Kyle Larson executed a little too well on the final restart Sunday at Kansas Speedway, and it cost both himself and Ryan Blaney.
“My plan was just to push him as hard as I could and try to be with him on the backstretch to shove him, and hopefully, get those guys racing in front of me or potentially get inside or outside for the lead somehow,” said Larson. “I just planned on pushing him really hard, and obviously I did that and got him sideways, and ended up getting us both in the wall.
“I probably should have just laid off once I got to the corner, and hopefully, a ran came to where I could get to his back bumper on the backstretch. Hate that I screwed that up and cost ourselves a good finish.”
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Kansas came down to a two-lap shootout with Blaney, running second, restarting outside the front row. Larson restarted behind Blaney in fourth place and did indeed shove Blaney through Turns 1 and 2. But the shove was so strong it carried both drivers up the track, forcing them out of the gas as Blaney nearly spun around and took them out of contention.
Larson wound up 19th at the finish. Blaney was 21st.
“Nobody got to the lead from the second row, so I knew I was in trouble,” Larson said of the final restart. “Like I said, I just wanted to do a good job to keep Ryan side-by-side with Kyle [Busch] and maybe get them racing and punch a big hole for me to get a run somehow.
“Obviously, I didn’t want to be on the second row for the final restart; I had Brad [Keselowski] lined up behind me the one before, and he wasn’t able to get to my back bumper. He had to protect from the guys behind him trying to pull out of line, so our lane slowed up. Yeah, it just didn’t work out.”
An absolute @kansasspeedway cattle drive on the final restart. 🐂
Relive the heart-pounding final two laps that saw @KyleBusch hang on for the win! pic.twitter.com/96PYMpgNcV
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 2, 2021
It was a disappointing ending to a dominant day for Larson. He was leading when a caution flew on lap 257 of 267 to bring the field back together. On the ensuing restart, in which Larson chose the outside lane, Busch was shoved to the race lead by Blaney, with Larson falling back to third. He then chose the outside lane for the final restart, putting him fourth in the running order behind Blaney.
Larson led the most laps at Kansas, 132, and he also won the second stage for his fourth stage win of the season. It was the third race this season in which Larson has led the most laps – he’s led a total of 511 laps on the year – but he’s only gone to victory lane once (Las Vegas).
While Larson acknowledged it’d been a good start to the season, he “could have four or five (wins). But, yeah, just another day where I lead a lot of laps and don’t win. Just got to figure it out.”