Kurt Busch makes late pass to win at Kansas

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Kurt Busch stopped his car down pit road at Kansas Speedway, where 23XI Racing team owner Denny Hamlin reached into his car to embrace and congratulate him.

“It’s huge,” Hamlin said. “I’m so proud of Kurt and Bubba (Wallace) as well.

It was the culmination of a strong drive for the elder statesman of the NASCAR Cup Series, who out-drove Kyle Larson in the closing laps to win the Advent Health 400.

After passing Kyle Busch for second down the backstretch with 22 laps to go, the elder Kurt reeled in Larson, edged him out at the line with eight laps to go, completed the overtake and drove onto his 34th career victory.

“I just thought all a long if we got up front it would be a whole new game of blocking the air, taking lanes away,” Busch said. “Today, this Toyota Camry TRD was fast right off the truck. Stage 1, I was killer tight. I thought our day was going to be a long day, and I’m just so happy that the car reacted to the changes.”

It’s his first victory in 33 starts at Kansas Speedway, second for 23XI Racing and first for the No. 45 car since LeeRoy Yarborough in 1964.

“This Next Gen car is far from (perfect),” he said. “You always have to work, no matter if you are in clean air, dirty air, good pit stops, bad pit stops, adjustments. It taught me a lot today and I’m glad that Kansas – I finally conquered this track. I’ve never won here in all of these years, and I finally get to see Pat Warren in Victory Lane.”

Larson hit the wall in the closing laps and lost touch with Busch, but brought his car home second, after leading 29 laps.

“Yeah, he never got into me, so I’m trying to squeeze throttle to get position on him and just got tight, so that was fun racing with Kurt the last half of the race,” he said.

“I was trying hard the whole time. I about spun out in front of him there at some point I think in the third stage, and then we just kept fighting through it. Thanks to my team for building me a war machine. I hit the wall a lot today and just struggled. Like people could put air on me and get me really tight and then I hit the wall, so we’ll work on that and figure it out, but happy with my car. The Toyotas are obviously extremely good today. I think they’re all in the top ten it looks like. So they had the handling as well as a lot of speed, just raw speed.

“It was hard to hold off Kyle (Busch), and then I knew when Kurt got by him it was going to be really hard to hold him off. I did my best, but came up one spot short.”

Kyle Busch, who Kurt overtook for second with 22 laps to go, rounded out the podium in third.

“We were in control on that final restart and you want to win the race in that instance, and I felt like our M&M’s Crunchy Cookie Toyota Camry was good enough to do so, but Larson did a good job getting in my left rear in the right spot to drag me back going down the backstretch and I couldn’t retaliate to side draft going into (turn) three, so he beat us right there,” he said. “Once he got clear it was over. We had a strong Camry.”

Hamlin and pole sitter Christopher Bell rounded out the top-five.

It wasn’t our day – I mean we went to the back three times,” Hamlin said. “I just never could get an opportunity to get up there and show the speed, but once I was there, I just couldn’t get past the aero side of it. We were all a freight train at the top, and that’s all I had. Our Sport Clips Camry was fast. We had to go to the back three times and that is not ideal, but I just want to think about the positives today.”

Martin Truex Jr.Ross ChastainRicky Stenhouse Jr.Alex Bowman and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top-10.

Kurt Busch makes late pass to win at Kansas

Race summary

Stage 1

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – MAY 15: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 15, 2022, in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Bell led the field to green at 3:13 p.m. He led the first 10 laps, before he drifted up the track in Turn 2 on the Lap 10 restart. Tyler Reddick powered by him to take the lead on Lap 11. Larson reeled in Reddick and overtook him for the lead down the backstretch on Lap 35. BJ McLeod brought out the caution on Lap 35 with a spin in Turn 1. Bell exited pit road with the race lead.

Back to green on Lap 40, Bell cuts a tire on Lap 62, but a timely caution saves his race. Stenhouse stayed out to take the lead, but Kyle Busch, who took just two tires, powered by him down the backstretch to take the lead on Lap 69 and drove on to win the first stage.

Elliott exited pit road with the race lead, but he was among a swath of drivers hit with penalties for pit road infractions. This cycled Chastain to the lead.

Stage 2

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Back to green on Lap 88, William Byron made a power move on Chastain and Martin Truex Jr. at the line to take the lead on Lap 89. He cut his left-rear tire on Lap 113 and dropped off the pace in Turn 4. As a result, Kurt Busch cycled to the lead on Lap 114. Three laps later, Reddick, running in the top-10, dropped off the pace with a flat tire.

He pitted from the lead on Lap 125, as Kevin Harvick spun in Turn 1 and brought out a caution. Busch stayed out to retake it and led the field back to green on Lap 137. Ryan Blaney edged him out at the line to lead Lap 138, then Busch powered by him in Turn 3 to retake it on Lap 139 and drove on to win the second stage.

With two laps left in the stage, Truex cut his left-rear tire while running fourth.

Final stage

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – MAY 15: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Crunchy Cookie Toyota, and Kurt Busch, driver of the #45 Jordan Brand Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 15, 2022, in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

After the Lap 202 restart, Larson edged out Busch at the line to retake the lead on Lap 203. Two laps later, he hit the wall off Turn 4 and lost the lead to Busch on Lap 205.

“I knew with (Kyle) Larson – he tried a slide job earlier in the race and his weak spot was Turn 2,” Busch said. “I’m like what – that’s where I’m going to take advantage of him and get the lead back.”

The prospects of a fuel-mileage race to the finish vanished after caution flew on Lap 229 for fluid.

Kyle Busch exited pit road with the race lead, and set up the run to the finish.

Kurt Busch makes late pass to win at Kansas

What else happened

Chase Briscoe got loose off Turn 4 on Lap 6 and slid through the grass.

During the second caution, Justin Haley lost his left-rear wheel as he pulled out of his box. Then the wheel well caught fire.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – MAY 15: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 UniFirst Chevrolet, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 15, 2022, in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Elliott was among too many drivers to count that suffered a flat left-rear tire. He was also among several who spun out, as a result.

Aside from the two stage breaks and a caution for fluid, all the cautions, Sunday, were a result of single car incidents.

Kurt Busch makes late pass to win at Kansas

Nuts and bolts

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – MAY 15: Kurt Busch, driver of the #45 Jordan Brand Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 15, 2022, in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The race lasted three hours, 13 minutes and three seconds, at an average speed of 124.476 mph. There were 18 lead changes among 10 different drivers, and eight cautions for 47 laps.

Elliott leaves Kansas with a 52-point lead over Blaney.

TOP IMAGE: Chris Graythen/Getty Images