KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- NASCAR's multitude of stakeholders decided to swap weekends for the playoff races at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway during the offseason.
Drivers hated that the crapshoot on the most dangerous -- or exciting, depending on your perspective -- track in auto racing served as the final word with respect to yearly championship fates.
Instead, the Hollywood Casino 400 would serve as the cutoff that pared the field of contenders to eight drivers. But that didn't lead to any less drama Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
History will record Martin Truex Jr., who also won the spring race and claimed the pole Friday, as the race winner, but it was the ever-shifting bubble for playoff advancement that provided the day's real drama.
It all started two days earlier actually, when playoff contender Ryan Blaney was sent to the back of the field after failing a post-qualifying inspection.
But Blaney, who started the day in ninth place and nine points ahead of Jimmie Johnson for the final elimination spot, showed in the opening laps that speed wouldn't be an issue for him.
Blaney carved his way through the field with ease and finished third, reaching the round of eight with ease.
His relatively drama-free afternoon at Kansas proved to be the exception.
Kyle Larson entered third in points, behind only Truex and Brad Keselowki -- both of whom clinched spots in the round of eight with wins during the previous two weeks.
It would take a disaster of epic proportions for Larson to be eliminated.