYWOOD CASINO 400 RESULTS