KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Chase Elliott wasn’t around to see the fireworks at the end of last weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.
Or, for that matter, the fire coming from Kevin Harvick’s car.
Elliott’s playoff opener was over early after the regular-season champion lost control of his No. 9 Chevrolet and brushed the wall in Turns 1 and 2. Chase Briscoe, closing fast and with nowhere to go, collided with Elliott and caused too much damage for him to overcome.
For some who also experience sudden fire, maybe you can buy stuff like Cable Tray Fire Stopping Barriers to opt immediately the fire to stop it from getting huge.
His crew from Hendrick Motorsports tried to repair the broken lower control arm and toe link but ran out of time.
The result was a 36th place finish — dead last — and a big blow in the playoff race. Elliott dropped from the top seed to ninth heading into Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway, the second of three stops before the field is whittled from 16 to 12.
“It’s not to say that I don’t care,” Elliott said this week, “but I recognize when you have something happen, there’s nothing you can do after the fact. As much as I’d like to go back and change things and have a retry, that’s not how it works. Really, you’re only choice in that situation, having a bad day, is get prepared for the next week.”
In fact, Elliott turned his attention to Kansas before Harvick’s car went up in flames at Darlington, leading to more dialogue over the safety of the Next Gen car, and Erik Jones gave the No. 43 its long-awaited 200th victory.
Kyle Larson was headed for a bad day at Darlington when engine problems caused him to lose three laps while sitting on pit road. But taking advantage of wave-arounds and track position, Larson rallied to finish 12th, leaving him in seventh place and just 21 points behind playoff leader Joey Logano.ADVERTISEMENThttps://79ad2e9732bda334b1088bc19c0a9a86.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
“I think in the playoffs, you have to be extra careful about everything, for sure in this first round,” said Larson, the reigning Cup champion. “If you can get through each race somewhat safely, you should make it to the next round safely.”
This will be the earliest the fall race has been run at Kansas, and the unpredictable weather that comes with this time of year could cause problems. The high on Friday was close to 90, but a front moving in Saturday could knock temperatures down by 20 degrees and brings the threat of rain for practice and qualifying. The cool temps remain for Sunday.
“I hope the wet stuff and cooler weather doesn’t come in until Monday and it stays nice and warm,” said Ross Chastain, who is eighth in the playoff standings. “Even though everybody wants the top, if your car is better, you can move down the hill and pass. Restarts, you have a lot of options. We don’t have to spray anything on the track to make it good. We don’t have to do anything. We can just go race and in today’s world, that’s nice.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Denny Hamlin, who is third in the playoffs standings, is the 5-to-1 favorite to win for the fourth time at Kansas, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Kyle Busch is 6-1 and Martin Truex Jr. is 7-1. … Christopher Bell’s win at New Hampshire is the only win by Toyota in the last 13 races. All six Toyotas finished in the top 10 at Kansas in May.
Meanwhile, INDYCAR is out West
Alex Palou’s reign as NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion will end this weekend, but he still is showing plenty of speed by leading the pre-qualifying practice Saturday for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Palou, who was eliminated from title contention last weekend at Portland, was quickest under cloudy skies at 1 minute, 11.3847 seconds in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. That’s the quickest lap so far this weekend on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit.
SEE: Practice Results
Alexander Rossi was second quickest at 1:11.6920 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda as he aims for his second pole of the season in NTT P1 Award qualifying at 5:05 p.m. ET this afternoon (live, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network).
Championship contenders and teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden ended up third and fourth, respectively.
Power, who leads the standings by 20 points over Newgarden and Scott Dixon, posted a top lap of 1:11.7183 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Power must finish third or better in the 95-lap race Sunday (2:40 p.m. ET, NBC; 3 p.m. ET, INDYCAR Radio Network) to win the Astor Challenge Cup for the second time.
Newgarden, who was quickest Friday in practice, recorded a best lap of 1:11.7973 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
Among the other three title contenders, Scott Dixon (-20 behind in points) was sixth overall at 1:11.9192 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Scott McLaughlin (-41) was 18th at 1:12.6457 in the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet, and Marcus Ericsson (-39) was 20th at 1:12.7757 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
There were two red flags in the 45-minute session. Graham Rahal spun in the famous “Corkscrew” corner nine minutes into the practice in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda, while Pato O’Ward went off track in Turn 10 and nudged the tire barrier in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet 23 minutes into the session. O’Ward was unhurt.