Kyle Busch Takes a Birthday Victory at Kansas

Another birthday, another victory for Kyle Busch. (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Sunday’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 was filled with many surprises and funny coincidences. Fittingly, Kyle Busch entered this race, which happened on his 36th birthday, on a winning streak. Nevertheless, the trend continued in Kansas. Birthday boy Kyle Busch put his car back in victory lane for the first time this season while leading only 20 laps. 

Stage 1

Brad Keselowski started Sunday’s race in first with William Byron in toe. While these two occupied the top spots, Kyle Larson, who started 32nd, broke into the top ten 11 laps into the race! By the time the competition caution happened, Larson (who started the race 32nd) made his way to seventh.

Kyle Larson made great strides during the first 25 laps of this race as did Ross Chastain who worked his way from 24th to 14th. Other key players at this point were Kyle Busch in fourth, Tyler Reddick in sixth, Matt DiBenetetto in ninth, and Chase Elliott in 10th.

On the restart, Keselowski quickly grasped the lead while Byron lurked right behind. While these two battled it out, Tyler Reddick charged his way to third. 

Milestone Mayhem

On lap 37, Ryan Newman, making his 700th Cup start, received quite an odd penalty. During Newman’s pit stop, a crew member pulled the right rear skirt of the car up. This modification, which added downforce to the car, manipulated how the car drove. NASCAR black flagged Newman’s car on the track for the illegal body modification, forcing him back to pit road and a lap down.

Another driver with unfortunate luck at this point was Alex Bowman. One of the favorites to win radioed to his team on lap 49 with an issue to his car. Bowman, making his 200th Cup start, informed his team that the alternator in the car was malfunctioning. The issue plagued the 48 car and continued to drop the race favorite through the field.  

Slide Jobs and Stage Wins

With 20 to go in stage one, Larson, who made his way to second, started to track down the leader Keselowski. A group right behind the top two were not out of it as Kyle Busch, Reddick and Byron started to charge towards the top spot.

Slide job after slide job from Larson and Kyle Busch got both drivers up to the top two positions. Ultimately, it was a move by Kyle Busch that got him the stage win.

Stage 1 top 10: KyBusch, Larson, Reddick, Keselowski, Byron, Elliott, Harvick, Blaney, Hamlin, Bell 

Stage 2

Stage two kicked off with Larson and Reddick on the front row. Larson quickly took the lead and held on tight to the top spot for much of the second stage. 

Behind Larson, an exciting battle between Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott ensued for fifth place. As each catapulted over the other, no one was able to hold on to their position. Soon after, Reddick joined the mix and it was a four way, three wide battle for a top five spot.

Close call after close call, Elliott prevailed after taking the fifth spot. Luckily, each of them came out of that battle unscathed, but just behind them, Bubba Wallace clipped the wall, dropping from his top 15 position to 21st.

Green Flag Stops

Halfway through the stage, the drivers brought their cars to pit lane. Pit strategies played a role in making or breaking a driver’s day as a few teams gambled for track position. Cody Ware spun on pit road, without a caution while Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Anthony Alfredo, Daniel Suarez, Michael McDowell, and Cole Custer decided to risk it all and keep their cars on the track. 

Hoping for a caution, these drivers kept their cars on the track to advance their position. However, as the laps counted down, these drivers fell victim to a poor gamble as the race stayed green until the end of the stage.

End of Stage 2

Quickly, each driver who chose to stay out lost valuable track position and points to race leader Larson. Widening the gap to five seconds over second place, Larson drove his Chevrolet to the start/finish line winning stage two over birthday Kyle Busch.

Stage 2 Top 10: Larson-KyBusch-Hamlin-Keselowski-Elliott-Blaney-TreuxJr-Reddick-Bell-Harvick

Final Stage

With 100 laps to go, the green flag waved and Larson, again, shot to the lead. Behind Larson, the field fought for position. Two laps later, Wallace clipped his No. 23 Toyota into the backstretch wall and Alex Bowman followed suit moments later.

If these drivers needed any more obstacles to overcome, Bowman brought his Chevy to pit road and Wallace dropped back in the field. Meanwhile, Larson maintained his lead with a gap of about two seconds over the second place driver Denny Hamlin. 

Tires Go Rogue

This pace continued until green flag pit stops began with 61 to go. With 52 to go, Reddick brought his car to pit road where his No. 8 pit crew lost control of a tire. This tire made its way out of the pit box, through pit road and into the infield grass area! Consequently, Reddick was penalized but this rogue tire did not bring out a caution (at least right away). 

Laps and laps passed by without a caution as NASCAR waited for the No. 17 car of Chris Buescher to pit. More teams fell victim to tire control penalties (namely, Cody Ware and Aric Almirola) as Buescher finally made his way to pit road.

In somewhat strange fashion, 15 laps later, NASCAR brought out the yellow for the lost tire, completely changing the course of this race.

Hamlin’s Bid for Victory Fades

With 32 laps to go, the field was stacked while Hamlin led at the line. Pressure poured over Hamlin as he desperately tried to hold onto a fading lead. The driver’s eyes anxiously glanced in his mirror after the exit and entrance of every corner as Larson’s No. 5 car closed in.

Soon, Larson made an aggressive move to the inside of Hamlin. Hamlin, in his No. 11 car, was unable to keep up, got loose and slammed into the turn 4 wall. The most successful driver this season yet to have a win would have to wait another day as he limped the car to pit road bringing out the caution.

Double Trouble

The field came to green with 18 to go in the race. Larson only led four laps until the next caution arose. Stenhouse and Austin Cindric tangled on the backstretch which resulted in a caution that bunched the field up for another pivotal restart.

Kyle Busch led the field to green with 10 laps to go in the final stage. The No. 18 car scooted past Larson thanks to a push from Ryan Blaney before a caution came out for Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Ryan Preece crashing in turn 4. 

This crash would end the JTG Daugherty Racing teammates’ day.

End of the Race

The field reconvened for the final restart with a battle of the Kyle’s. Kyle Busch had a great restart while Larson, in an attempt to challenge Busch, tangled with Blaney in turn two in a bump draft gone badly, sending both drivers near the wall and costing them valuable finishing positions.

Ultimately, Kyle Busch prevailed, in rather appropriate fashion, on his birthday in a race called the Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Final Top 10 Results: KyBusch-Harvick-Keselowski-DiBenedetto-Elliott-TruexJr-Reddick-Buescher-Byron-ADillon

Thoughts at the Finish Line:

Words from the Top 3:

Kyle Busch (P1):  “It’s cool to get everybody back to victory lane again this early in the season. To be able to get some of those points going our way now and hopefully – heck, I just remembered, the Buschy McBusch race. The Busch won it, what do you know, right on.”

Kevin Harvick (P2): “We had the right pit strategy once the cautions came out there. We had the pit road penalty and came in for tires. Rodney [Childers, crew chief] made a great call of coming back in to put tires on. And that kind of put us on the offense.

We were able to be really aggressive on the two restarts we had at the end and were able to make up some ground.  Everybody on our Busch Light Ford Mustang did a great job today of just hanging in there.  We made a few mistakes. But we made our car better throughout the whole day and were more competitive than we had been in the last couple mile-and-a-half races.”

Brad Keselowski (P3): “We weren’t quite as fast as we wanted to be.  The Gibbs cars were real fast and Kyle Larson was screaming fast, so a very similar race for us to Vegas, kind of right there on that edge of the top five.  We just need a little bit more.

But we almost stole one there with pitting. And the yellow came out there with 10 to go and it was just kind of the restart chaos and we all run into each other, whether it’s me running into someone or somebody else running into somebody it’s just part of it. But, all in all, not a bad day for the Verizon 5G Ford Mustang.”

Other Key Players:

Matt DiBenedetto (P5): “Holy cow, I’m mentally tired.  That was wild.  Every restart was insane.  That’s how Kansas is because you run from the bottom to the top.  I’ve got to give a lot of credit again, I know I do it a lot. But my spotter Doug Campbell does an excellent job.  My team did a great job today.

We started the race and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re not very good.’  We were just hanging on and we had to defend all day. And then to come home with a fourth is excellent.  The car looked fantastic.  People love this thing.  The Menards and Dickies Mustang looked awesome, bright yellow, it looks good. I’m glad we brought it home. Man, we’re on a roll — another top five.”

Tyler Reddick (P7): “We had a really strong No. 8 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE today at Kansas Speedway, which we used to grab valuable stage points all throughout the day and top it all off with a seventh-place finish. I was able to run the wall really well during the early stages of the race, which really helped keep our track position and earn those stage points.

Eventually, my car started to build tighter and tighter throughout the runs. And that made my entry on both sides of the track into a bit of a challenge. We earned the most stage points we have all year today and got out of there with a top-10 finish. The focus will now turn to Darlington Raceway, which is another good track for us.”

William Byron (P9): “We got a top-10 here at Kansas (Speedway). We fought all day. The first stage looked really good. But we were fighting the balance and just wasn’t very maneuverable in traffic.

We were just kind of stuck to the top lane. I could run the bottom, but it just wasn’t fast enough. We kind of had a struggle of a day. I felt like we were on both sides. We got it way too tight, way too loose, and then somewhere in the middle by the end. We got it to take off ok on the restarts. And [we] picked up a top-10. [So] we’ll take that.”

Taylor Kitchen

I am a 21 year old Ohio native, currently working towards obtaining my Bachelors of Science degree in Journalism with a Specialization in Public Relations at Bowling Green State University.

I was a long time casual observer of the sport, but 2017 reeled me in with my first in-person race.
Now, I clear my schedule for every race weekend!

NASCAR has been the only sport I have ever truly loved and followed.
NASCAR and motorsports in general is unlike any other.
I deeply respect this sports talent, on and off the track and I greatly appreciate the fan and driver interaction, the community and the dedication to special causes this sport advocates for so well.

Outside of NASCAR, I enjoy general writing, editing, advocating for the chronic illness and mental health community, hammocking, watching television, content creating and learning.

This will be my first year covering NASCAR for TPF.

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