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Kyle Larson Edges Chris Buescher in Closest Cup Finish at Kansas

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson captured the AdventHealth 400 win at Kansas Speedway in the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher will likely remember Sunday night’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway for the rest of their lives.

The 12th round of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series is in the history books for the closest finish in the 76-year history of stock car’s premier division. As for the two main combatants, this finish joins the likes of some of NASCAR’s closest, greatest finishes.

Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon at Atlanta on Mar. 11, 2001.

Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington on Mar. 16, 2003.

Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer at Talladega on Apr. 17, 2011.

Daniel Suárez edging out Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch, also at Atlanta, on Feb. 25, 2024.

This time, the 1.5-mile intermediate track hosted another memorable Cup race despite a lengthy rain delay. Once Mother Nature cooperated, Sunday night’s Kansas clash nearly replicated last year’s copious lead changes, 37 among 12 different drivers, with 28 lead changes among 10 different racers.

Polesitter Christopher Bell led the opening lap before Ross Chastain occupied the number one spot for the next 31 laps. Then, the lead lap contenders made their pit stops from Laps 34 to 42.

Chastain and Kyle Larson traded the lead for the next 21 laps before Denny Hamlin drove by both drivers to win Stage 1. In the early going, it appeared as if Hamlin, Chastain and Larson would be the primary factors as the race progressed.

Following pit stops for the lead lap contenders on Lap 85, Bell led the Lap 88 restart, the first green flag lap of Stage 2. However, it was a mad scramble for the lead as Chastain and Bell went up the hill in Turn 4, opening the door for Larson to drive past both for the lead off Turn 4.

Leading for the next 30 laps, Larson pitted on Lap 120 for tires and fuel. Trouble befell the No. 5 team as the front tire changer had trouble trying to tighten the left front tire.

Dropping from the lead to fifth, Larson charged his way to finish second to Buescher, the Stage 2 winner. It would be a sign of things to come in the final stage.

For the majority of Stage 3, Larson, Hamlin and Buescher led the field. Along the way, four caution periods, mainly for multi-car incidents in Turn 2 and the backstretch, slowed the pace.

The next 57 laps became a suspenseful, fuel mileage battle between Hamlin and Buescher. Hamlin led the original 39 laps before Kyle Busch’s Turn 2 spin on Lap 262 prompted the seventh and final caution.

Sending the race into NASCAR Overtime, Hamlin led contenders to pit road for the critical pit stops on Lap 264. Winning the race off pit road ahead of Buescher and Hamlin, this set up the wild Overtime restart on Lap 267.

Heading into Turn 1, Buescher and Hamlin ran side-by-side before Larson took the duo into a three-wide situation. Buescher advanced to the lead while Larson drove to second. place, setting up for the memorable, last lap finish.

Going into Turns 1 and 2, Buescher hugged the white line while Larson ran the middle to high grooves. Running car lengths apart, Larson drove deep into Turn 3 to the outside of Buescher, running side-by-side from Turn 4 to the stripe.

It became Chevrolet v. Ford with Larson trading paint with Buescher toward the dogleg. Initially, Buescher was scored ahead of Larson.

Upon further review with the photo finish camera, Larson was visually ahead of Buescher by 0.001 seconds.

Winning the closest finish in Cup history, Larson tallied his 25th career victory and second of the season. Unlike the finishes at Kansas in the past two years, he was finally on the winning end.

Kyle Larson

It was arms raised in victory for Kyle Larson after winning Sunady night’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish

“I mean, I’ll always remember it for sure,” Larson said. “I think there’s definitely wins that you can kind of get lost in the distance a little bit, but when you finish and have the closest, to this point, finish in Cup Series history, I don’t think you’re ever going to forget about it, even if it gets broken some day. Yeah, just great to be on this side of it. I probably would still remember it, though, if I ran second.”

In terms of the setting up the race winning move, Larson provided insights into his racing acumen to catch and pass Buescher on the final lap.

“It started off (Turn) 2, and I got a really good run and was able to get into his draft,” he explained. “He was trying to break it and you could tell he was probably going to try and take my line away. I just drove in as hard as I felt like I could. My car cut really well and I was able to get to his right side, and I don’t know if the camera caught it, but I was sideways and then got it kind of back under control.

“Then I had the run back to his right side off of four and was just too afraid to get too far out in front because a lot of times when you get someone inside close you get tight and into the wall. So I got off of four good and I thought, ‘man, I have got to kill his run quick’, so I just hung a left; doored him and just tried to stall his momentum. He had it slowly coming back to me at the line, so just thankful that it was enough and those guys behind us didn’t get a huge run and get to our outside.

Moments after scoring the riveting win, Larson, like most competitors, fans and sports fans, wanted to rewatch the finish against Buescher.

“Just incredible and I need to see the replay,” Larson shared. “I don’t know what it all looked like, but it was pretty damn cool from my seat.”

Fun was not just confined to the finish of the race. Namely, Larson enjoyed the battle for the lead against Chastain early on before dueling against Buescher.

“Yeah, it was a lot of fun,” Larson said. “It was stressful for sure racing that hard in Stage 1, but I was having so much fun with Ross. It was super-aggressive, but clean. We never put each other in compromising positions and were able to swap positions there a couple of times.

“At the end of the second stage, it was getting kind of dicey and the whole third Stage was pretty crazy with all the cautions and strategy working out. Buescher was really fast and pressuring Denny the whole time and we were fading. So that caution played out good for us. Just the restarts are wild as we talked about earlier, so just an awesome race. Wish we had more mile-and-a-half’s because that was so much fun.”

Prior to Sunday night’s race and finish, Larson would be on the losing edge at this venue. At last, like in 2021, he was a Kansas winner, sweetening the heartbreaks in the past three spring races.

“No, I think that definitely adds something to it. We’ve been close to winning here,” Larson began to say.

Seconds later, Larson’s crew chief, Cliff Daniels, politely interjected with Larson’s response.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson and his No. 5 team paid homage to Ricky Hendrick and the lives lost in the 2004 aviation accident. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

“It’s kind of been a nemesis for us. 2021 we led a bunch of laps and it got away from us right at the end on a restart,” Daniels said.

Given the exciting and closest finish at the venerable intermediate track, Larson was witty but introspective about capturing the checkered flag in the spring race.

“Typical Kyle Larson fashion probably, too,” Larson quipped with a touch of humor. “But no, we’ve been so good here. We could have a lot more wins. So to get one in a fashion where we maybe shouldn’t have, it feels great.

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Ross Chastain
  3. Kyle Larson
  4. Christopher Bell
  5. Chris Buescher
  6. Ty Gibbs
  7. Martin Truex Jr.
  8. Kyle Busch
  9. Noah Gragson
  10. Chase Elliott
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Chris Buescher
  2. Kyle Larson
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  6. Ty Gibbs
  7. Alex Bowman
  8. Tyler Reddick
  9. Ross Chastain
  10. Noah Gragson
AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 4 5 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Running
2 12 17 Chris Buescher Castrol Edge Ford Running
3 9 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Running
4 13 19 Martin Truex Jr. Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Running
5 14 11 Denny Hamlin Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota Running
6 1 20 Christopher Bell Yahoo! Toyota Running
7 18 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet Running
8 5 8 Kyle Busch Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet Running
9 3 10 Noah Gragson Bass Pro Shops/Winchester Ford Running
10 6 34 Michael McDowell Love’s Travel Stops Ford Running
11 30 6 Brad Keselowski Consumer Cellular Ford Running
12 26 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford Running
13 29 42 John Hunter Nemechek Family Dollar Toyota Running
14 25 38 Todd Gilliland Long John Silver’s Ford Running
15 17 4 Josh Berry (R) Ford Running
16 21 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Minute Rice Chevrolet Running
17 23 23 Bubba Wallace MoneyLion Toyota Running
18 35 51 Justin Haley Children’s Mercy Hospital Ford Running
19 2 1 Ross Chastain Busch Light Crocs Chevrolet Running
20 15 45 Tyler Reddick Monster Energy Toyota Running
21 10 14 Chase Briscoe Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Running
22 20 43 Corey Heim (i) Dollar Tree Toyota Running
23 36 24 William Byron Chevrolet Running
24 22 77 Carson Hocevar (R) Delaware Life/Creative One Chevrolet Running
25 16 3 Austin Dillon Get Bioethanol Chevrolet Running
26 28 7 Corey LaJoie Gainbridge Chevrolet Running
27 27 99 Daniel Suárez Choice Privileges Chevrolet Running
28 32 41 Ryan Preece Ford Running
29 24 71 Zane Smith (R) Focused Health Chevrolet Running
30 33 31 Daniel Hemric LA Golf Chevrolet Running
31 38 16 Derek Kraus Chevrolet Running
32 6 54 Ty Gibbs SiriusXM Toyota Running
33 34 33 Austin Hill (i) United Rentals Chevrolet Running
34 11 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford Running
35 37 15 Riley Herbst (i) Monster Energy Zero Sugar Ford Running
36 31 21 Harrison Burton Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Running
37 7 2 Austin Cindric Snap on Ford Accident
38 19 84 Jimmie Johnson AdventHealth Toyota Accident
Editor’s Notes

Harry Loomis contributed to this article onsite from Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. This article will be updated with more post-race reactions upon availability.

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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