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Kyle Larson on Kansas: ‘Another day where I lead a lot of laps and don’t win’

Kyle Busch celebrates his 36th birthday in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway to follow up his victory in the Truck Series at the same track.

Kyle Larson pointed the finger squarely at himself after a potential win got away Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

On the final restart with two laps to go, Larson lined up second on the outside lane behind Ryan Blaney, who was on the front row beside Kyle Busch.

But as the field worked through Turns 1 and 2, Larson turned Blaney sideways as they tried to catch Busch. Blaney saved it, while Larson went into the Turn 2 wall.

Busch went on to win. Larson and Blaney finished 19th and 21st, respectively.

Afterwards, Larson owned up to his mistake.

“I just lined up behind Blaney and my plan was just to push him as hard as I could and try to be with him on the backstretch to shove him and hopefully get those guys racing in front of me or potentially get inside or outside for the lead somehow,” he said.

“I just planned on pushing him really hard, and obviously, I did that and got him sideways and ended up getting us both in the wall. Probably should’ve just laid off once I got to the corner and, hopefully, a run came to where I could get to his back bumper on the backstretch.

“Hate that I screwed that up and cost ourselves a good finish.”

MORE: Kansas Cup race results

Larson had the strongest car on the afternoon, leading a race-high 132 laps.

He looked poised for his second victory this season when he pressured Denny Hamlin into tagging the Turn 4 wall and took the lead with 25 laps to go. Hamlin subsequently had a right-front tire failure and hit the wall again to bring out a caution with 22 laps to go.

He retained the lead through another restart, only to have another yellow ensue with 14 laps to go for an incident involving Austin Cindric and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Things started to unravel for Larson on the next restart with 10 laps to go. Busch got a jump on Larson to take the lead and Blaney also passed him for second before another crash slowed the race with nine laps to go.

Larson said he knew he was in trouble then.

“I didn’t want to be on the second row the final restart,” he recalled. “I had Brad (Keselowski) lined up behind me the one before, and he wasn’t able to get to my back bumper.

“He had to protect from the guys behind him trying to pull out of line, so just got our lane slowed up, and yeah, just didn’t work out.”

Since earning a playoff berth with his March win at Las Vegas, Larson and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team had already endured several setbacks before Sunday.

At Atlanta, Larson rolled the field to the tune of a race-high 269 laps led, only to have Blaney pass him for the win with nine laps to go.

The following week on the dirt at Bristol - a race where he was one of the favorites to win - he was swept up in an early crash and limped to a 29th-place finish with a heavily damaged car.

Last week at Talladega, he was knocked out after just three laps with a blown engine.

Then came Sunday, which ended up being his fourth finish of 18th of worse in the last five races. The outlier is a fifth-place run at Martinsville Speedway.

It all seems to have led Larson to dwell on the negatives more than the positives from his first 11 races with Hendrick Motorsports.

“We’ve got one win. Could have four or five,” Larson said on the subject. “Just another day where I lead a lot of laps and don’t win. Just got to figure it out.”