Kyle Larson, the defending champion, is disqualified from the Cup playoffs

Kyle Larson Cup playoffs

Kyle Larson’s unusually early elimination from the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs was shocking even though he was unable to repeat his outstanding 2021 championship season this year.

Kyle Larson Cup playoffs

The year before, Larson had a record-setting season in his debut year as a Hendrick Motorsports driver, winning a series-high 10 races and earning his first series championship.

For Larson and his No. 5 team, this year has been more challenging because it is the first with the Next Gen car in the Cup Series.

He has two victories and 368 laps led, but those totals are nowhere near the 2,581 laps lead last season. Nevertheless, throughout the majority of Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval, Larson seemed to be in a strong position to progress on points to the semifinal round of the playoffs.

But late in the race, when he collided with the wall at Turns 5 and 6, Larson’s fortunes took an unexpected turn. On lap 99 of 112, he was required to pit under green due to a damaged toe link, which necessitated time-consuming repairs.

On lap 104, when he finally rejoined the race, he was 35th and 5 laps down, which immediately put him in risk of missing the top-eight that would transfer.

The closing circuits were spent by Larson hobbling around the course as he hoped Chase Briscoe wouldn’t gain positions, but it was not to be. Briscoe passed Larson for the last transfer place by two points in the last two laps after starting outside the top-20.

“Yeah, I mean, you give up that many spots, you know you’re going to be close. Then the caution there. So, yeah, I just made way too many mistakes all year long. Made another one today,” Larson said. “Ultimately cost us an opportunity to go chase another championship.

“Just extremely mad at myself. Let the team down a number of times this year, and let them down in a big way today.

“We’ll keep fighting. We’ll come back stronger. I’ll definitely come back stronger and smarter, make better moves out there.”

When questioned how he could redeem himself for his team in the remaining 2022 season, Larson said that he appeared to bear the majority of the blame for his performance this year.

“Go race hard,” he said. “There’s definitely no other person to blame but myself for today. I feel like our team put ourselves in position as well as we could on points. Got as many stage points as we could. I think it was plus 27 or 28 at the time when I screwed up. Just for no reason, either.

“I wasn’t even pushing that hard at that moment. Got loose, caught me off guard. Yeah, just got to keep working on my craft, just be better, make a lot less mistakes.”

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Charlotte Roval, Hendrick Motorsports, IndyCar, Kyle Larson, Nascar, NASCAR Cup Series, XFinity

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