Kyle Larson dominates, but Kyle Busch comes out on top at Kansas Speedway
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A tire sitting in the Kansas Speedway infield grass and wild restarts turned a race dominated by Kyle Larson into a free-for-all from which Kyle Busch emerged victorious for the first time this season.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver became the 10th winner in 11 races this year and earned his first victory with crew chief Ben Beshore, who took over the No. 18 team following Busch’s one-win 2020 season.
"It’s cool to get everybody back to victory lane again this early in the season," Busch said.
Oh, and it was his 36th birthday, making Busch 2-for-2 in Cup races on his birthday.
"I look forward to hopefully being able to celebrate with my team and hopefully have a good night tonight," he said. "It’s cool to be able to work the way we did today."
Here are three takeaways from Kansas:
Larson, taking the upper lane on a restart with 11 laps to go, saw Busch get a solid restart and lead for a little more than a lap before the caution came out. Shuffled to third, Larson didn’t think he had much of a shot, despite his having led nearly half the race.
"Nobody got to the lead from the second row, so I knew I was in trouble," he said.
Larson had contact with Ryan Blaney – who restarted in front of him -- on the final restart and limped to a 19th-place finish.
"I had just planned on pushing him really hard, and obviously, I did that and got him sideways and ended up getting us both in the wall," Larson said.
"I probably should have just laid off once I got to the corner and hopefully a run came to where I could get to his back bumper on the backstretch. I hate that I screwed that up and cost ourselves a good finish."
NASCAR allowed a tire to sit in the grass "infield" that separated the racing surface and pit road for about 15 laps until all the drivers had completed a pit stop under green-flag conditions. Then NASCAR threw the caution, which came with 37 laps remaining and was followed by three accidents.
NASCAR was in a quandary because if it throws the caution, then several top cars would be a lap down because they pitted under green. But a driver such as Chris Buescher, who had a strategy to pit later in the final stage than the rest in hopes of someone bringing out the caution, thought he played it right.
Buescher’s team was angry on its in-car radio about the no-call until after Buescher pitted and Larson regained the lead. Most of the drivers who finished well thought NASCAR did the right thing – and hope it continues to do so in the future.
"We were ready in case they threw a caution, but to be honest with you, I was expecting them to keep it out until it fully cycled, especially with only a handful of laps there left," Beshore said.
"I didn't feel like it was a safety hazard by any means where it was. It was so far away from the race track."
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DiBenedetto in top 16
Matt DiBenedetto finds himself on the good side of the current NASCAR playoff grid, as he is ranked 16th, and if the playoffs started now, he’d be in.
Of course, there are 15 regular-season races left, but considering that DiBenedetto was 30th after four races and 24th after seven races, being in the top 16 marks a huge rally.
DiBenedetto, who finished fourth Sunday, is currently 12 points up on Kurt Busch for the final playoff spot.
"If I’m being honest, I don’t know if I would have believed you that we’d make up that many spots in points in such a short time," DiBenedetto said. "I knew we had the strength of the team after such a rough start to the season and just circumstances out of our control.
"It’s amazing to come back like this, so it just shows that momentum can go one way or another, and when it clicks and you get on a roll, it can go well."
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!