The NASCAR Cup Series returned to the Midwest this weekend for the middle playoff race of the Round of 8. Kansas Speedway hosted the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday afternoon. The race proved to be tough for several drivers as problems ensued throughout the field. One driver managed to survive the chaotic afternoon and continued what has been one of the best NASCAR seasons in the sport’s history. For the third straight week, Kyle Larson headlines the NASCAR recap article as the Hollywood Casino 400 winner.
NASCAR Cup Series Recap | Kyle Larson Wins at Kansas
Hollywood Casino 400 Stage 1
After his win last week,Kyle Larson was awarded the pole and took the green flag to start the race. Ten laps in, the race had to be red-flagged briefly for rain. Twenty minutes later, the race was resumed. However, gusting winds continued to cause handling problems for several drivers, particularly on Turn 2 exit.
Brad Keselowski continued his great start to the afternoon and battled Larson for the lead until Kyle Busch hit the wall and cut down a tire to bring out the second caution. NASCAR deemed this yellow as the competition caution given that it came right around Lap 25. This brought the whole field to pit road.
Matt DiBenedetto played a little strategy by only taking fuel under the comp caution and restarting from the lead. He held Larson off for a couple of laps, but the No. 5 car ultimately prevailed. Keselowski cut a right rear tire, but the race stayed green. Martin Truex Jr. also cut a tire down towards the end of the stage and had to pit. Larson went on to win Stage 1.
Hollywood Casino 400 Stage 2
Chase Elliott took the lead from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson, early after the Stage 2 restart. He led until green flag pit stops started on Lap 38. Joey Logano was hoping to catch a caution to trap the majority of drivers a lap down, but it didn’t work out. Kyle Busch blew a right rear tire and lost a lot of positions. This all happened as William Byron cycled to the lead after the pit stops and went on to win Stage 2.
Hollywood Casino 400 Final Stage
The race was restarted and Kyle Larson took off, but not before Tyler Reddick made a huge move from the bottom to the top and tried to take the lead away. Anthony Alfredo hit the wall hard and brought out another caution. Reddick was scored as the race leader at the caution and had control on the restart. Only Reddick and Larson stayed on the track during the yellow while the rest of the lead-lap cars behind them came to pit road for tires and fuel. Reddick wound up falling back like a rock on the restart down to all the way outside of the top-10.
William Byron took the lead away from Larson and the No. 5 car fell back a bit in the dirty air. Ryan Newman cut a tire down and spun to bring out another caution. Byron won the race off of pit road, but he had to return to his box to fix some loose lug nuts. Elliott found his way into the lead after the restart. Austin Dillon got loose and into the left rear quarter panel of NASCAR Playoffs contender, Ryan Blaney. This sent the No. 12 car into the wall and he scraped it all the way down the backstretch. The wreck ended his day and caused a big shift in the playoff points standings.
Late Challenge From Elliott Falls Short
Larson got away from the field on the ensuing restart. Reddick’s day got even worse as he blew a tire and had to come down pit road. Elliott came back from his bad restart to challenge for the win down the stretch. He hit the wall twice and eased off the gas to nurse it to the finish.
Kyle Larson went on to win for the third straight week and ninth time this season overall. This Hollywood Casino 400 victory came 17 years to the day of the Hendrick Plane Crash. After the No. 5 car crossed the finish line as the winner, crew chief Cliff Daniels came over the radio and said, “This one is for you Mr. H.”
Final Hollywood Casino 400 Thoughts
The stage has now been set for the penultimate NASCAR Cup Series race. Only one driver is safely locked into the Championship 4 at Phoenix and his name is Kyle Larson. The seven other playoff drivers are left to fight for the final three spots. Things are going to get hairy in Martinsville next weekend. The short track is truly the perfect race to be the cut-off.
As for the Hollywood Casino 400 race itself, it was actually better than expected. There were passes being made all around the track and the whole track was being used. To see a Hendrick Motorsports car in victory lane 17 years after the Hendrick plane crash that killed 10 people including Ricky Hendrick was truly awesome. It undoubtedly brought some tears to some eyes, including those of team owner, Rick Hendrick. Making the moment even better was the fact that Kyle Larson had the Ricky Hendrick paint scheme on his car.