How Kurt Busch Held off Kyle Larson for NASCAR Cup Series Win at Kansas

·6 min read
Photo credit: Sean Gardner - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sean Gardner - Getty Images
  • With Kurt Busch challenging on the inside, Kyle Larson got into the wall one last time with eight laps remaining and fell back.

  • Larson held on to finish second, followed by top-5 finishers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and pole-starter Christopher Bell.

  • Kurt Busch dominated, leading five times for 116 of the 267 laps.

Kyle Larson freely admitted that he hit the Kansas Speedway wall “a lot” during Sunday afternoon’s Adventhealth 400 NASCAR Cup Series race. He recovered nicely until the last one—with eight laps remaining—cost him the lead and a likely victory at the mile-and-a-half track.

With Kurt Busch challenging on the inside, Larson got into the wall one last time and fell back. Busch drove past easily and took the checkered to become the 11th different winner in this year’s first 13 races. It was his first victory in 33 tries at KS and the 34th of his championship career, which includes winning with five teams and four manufacturers.

Larson held on to finish second, followed by top-5 finishers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and pole-starter Christopher Bell. The rest of the top 5: Martin Truex Jr., No. 2 starter Ross Chastain, Ricky Stenhouse, Alex Bowman, and Aric Almirola. Four of the first five were in Toyotas (excepting only Larson), with two more Toyotas in the second five. There were only three Chevys in the top-10.

It was the first victory for Busch with team co-owners Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan. Their 23XI Toyota team debuted in NASCAR last year with Wallace, then added Busch in a second car this year. All told, the team—with its technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing—has two Cup Series victories in 62 starts, one each with Wallace (last year at Talladega) and now with Busch.

“I felt like I had to play like the GOAT (Jordan), race like the GOAT, and I had to beat the Kyles,” Busch said, as happy as anyone has seen him in years. “I had to beat both. This was like the Kyle and Kyle show. If I can get one Kyle, I can get both. I had to have the confidence to know that our setup would do things on short runs and long runs.

“I knew with (Kyle) Larson—he tried a slide job earlier in the race and his weak spot was Turn Two. I’m like what—that’s where I’m going to take advantage of him and get the lead back. That is what we did. The most gratifying part is to help these guys win.”

Photo credit: Chris Graythen - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chris Graythen - Getty Images

The 267-lap race was fairly uneventful until the final 30 laps, when Larson, the Busch brothers, Bell, Hamlin, and Chastain turned up the intensity after a late-race restart. Larson stayed with his familiar high line and built a seemingly comfortable lead until Kurt Busch began chipping away after restarting fifth. There was no question Busch would get close; the only question was would be able to pass.

He finally caught Larson with 10 to go, and they ran cleanly side-by-side for a couple of laps until Larson dinged the wall with eight to go. Once Busch took that lead as Larson slowed for a moment, there was nobody within reach of challenging Busch or Larson for the victory.

Unlike last weekend at Darlington, where Joey Logano clearly punted leader William Byron aside with two to go, there was no such blatant contact this time.

“We were racing for the win,” Larson said. “He never got into me; I’m trying to squeeze throttle to get position on him and I got tight. I was trying hard the whole time. I about spun out in front of him there at some point in the third stage, and then we kept fighting through it. I hit the wall a lot today and struggled.”

Kurt Busch dominated, leading five times for 116 of the 267 laps. They came mostly in the second half, after a half-dozen others have been at the front for only a few laps. Busch led in segments of 12, 3, 64, 28, and the final eight laps. Larson led only 29 laps in segments of 3 and 2 laps, then 24 consecutive laps toward the finish.

The victory makes Busch eligible for the 16-driver Playoffs when the 10-race series opens in September. There have been 13 “regular-season” winners with 13 races remaining. It is possible that more than 16 drivers will win regular-season races, leaving someone out of the playoffs.

Among the drivers from competitive teams most likely to claw their way into the Playoffs field over the next 13 races: Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace, and Christopher Bell.

NASCAR Cup Series Race

AdventHealth 400 Results

Kansas Speedway

  1. (5) Kurt Busch, Toyota, 267.

  2. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.

  3. (6) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267.

  4. (18) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.

  5. (1) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 267.

  6. (9) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.

  7. (11) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 267.

  8. (36) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 267.

  9. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.

  10. (24) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 267.

  11. (4) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 267.

  12. (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267.

  13. (21) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

  14. (30) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.

  15. (23) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.

  16. (13) William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.

  17. (34) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.

  18. (28) Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, 267.

  19. (20) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 267.

  20. (17) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

  21. (26) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 267.

  22. (16) Cole Custer, Ford, 267.

  23. (25) Michael McDowell, Ford, 267.

  24. (12) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 266.

  25. (31) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 266.

  26. (7) Aric Almirola, Ford, 266.

  27. (35) Chris Buescher, Ford, 265.

  28. (33) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 265.

  29. (14) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 264.

  30. (2) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 263.

  31. (27) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 263.

  32. (22) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 261.

  33. (19) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 256.

  34. (29) Cody Ware, Ford, 255.

  35. (15) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Electrical, 64.

  36. (32) BJ McLeod, Ford, Chassis, 32.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 124.476 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 13 Mins, 3 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.413 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 47 laps.

Lead Changes: 18 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Bell 1-9;T. Reddick 10-33;K. Larson 34-36;C. Bell 37-64;R. Stenhouse Jr. 65-67;K. Busch 68-82;C. Elliott 83;R. Chastain 84-87;W. Byron 88-112;K. Busch 113-124;C. Elliott 125-133;K. Busch 134-136;R. Blaney 137;K. Busch 138-201;K. Larson 202-203;K. Busch 204-231;K. Busch 232-234;K. Larson 235-258;K. Busch 259-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kurt Busch 5 times for 116 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 37 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 29 laps; William Byron 1 time for 25 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 24 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 18 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 10 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 4 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 3 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,1,9,8,24,19,23,43,12,48

Stage #2 Top Ten: 45,18,12,2,9,5,1,11,22,23