KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Some folks may call Kurt Busch a journeyman racer and that may be an accurate description because of his lengthy NASCAR Cup Series career. They also need to call him a winner.
Busch dug deep Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway and defeated a pair of Kyles to win the AdventHealth 400 and collect his 34th career victory.
Journeyman or future Hall of Famer, Busch is racking up some statistics that are unprecedented in NASCAR history.
Busch’s victory aboard the 23XI Racing Toyota co-owned by basketball legend Michael Jordan and fellow driver Denny Hamlin gave Busch a victory in his 19th different season. It was his first victory with 23XI Racing.
It was the 18th different track where he’s won, and the fourth different manufacturer (Toyota, Dodge, Chevrolet and Ford) for which he’s claimed victory.
And he became the 11th different driver to win a Cup Series race this season.
“It’s family. When we started this car number, I knew we had our work cut out for us. We just had to do simple things to work our way up,” Busch said. “Heck, one of the simple things was just making final round in qualifying. We’ve been starting to do that. That leads you into other categories that help you think and get you into more detail about other things. 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.
“Today, this Toyota Camry TRD was fast right off the truck. Stage one 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. Jordan Brand on the hood, that is our DNA at 23XI. Denny Hamlin, thank you. Monster Energy, everybody that is our partners. This is a big win for our team.”
Busch, who led five times for 116 laps, restarted third with 32 laps remaining with his brother, Kyle, in the lead and Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson second.
Larson took the lead with Kyle Busch in tow, but Kurt Busch dug in and quickly ran down his brother and began chasing Larson.
With eight laps remaining, he pulled even with the reigning series champion and Larson brushed the outside wall (something he did numerous times in this race) and Busch grabbed the lead.
“You always have to work, no matter if you are in clean air, dirty air, good pit stops, bad pit stops, adjustments,” Busch said. “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.”
Kurt Busch pulled away and beat Larson to the checkered flag by 1.3 seconds with his brother, Kyle, coming home third.
“We were racing for the win there,” Larson said. “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.
“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.”
Kyle Busch led 18 laps and battled back from a pitlane penalty to contend for the victory.
“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 (Kyle) 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. Thanks again to M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy, everybody that supports us.”
Hamlin battled pit lane penalties and other challenges to finish fourth in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, with his teammate Christopher Bell, who started on the pole, finishing fifth. Martin Truex Jr. battled back from a lap down after a flat left-rear tire, to finish sixth in another JGR Toyota.
Hamlin was happy to be a winning team owner for the second time after Bubba Wallace won at Talladega Superspeedway last October. Wallace finished 10th Sunday.
“It’s huge. I’m so proud of Kurt (Busch) and Bubba (Wallace) as well,” Hamlin said. “Bubba deserved to have a shot at a win today as well. It was so much better than that (tenth). Mistakes, and we are working on it, and that’s something I felt like I’ve let these guys down with is – pit road. It’s just part of it. It’s growing pains, but this is what this team is capable of. I’m happy for Kurt.”
Chevy drivers Ross Chastain, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman finished seventh through ninth, with Wallace 10th.
Austin Cindric was the best finishing Ford driver in 11th.
There were eight yellow flags for 47 laps and 18 lead changes among 10 drivers in a race that lasted 3 hours, 13 minutes and 3 seconds. Busch averaged 124.476 mph.