NASCAR: Kyle Larson wins his 9th race of 2021 at Kansas

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Kyle Larson won again on Sunday.

Larson got his ninth win of the season at Kansas Speedway and has won at least 25% of the races in 2021. Larson won his third consecutive race for the second time this season and denied anyone else a chance of locking in a spot in the championship race.

Larson guaranteed his title shot with a win at Texas a week ago. He's been the best driver of the season — by far — and is the prohibitive favorite entering the title race at Phoenix. The only question now: Who are the three drivers who will join him?

Larson's teammate Chase Elliott finished second and will head into the final race of the third round at Martinsville on Halloween in a comfortable points position. 

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - OCTOBER 24: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 24, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 24, 2021, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Sunday's race was the final intermediate track race for the current car in NASCAR and we have to say good riddance. The low-horsepower/high-downforce rules combination NASCAR has instituted at intermediate tracks provides artificially close restarts and aerodynamically dominated racing afterward. It's not the best way for NASCAR to showcase its product. In our opinion, anyway. NASCAR executives clearly think that drivers going flat-out at 1.5-mile tracks is the best way to put on a race.

NASCAR is moving to a new car in 2022. The car will be a spec car with most of its parts provided by suppliers to teams. The new car is designed to reduce costs for teams, though it will also reduce the space for ingenuity. Drivers will be racing largely the same cars against each other. The advantage that Larson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates had over the rest of the field at intermediate tracks will likely not exist next year and beyond. 

What Hendrick did at intermediate tracks this season was incredibly impressive. The team's four drivers won seven of 14 intermediate track races (including Pocono) in 2021 and also dominated on road courses. Elliott and Larson combined to win five of the seven road course races this year. 

Lots of playoff drivers have bad days

So many playoff drivers had bad days at Kansas that there wasn't much of a shakeup in the points standings. 

Kyle Busch is still in fourth and a point ahead of fifth after finishing 28th and hitting the wall twice. Busch only lost seven points to fifth place because of Ryan Blaney's problems and issues for Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.

Blaney hit the wall in the final stage after he got tagged by Austin Dillon after a restart. The hard contact with the wall ended Blaney's day and he finished 37th. 

Truex Jr. had an early pit stop for a flat tire and spent most of his race fighting back from that lost track position. He finished seventh but is still three points behind Busch. 

Brad Keselowski also hit the wall and had a flat tire early in the race. He finished 17th after a caution came out for a spin for Ryan Newman right after he made his final pit stop of the race. Had Newman not spun, Keselowski could have finished a lot higher. 

Joey Logano finished ninth and made up 17 points on fourth place after his engine blew up at Texas. Logano is still 26 points out of the final title spot but he at least has a chance to make it to Phoenix with a shot at the championship without winning the race. Had he been 40 points behind Busch in fourth, he likely would have faced a certain win-and-in situation at Martinsville on Halloween.

Points standings

1. Kyle Larson (2 wins)

2. Chase Elliott (+34 points to fifth)

3. Denny Hamlin (+32)

4. Kyle Busch (+1)

5. Ryan Blaney

6. Martin Truex Jr. (-3 to fourth)

7. Brad Keselowski (-6)

8. Joey Logano (-26)

Race results

1. Kyle Larson

2. Chase Elliott

3. Kevin Harvick

4. Kurt Busch

5. Denny Hamlin

6. William Byron

7. Martin Truex Jr.

8. Christopher Bell

9. Joey Logano

10. Austin Dillon

11. Alex Bowman

12. Chris Buescher

13. Ross Chastain

14. Bubba Wallace

15. Daniel Suarez

16. Michael McDowell

17. Brad Keselowski

18. Cole Custer

19. Chase Briscoe

20. Parker Kligerman

21. Ryan Preece

22. Tyler Reddick

23. Matt DiBenedetto

24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

25. Corey LaJoie

26. Aric Almirola

27. Ryan Newman

28. Kyle Busch

29. Erik Jones

30. BJ McLeod

31. Cody Ware

32. Joey Gase

33. Josh Bilicki

34. David Starr

35. Quin Houff

36. Ryan Ellis

37. Ryan Blaney

38. Anthony Alfredo

39. Justin Haley

40. Chad Finchum

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