KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kyle Larson’s appeal of a rules violation from last week’s race at Talladega was denied Friday, a big blow to the Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s chances of advancing in NASCAR’s playoffs.
Larson was docked 10 points, crew chief Chad Johnston fined $25,000 and car chief David Bryant was suspended for Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway after officials determined the team used unapproved metal tabs in violation of NASCAR’s policy for repairing damaged vehicles.
The penalty dropped Larson from 26 points behind the playoff cutoff to 36 points, meaning the elimination race at Kansas to trim the field to eight is practically a must-win for him.
“I don’t know much about the appeals stuff. I kind of just drive,” Larson said. “Obviously, a 10-point penalty doesn’t help, but I felt like with even being 26 points back we were going to have to go into this week and get a win to make the next round. So it doesn’t mean much to me.”
Now he’s going to have to win from the rear, too. Larson clipped the wall during practice on Friday and had to go to a backup car, which means he will be sent to the back after qualifying 27th.
His team’s expedited appeal on Friday morning was denied by the three-person panel of Chuck Deery, Dixon Johnston and Cathy Rice. Chip Ganassi Racing made a final appeal that also was denied, though Larson didn’t seem to care much whether the team was successful.
“I viewed this weekend before as we had to come in here and win,” he said.
Larson was already having a tough day at Talladega when a blown tire led to a spin on Lap 104, which caused some damage to his car. The team wound up using metal tabs to make the repairs, but the damaged vehicle policy states only fasteners or tape can reattach parts.
The repairs were made without NASCAR officials noticing the violations.
Martin Truex Jr. is in the eighth and final playoff spot heading to Kansas Speedway, but Larson has more to make up than just the points. He’d need to leapfrog Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney, who along with Alex Bowman are among the four drivers below the cut line.
“I think if it was a 26-point gap, you could win both stages or something and that would kind of get you back in it, depending on what kind of race Truex and (Clint) Bowyer and all those guys have,” Larson said, “but I don’t know. We’ll just go out there Sunday and run hard.”
One thing Larson has going for him is his success at Kansas. He’s finished in the top six in two of his last three races, including last spring, when he led 101 laps and won the middle stage before a late crash forced him to work back through the field and finish fourth.
Of course, there’s been heartbreak at Kansas. Larson was 29 points to the good side of the cutline last fall when engine failure eliminated him from NASCAR’s playoffs.
“I was a little bummed about Talladega, and flying home I got really excited about where we were headed this week,” Larson said. “There’s always more pressure to not make mistakes and you cost yourself the spot where you’re already in the playoffs or in the next round. You’re so worried about not making a mistake.
“We know what to do: We can run aggressive, we can race with little care, I guess. Our team can make aggressive calls if the opportunity is there. It’s a cool position to be in.”