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.”
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…”
|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|
* – Ineligible for points