Kyle Busch won stage 1 and took the lead from Kyle Larson on a late-race restart to win Kansas Speedway’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 on Sunday, completing the weekend sweep after winning the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday night.
Busch took the lead on the lap 257 restart and had to hold off his competitors for another restart after that, but he was able to hold off challenges from Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and others to win his first race of the season in the Cup Series.
“We had a strong car,” Busch said. “We ran up front all day. Dropping the green flag, we were heading towards the front, so that was definitely a confidence booster, and just kept trying to make little adjustments to the car all day long in order to get it to where we wanted it there closer towards the end.”
The Kansas win fell on Busch’s 36th birthday, becoming just the second driver to win on his birthday more than once. Additionally, the win marked Busch’s 17th-consecutive season with a win in NASCAR’s top series, tying David Pearson for second and closing in on Richard Petty’s record of 18-consecutive seasons with a win. Busch also became the 10th different winner in the season’s 11 races.
Kyle Larson led a race-high 132 laps, but after pushing Blaney into turn 1 on the final restart, he hit the wall and finished 19th.
“My plan was just to push [Blaney] as hard as I could and try and be with him on the backstretch to shove him and hopefully get them guys racing in front of me or potentially get inside or outside for the lead somehow,” Larson said. “I had 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. [I] probably should have 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.”
William Byron, who finished ninth, scored his ninth-straight top-10 finish and became the youngest driver to achieve the feat. Previously, the youngest driver to have nine top-10s in a row was Jeff Gordon.
Following the race, Denny Hamlin still held the points lead by 87 points over Martin Truex, Jr. in second. William Byron sat third in points, 96 back of Hamlin, Joey Logano was fourth, 108 points behind Hamlin, and Ryan Blaney was fifth, 111 back of Hamlin.
Matt DiBenedetto, with a fourth-place finish, took over 16th in the standings, 12 points over Kurt Busch.
The race had 18 lead changes between six drivers and was run under caution seven times for a total of 36 laps.
The NASCAR Cup Series will celebrate the sport’s past next weekend at Darlington for the official throwback weekend of NASCAR. The Goodyear 400 at Darlington will be held Sunday, May 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Stage 1 – 80 laps
Brad Keselowski led the field to the green flag. William Byron and Kevin Harvick settled into second and third, respectively. Keselowski was pulling away to start, but Byron started inching toward the leader. As the two leaders pulled away, the running order began to shuffle. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott broke into the top-10, Tyler Reddick stalked the top-five. Christopher Bell moved into third, three seconds back of the leaders, and Kyle Busch moved into fourth over Harvick following his Truck Series win on Saturday.
On lap 25, the competition caution came out. The leaders all came onto pit road. Keselowski held the lead through pit stops. Byron, Bell, Reddick and Harvick rounded out the top-five.
Keselowski led the lap 31 restart. Byron fell in line behind Keselowski again and Reddick took third from Bell. Larson moved into the top-five and caught up to Reddick in third and both were catching Byron for the runner-up spot.
With just over 20 laps left in stage 1, Larson passed Reddick and Byron to take second, and with seven to go, Larson took the lead. Kyle Busch moved into second ahead of Reddick, and the Kyle-and-Kyle show was on. Busch took the lead and while Larson took a shot at him, Busch held on for his first stage win of the year.
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Busch, Larson, Reddick, Keselowski, Byron, Chase Elliott, Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Bell.
Stage 2 – 80 laps
The stage-end yellow brought the leaders back to pit road. Larson got off pit road first with Reddick and Busch behind him. Larson led the restart for stage two and immediately started pulling away. Busch regrouped to second after a slow pit stop. Reddick fell to eighth and Byron fell to 10th as Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin moved into fourth and sixth, respectively. Chase Elliott was also working his way through the field and was now in fifth.
Halfway through the stage, Hamlin came to pit road for a green-flag pit stop, which then brought the rest of the field with him shortly after. Five drivers — drivers -Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Daniel Suarez, Anthony Alfredo, Michael McDowell and Cole Custer — stayed out hoping to catch a caution and pick up track position. Larson, on his newer tires, began eating away at Stenhouse’s lead as he passed the teams that were playing the strategy card.
Larson took the lead back on lap 145 and remained unchallenged through the remainder of the stage.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Larson, Busch, Hamlin, Keselowski, Elliott, Blaney, Truex, Reddick, Bell and Harvick.
Race to the finish – 107 laps
The stage-end caution brought the leaders to pit road once again. Larson, Busch and Hamlin all held their positions after the stops, followed by Blaney, Keselowski, Harvick and Elliott. After leaving his stall, one of Hamlin’s tires only had three lug nuts on tight, but the team elected to keep the no. 11 on the track.
Larson led the restart with 100 laps to go and cleared Busch, who was then passed by Hamlin. Alex Bowman and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. both got a piece of the wall on the restart. Bowman developed a severe tire rub and pitted under green to make repairs while Bubba stayed on track.
Hamlin, despite having a wheel not fully secured, wasn’t allowing Larson to run too far away, keeping Larson within 3 seconds.
With 62 laps to go, Byron, who was now struggling in the back half of the top-20, came onto pit road for their last green-flag stop of the day. After a few more laps, the leaders started pitting. Aric Almirola and Reddick both had uncontrolled tires and had to serve pit-road penalties. With one of Reddick’s uncontrolled tires sitting in the infield, Chris Buescher tried staying out to catch a caution, but NASCAR didn’t budge. Buescher pitted with 42 laps to go, handing the lead back to Larson. Once Buescher cycled back into the running order, NASCAR threw the caution for the tire sitting in the infield.
The caution brought the leaders back to pit road. Larson held the lead followed by Hamlin, Busch, and Joey Logano, who only took two tires.
Larson led the restart with 32 laps to go, but Hamlin stayed beside Larson and took the lead on the next lap. Larson got to Hamlin’s quarter panel and Hamlin washed up the track and into the wall. The contact cut Hamlin’s tire down and brought the caution out again on lap 244.
Drivers were split on the decision to pit. Larson, Busch, Blaney, Logano, Ross Chastain and Austin Dillon all stayed out. Matt DiBenedetto and Truex pitted but only took two tires, and drivers like Keselowski, Elliott, Byron and Bell and took four tires.
Larson led the restart with 18 laps to go with Kyle Busch beside him. Larson cleared Busch for the lead. Busch stayed on Larson’s bumper and Keselowski worked his way into third on his four fresh tires and Elliott worked his way up to fifth on his new tires. After a short green-flag run, Austin Cindric and Stenhouse wrecked in turn 2, bringing the caution back out on lap 252.
The race restarted with 10 laps to go. Larson started out front yet again with Busch in second, but Busch took the lead. Blaney took over second, but a wreck with Bell and Stenhouse brought another yellow out on the restart lap.
For the lap restart with two laps to go, Busch led the field and had Blaney beside him. Busch spun his tires, but Larson and Blaney slid up and hit the wall. Harvick pushed through to second, but Kyle Busch held off his challengers to win his first Cup Series race of 2021.
Featured photo credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images