In a season mired with constant trials and struggles both on and off the track, Kurt Busch and 23XI Racing triumphed at the Heartland State after emerging victorious in the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, May 15.
The 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion from Las Vegas, Nevada, led five times for a race-high 116 of 267 laps as he prevailed after a fierce battle with Kyle Larson during the final 10 laps to snatch the lead and claim his first Cup Series victory of the season and his first driving for 23XI Racing.
With on-track qualifying occurring on Saturday, Christopher Bell notched his third pole position of his career and of the season after posting a pole-winning lap at 179.575 mph in 30.071 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Tyler Reddick, who recorded a qualifying lap at 178.855 mph in 30.192 seconds.
Prior to the event, Denny Hamlin, rookie Todd Gilliland and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective cars. In addition, Chris Buescher and Joey Logano also dropped to the rear in backup cars.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Bell and Reddick dueled for the top spot through the first three turns until Bell managed to clear Reddick and the field entering Turn 4 to lead the first lap. With Reddick settling in second in front of Kyle Larson, rookie Austin Cindric battled with Kurt Busch for fourth place as Kyle Busch joined the battle. Meanwhile, Aric Almirola and Alex Bowman dueled for seventh place in front of Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain and Ryan Blaney.
During the fifth lap of the event, the first caution flew when Briscoe got loose and spun across the frontstretch grass, though he continued without sustaining any significant damage to his No. 14 Rush Truck Center/Cummins Ford Mustang.
Four laps later, the race restarted under green. At the start, Reddick received a push from Kyle Busch to assume the lead as Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson battled Bell for the runner-up spot, with Larson taking the spot.
At the Lap 10 mark, Reddick was leading ahead of Larson, Kyle Busch, Bell and Cindric while Chastain, Daniel Suarez, Aric Almirola, Blaney and Kurt Busch were in the top 10.
Through the first 20 scheduled laps, Reddick extended his advantage to more than a second over Larson while Bell, Kyle Busch, Cindric, Suarez, Chastain, Almirolam Kurt Busch and Blaney were in the top 10. Running in 11th place was Martin Truex Jr. followed by Bowman, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Michael McDowell. Cole Custer was in 21st ahead of Justin Haley, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ty Dillon and Corey LaJoie while Brad Keselowski, rookie Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson, Briscoe and Chris Buescher were in the top 30. Meanwhile, Joey Logano, winner of last weekend’s Cup event at Darlington Raceway, was mired in 31st while rookie Todd Gilliland was in 33rd.
Fourteen laps later and just as Larson overtook Reddick for the lead, the caution flew due to BJ McLeod spinning and stalling his car past the frontstretch. At the moment of caution, Logano dodged losing a lap to the leaders. In addition, Chris Buescher made a pit stop.
Under caution, the leaders pitted and Bell reassumed the lead after exiting pit road with the top spot followed by Reddick, Kyle Busch, Suarez, Chastain and Truex. During the pit stops, Hamlin and Austin Dillon were penalized for equipment interference while Cindric was penalized for an uncontrolled tire penalty. In addition, Justin Haley, who was having his pit service complete, had a left-rear tire fall off of his car as he exited his pit stall and caught on fire.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 39, Bell cleared the field entering the first turn to assume the lead. Through the backstretch, Kyle Busch took over the runner-up spot while Trackhouse Racing’s Chastain and Suarez overtook Reddick for third and fourth. Soon after, Truex mounted a challenge on Reddick for a top-five spot.
Through the first 50 scheduled laps, Bell was leading by six-tenths of a second over teammate Kyle Busch while Chastain, Suarez and Reddick were in the top five. Truex, meanwhile, settled in sixth followed by Bowman, Bubba Wallace, Almirola and Byron while Larson, who endured a slow pit stop during the previous caution, was in 12th behind teammate Chase Elliott. In addition, Kurt Busch was back in 14th ahead of Kevin Harvick while Blaney was back in 18th ahead of Denny Hamlin and Logano.
Eleven laps later, the caution flew when Suarez, who was being pressured by Truex for fourth place, got loose, spun and made contact with the outside wall entering Turn 4 as his No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 stalled at the entrance of pit road. Things then went from bad to worse for Suarez as he needed a wrecker to have his car towed back to his pit stall due to flat-spotting his tires. During the caution period, Almirola pitted when pit road was not open for the field.
Under caution, the majority of the field, led by Bell who had a flat left-rear tire, pitted while Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Corey LaJoie and Austin Dillon remained on the track.
When the race restarted on Lap 67 amid a jumble and scramble within the field, Kyle Busch drove his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry to the lead on fresh tires while Chastain rocketed to the runner-up spot as Austin Dillon drifted toward the middle of the pack. As the field continued to scramble for positions while fanning out to multiple lanes, Elliott was up in third place followed by Reddick, Byron and Truex while Erik Jones was getting shuffled back to seventh in front of Wallace, Blaney and Stenhouse.
Under the final 10 laps of the first stage, Kyle Busch was leading by more than a tenth of a second over Chastain while Elliott trailed by seven-tenths of a second.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 80, Kyle Busch notched his first stage victory of the season while leading by more than a second over Chastain. Chastain settled in second followed by Elliott, Reddick, Byron, Truex, Wallace, Erik Jones, Blaney and Bowman.
Under the stage break, the leaders returned to pit road and Elliott exited with the top spot ahead of Chastain, Truex, Byron and Reddick. Disaster struck, however, for Elliott as he dropped to the rear of the field due to equipment interference. During the pit stops, Hamlin was also penalized for equipment interference while Wallace was penalized for having too many crew members over the wall during his service. In addition, Kyle Busch dropped from first to 10th after parking his car too close to his pit wall as he endured a slow pit stop. Following the pit stops, Harvick, Almirola and Buescher made another trip to pit road. Among those who pitted for a second time was Erik Jones as his crew was enduring constant issues removing the right-rear tire of his No. 43 Focus Factor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
The second stage started on Lap 87 as Chastain and Truex occupied the front row. At the start, Chastain and Truex dueled for the top spot through the backstretch before Byron made a bold three-wide move on both entering the frontstretch to take the lead. Behind, Reddick fended off Blaney for fourth place while brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch battled for sixth.
At the Lap 100 mark, Byron was leading by more than a second over Chastain followed by Reddick, Truex, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Blaney, Bowman, Bell and Larson. Cindric was in 11th ahead of Stenhouse, Keselowski, Elliott, Harvick, Logano, Custer, Wallace, Hamlin and Buescher while Michael McDowell, Briscoe, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon, Harrison Burton, Corey LaJoie, Noah Gragson, Josh Bilicki, Gilliland and Almirola were in the top 30.
Eleven laps later, Kurt Busch leaped his No. 45 Jordan Brand Toyota TRD Camry way into the runner-up spot after rocketing past Chastain as Byron stretch his advantage to nearly three seconds. By then, names like Almirola and Erik Jones were lapped by the leader.
On Lap 113, disaster struck for Byron as his No. 24 Raptor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 suffered a flat left-rear tire while leading as he fell off the pace below the frontstretch apron. With Byron out of contention, Kurt Busch took over the lead followed by Chastain, Truex, Reddick and Kyle Busch.
Shortly after, disaster then struck for Reddick as he blew a right-rear tire and smacked the outside wall as he limped his way to pit road. Reddick’s misfortune allowed Kyle Busch and Blaney to gain spots in the top five.
Nearing the Lap 125 mark, green flag pit stops occurred as Truex pitted. In the midst of the pit stops, the caution flew on Lap 126 when Harvick, who was just exiting pit road following his pit stop, spun his No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang due to a shifter issue.
During the extended caution period, some drivers including Elliott, Logano, Cole Custer, Michael McDowell, Ty Dillon, Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson, Todd Gilliland and Josh Bilicki pitted as they had not yet pitted prior to the previous caution while the rest, led by Kurt Busch, remained on the track.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 136, Kurt Busch and Blaney dueled for the lead as the field fanned out entering the first two turns. Through the frontstretch Kurt Busch and Blaney made contact as they continued to battle for the lead before the former managed to clear the latter during the following lap. In the midst of the battles, Kyle Busch overtook Blaney for the runner-up spot while Truex and Keselowski were in the top five.
By Lap 150, Kurt Busch remained as the leader by half a second over brother Kyle while Blaney, Truex and Cindric were in the top five. Elliott, meanwhile, was in sixth followed by teammate Larson, Chastain, Keselowski and Logano while Stenhouse, Hamlin, McDowell, Wallace, Gragson, Bell, Burton, Bowman, Custer and Ty Dillon occupied the top 20. Byron was back in 22nd ahead of Harvick while Reddick was in 28th, a lap behind the leaders.
With five laps remaining in the second stage, Kurt Busch extended his advantage to more than one-and-a-half seconds over brother Kyle while Blaney, Truex and Cindric remained in the top five.
Then, during the final lap of the second stage, Truex dropped off the pace due to a flat left-rear tire of his No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota TRD Camry. Despite the issue, Truex elected to nurse his car around the circuit for a final lap. In the midst of the issue, Kurt Busch went on to capture his first stage victory of the season on Lap 165. Brother Kyle settled in second followed by Blaney, Cindric, Elliott, Larson, Chastain, Hamlin, Logano and Wallace.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Kurt Busch retained the lead after exiting pit road with the top spot followed by Blaney, Kyle Busch, Larson and Cindric.
With 94 laps remaining, the final stage started. At the start, Kurt Busch and Blaney dueled for the top spot for a full lap before the former managed to clear the field entering the backstretch. Behind, Larson and Cindric battled for third place in front of Hamlin. During the pit stops, Kyle Busch, who endured a slow pit stop, was penalized for speeding on pit road.
Under the final 90 laps, the battle for the lead intensified between Kurt Busch and Larson as the former continued to retain the top spot over the latter. Then with 86 laps remaining, Larson, who made a move beneath Busch for the lead through Turn 1, slid up and got super loose in front of Busch, but Larson managed to straighten his car through the backstretch as Busch reassumed the lead.
With 75 laps remaining, Kurt Busch continued to lead by more than two seconds over his owner Denny Hamlin while Larson was back in third place. Blaney and Elliott occupied the top five in front of Wallace, Bowman, Cindric, Chastain and Bell.
Four laps later, the caution flew when Elliott lost a left-rear tire and spun in Turn 3 as he ended up getting his No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 stuck in the infield grass.
Under caution, the leaders pitted and Kurt Busch retained the lead after exiting his pit stall with the top spot followed by Larson, Blaney, Hamlin and Bell. During the pit stops, Wallace was penalized for an uncontrolled tire penalty as his tire was hit by Bowman and Chastain while Harvick was penalized for speeding on pit road.
With 67 laps remaining, the race restarted under green as Kurt Busch and Larson dueled for the lead through the first two turns and entering the backstretch. Then exiting the backstretch, Blaney attempted to make a three-wide move on both for the lead, but Larson managed to assume the top spot briefly until Busch rallied back on the inside lane and through the frontstretch.
Then with 63 laps remaining, Larson bounced off the outside wall entering the frontstretch while battling intensely against Kurt Busch for the lead, which allowed Busch to clear the field with the top spot. Despite the contact with the wall, Larson retained the runner-up spot in front of Bell, Hamlin, Blaney and Kyle Busch.
Under the final 60 laps of the event, Kurt Busch extended his advantage to more than a second over Bell while Larson and Kyle Busch battled for third place in front of Hamlin.
Down to the final 50 laps of the event, Kurt Busch stabilized his advantage to two-and-a-half seconds over Bell while Kyle Busch was in third ahead of Larson and Hamlin. Blaney was back in sixth ahead of Bowman, Chastain, Stenhouse and Byron while Cindric was in 11th ahead of teammate Logano, Truex, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski.
Ten laps later, Kurt Busch continued to lead by more than two seconds over brother Kyle while Bell, Larson and Hamlin remained in the top five.
A lap later, the caution flew due to possible fluid coming out of Harvick’s car. Prior to the caution, Harvick had gotten loose entering the frontstretch. During the caution period, the field pitted for fuel and Kyle Busch exited with the top spot followed by Larson, Kurt Busch, Bell, Hamlin and Blaney.
With 33 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Kyle Busch and Larson dueled for the top spot for nearly a full lap until Larson managed to pull his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 out in front with the lead entering the fourth turn. Meanwhile, Kurt Busch was locked into a battle with Bell for third place as Hamlin joined the battle.
Under the final 30 laps of the event, Larson was leading by three-tenths of a second over Kyle Busch while Kurt Busch trailed by less than a second.
Then with 22 laps remaining, Kurt Busch, who methodically narrowed the deficit between himself and the two Kyles, overtook brother Kyle for the runner-up spot as he went to work to track Larson.
With 15 laps remaining, Larson continued to lead by more than two-tenths of a second over Kurt Busch, who continued to pressure the former for the top spot.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Larson remained as the leader by less than three-tenths of a second over Kurt Busch as the leaders approached lapped traffic.
Then with nine laps remaining, the battle for the lead intensified as Kurt Busch drew himself beneath Larson for the top spot from the backstretch through the frontstretch. Then during the following lap, Larson, who continued to rim-ride towards the outside wall, scrapped the wall entering the backstretch, which allowed Busch to drive away with the lead while Larson retained second ahead of Kyle Busch.
Down to the final five laps of the event, Kurt Busch was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Larson while brother Kyle trailed by more than a second and a half. Meanwhile, Hamlin stabilized his No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota TRD Camry in fourth ahead of teammates Bell and Truex.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Kurt Busch was ahead by more than a second over Larson and nearly two seconds over Kyle Busch. With no traffic interfering with his progress and Larson not able to make up the deficit, Kurt Busch cycled his way back around to the frontstretch as he claimed his first checkered flag of the season.
With the victory, Kurt Busch, who has now won in at least 19 seasons, notched his first victory at Kansas and his 34th career win in the NASCAR Cup Series, which placed him in sole possession of 25th place on the all-time Cup wins list. The victory was also the third of the season for Toyota, the second for returning crew chief Billy Scott, the second for 23XI Racing in the team’s second season of NASCAR competition and the first for Busch since he won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July 2021.
In addition, the Kansas victory made 23XI Racing the fifth different organization that Kurt Busch has won with throughout his Cup career. It also made Toyota the fourth overall manufacturer that Busch has won with after having previously won in the Cup circuit with Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet.
“It’s all about teamwork,” Busch said on FS1. “I don’t do this alone and the way that Toyota’s helped us, [Joe Gibbs Racing]. My little brother’s [Kyle Busch] been so important just on the family side of, ‘Hey, you gotta get through these steps.’ Bubba’s [Wallace] a tremendous teammate, but this is 23XI [Racing]. This is our first win for the No. 45 car. With Jordan Brand on the hood, I felt like I had to race like the GOAT [Michael Jordan] and I had to beat the Kyles. I beat both…I can get one Kyle, I’m like, ‘I can get both.’ I just had the confidence to know that our setup would do things on the short-run and long-run. This No. 45 car’s a winner now!”
“It’s the most gratifying [feeling] to work from the ground up with a brand new number,” Busch added. “Yes, I’ve been with a lot of teams, a lot of manufacturers, but it’s about family. I love my family at home, I love my KBI employees and everybody at 23XI. This is for us. This is what the hard work is all about no matter if you lose a couple spots on pit road, no matter if our car was a basket or whatever to start…I’m in Kansas! I’m loving it!”
Larson, who led 29 laps and won at Kansas in October 2021, settled in second place for the second time this season and for his sixth top-five result of the 2022 season.
“We were racing for the win there,” Larson said. “[Kurt Busch] never got into me, so I’m trying to squeeze throttle to get position on him. Just got tight. That was fun racing with Kurt. The last half of the race, I was trying hard to hold time. I about spun out in front of him at some point in the third stage. We just kept fighting through it. Thanks to my team for building me a war machine. I hit the wall a lot today. Just struggled like people could put air on me and get me really tight and then, I hit the wall. We’ll work on that and figure it out, but happy with my car. The Toyota’s are extremely good today. I think they’re all in the top 10. They had the handling as well as a lot of raw speed. It was hard to hold off Kyle [Busch] and then, I knew when Kurt got by him, it was gonna be really hard to hold him off. I did my best, but came up one spot short.”
Filling in positions third through sixth were all four Joe Gibbs Racing competitors led by Kyle Busch while Hamlin, Bell and Truex followed suit. To go along with his top-five run, Hamlin was left beaming and emotional over his first victory of the season as an owner.
“We, as an organization, let these guys down,” Hamlin, who congratulated Busch on pit road, said. “I’m talking about Bubba [Wallace] and Kurt. So many mistakes that we made on pit road and whatnot. Bubba got let down again on the last stop, but he was fast. I thought he was a little bit better than I was. We had to go to the back again three times today, but let’s talk about the positives. Just can’t thank Kurt enough. Jordan Brand’s first race [as a sponsor]. So jealous he gets to drive that car and to have that thing so fast there. I’ve never had this kind of feeling even for a win for me much less when I did win. Just different.”
Chastain, Stenhouse, Bowman and Bubba Wallace finished in the top 10. Austin Cindric was the highest-finishing rookie in 11th place ahead of teammate Blaney while Harvick settled in 15th ahead of Byron and Logano.
There were 18 lead changes for 10 different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 47 laps.
With the first half of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular-season stretch complete, Chase Elliott continues to lead the regular-season standings by 52 points over Ryan Blaney, 58 over Kyle Busch, 60 over William Byron and 68 over Ross Chastain.
Currently, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Chase Briscoe, rookie Austin Cindric and Denny Hamlin are tentatively locked into the 2022 Cup Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the regular-season stretch. Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola are above the top-16 cutline to the Playoffs as winless competitors with Austin Dillon trailing by 11 points, Tyler Reddick by 22, Erik Jones by 32, Daniel Suarez by 49, Chris Buescher by 61, Bubba Wallace by 65, Justin Haley and Michael McDowell both by 77, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 95 and Ty Dillon by 100.
1. Kurt Busch, 116 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Kyle Larson, 29 laps led
3. Kyle Busch, 18 laps led, Stage 1 winner
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Christopher Bell, 37 laps led
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Ross Chastain, four laps led
8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., three laps led
9. Alex Bowman
10. Bubba Wallace
11. Austin Cindric
12. Ryan Blaney, one lap led
13. Austin Dillon
14. Brad Keselowski
15. Kevin Harvick
16. William Byron, 25 laps led
17. Joey Logano
18. Noah Gragson
19. Corey LaJoie
20. Ty Dillon
21. Harrison Burton
22. Cole Custer
23. Michael McDowell
24. Chase Briscoe, one lap down
25. Todd Gilliland, one lap down
26. Aric Almirola, one lap down
27. Chris Buescher, two laps down
28. Josh Bilicki, two laps down
29. Chase Elliott, three laps down, 10 laps led
30. Tyler Reddick, four laps down, 24 laps led
31. JJ Yeley, four laps down
32. Erik Jones, six laps down
33. Daniel Suarez, 11 laps down
34. Cody Ware, 12 laps down
35. Justin Haley – OUT, Electrical
36. BJ McLeod – OUT, Chassis
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ annual All-Star Open and Race events at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Coverage of the All-Star Open is scheduled to occur on Sunday, May 22, at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1 with the All-Star Race to follow at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.