Kurt Busch wins Kansas in 23XI banner day

As many drivers suffered tire 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 tire 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 tire 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, BJ McLeod, Martin Truex Jr.and Daniel Suárez were among those who wrecked or had to pit after blowing left-rear tires, 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 tire 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 organization 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 the 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 supporttweeting 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

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 5 45 Kurt Busch 23XI Racing Toyota 267 Running
2 3 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 267 Running
3 6 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 267 Running
4 18 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 267 Running
5 1 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 267 Running
6 9 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 267 Running
7 11 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 267 Running
8 36 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 267 Running
9 8 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 267 Running
10 24 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 267 Running
11 4 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 267 Running
12 10 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 267 Running
13 21 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 267 Running
14 30 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 267 Running
15th 23 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 267 Running
16 13 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 267 Running
17 34 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Toyota 267 Running
18 28 16 Noah Gragson* Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 267 Running
19 20 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 267 Running
20 17 42 Ty Dillon Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet 267 Running
21 26 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 267 Running
22 16 41 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 267 Running
23 25 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 267 Running
24 12 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 266 Running
25 31 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 266 Running
26 7 10 Arik Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 266 Running
27 35 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 265 Running
28 33 77 Josh Bilicki* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 265 Running
29 14 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 264 Running
30 2 8 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 263 Running
31 27 15th JJ Yeley* Rick Ware Racing Ford 263 Running
32 22 43 Eric Jones Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet 261 Running
33 19 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 256 Running
34 29 51 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Ford 255 Running
35 15th 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 64 Electrical
36 32 78 BJ McLeod Live Fast Motorsports Ford 32 Chassis
Italians Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points

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