NASCAR Cup Series

Kurt Busch wins Kansas in 23XI banner day

3 Mins read
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As many drivers suffered tyre failures, Toyota thrived in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. All six Toyota cars finished in the top ten, with Kurt Busch leading the way as he held off Kyle Larson to win his first race as a member of 23XI Racing.

Entering Kansas, 23XI Racing had been slugging through a challenging season as Busch and team-mate Bubba Wallace were outside the top twenty in points. Both broke through on Sunday as Busch led 116 of 267 laps, more than any other driver, while Wallace consistently ran in the top five-to-ten range and ultimately finished tenth, despite suffering an uncontrolled tyre penalty on a late pit stop.

“[W]e have to clean up our messes on pit lane and at least keep the 23 where it runs when they pit,” team president Steve Lauletta tweeted about Wallace’s woes on pit road. “Working hard at this frustrating issue”.

Wallace’s tyre trouble coming on pit road is rather benign compared to those who had theirs go down while on track. Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Kevin Harvick, B.J. McLeod, Martin Truex Jr., and Daniel Suárez were among those who wrecked or had to pit after blowing left-rear tyres, with Bell and Byron doing so while leading; multiple drivers suffered the same fate during practice on Saturday. The issue can be traced to the load placed on the left rear by the Next Gen car’s independent rear suspension, which prompted Goodyear to advise but not mandate a higher air pressure.

At the front, Bell’s downed tyre led to Kyle Busch winning the first stage. Older brother Kurt took the second.

While the elder Busch enjoyed plenty of time in front, he faced stiff resistance from Larson. The two repeatedly traded the lead in the final segment, with Larson drifting into the wall at one point but avoiding further damage. With nine laps remaining, Busch cleared Larson for the lead and would score his thirty-fourth Cup victory and first at Kansas.

“I felt like I had to play like the GOAT, race like the GOAT, and I had to beat the Kyles,” Busch told FOX Sports. His car was sponsored by 23XI co-owner Michael Jordan‘s Jordan Brand. “I had to beat both. This was like the Kyle and Kyle Show. I remember Ned Jarrett said, ‘This is the Dale and Dale 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 run and long run.”

“I’m going to go find Toto. I’m in Kansas. I’m loving it.”

Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

All four Joe Gibbs Racing cars led by Kyle finished third through sixth, including 23XI’s other owner Denny Hamlin. Wallace secured tenth.

“We as an organisation have kind of let these guys down,” an emotional Hamlin said after congratulating Busch. “I’m talking about Bubba and Kurt with so many mistakes that we’ve made on pit road and what not. Bubba got let down again on the last stop, but he was fast. I thought he was a little better than I was. We had to go back again three times today.

“But let’s talk about the positives. Just can’t thank Kurt enough. Jordan Brand’s first race, so jealous he gets to drive that car and then to have that thing so fast there.

“I have never had certainly this kind of feeling even for a win for me much less when I did win, so it’s just different.”

The victory also carries emotional weight for the Petty family, particularly Kyle Petty. Busch uses #45 with Petty’s blessing as the number was unofficially retired following his son Adam‘s death in a 2000 crash. Incidentally, Busch’s win comes three days after the twenty-two-year anniversary of Adam Petty’s passing.

Lauletta thanked Petty for the support, tweeting his appreciation for the “trust in @23XIRacing and for the grace shown when asked if we could run the 45. I hope you enjoy this win like we will”. Petty responded, “Thank you and CONGRATULATIONS @23XIRacing and @KurtBusch AMAZING day! First of many…”

Race results

FinishStartNumberDriverTeamManufacturerLapsStatus
1545Kurt Busch23XI RacingToyota267Running
235Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
3618Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
41811Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
5120Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
6919Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
7111Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet267Running
83647Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet267Running
9848Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
102423Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota267Running
1142Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord267Running
121012Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord267Running
13213Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet267Running
14306Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord267Running
15234Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord267Running
161324William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
173422Joey LoganoTeam PenskeToyota267Running
182816Noah Gragson*Kaulig RacingChevrolet267Running
19207Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
201742Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
212621Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord267Running
221641Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord267Running
232534Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord267Running
241214Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
253138Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord266Running
26710Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
273517Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord265Running
283377Josh Bilicki*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet265Running
29149Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet264Running
3028Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet263Running
312715J.J. Yeley*Rick Ware RacingFord263Running
322243Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet261Running
331999Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet256Running
342951Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord255Running
351531Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet64Electrical
363278B.J. McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsFord32Chassis
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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