Kyle Larson pips Chris Buescher in closest finish in NASCAR history at Kansas

Kyle Larson pips Chris Buescher in closest finish in NASCAR history at Kansas

Kyle Larson edged Chris Buescher in the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history to secure victory in Sunday night’s race at Kansas Speedway.

Kyle Larson made his dash for victory around the outside of Chris Buescher on the final lap at Kansas Speedway, duelling with him all the way to the finish line, only to be told by his team over the radio that everything he had given was not quite enough.

The margin of victory was 0.001s in the AdventHealth 400. Larson went outside Buescher through Turns 3 and 4, which Buescher tried to slow down by crowding the Hendrick Motorsports driver. The two wound up in a drag race off the corner, banging doors once as they moved down the track toward the apron before crossing the finish line.

It was unclear at first who had won the race. However after reviewing its high-speed camera, NASCAR called Larson and the No. 5 team to victory lane.

After a three-hour delay to start and an overtime finish that added a lap, Kyle Larson won by 0.001 second over Chris Buescher, denying Buescher the chance to give Ford its first win of 2024, 12 races into the NASCAR Cup Series season. The finish went on record as the closest finish in NASCAR history.

“I don’t know. That was wild,” Larson said after the race. “I was obviously thankful for that caution; we were dying pretty bad and was happy to come out [of pit road] third and figured my best shot was to choose the bottom and just try to split three wide to the inside.

“It worked out; my car turned well and I got some runs. I got through [Turns 1 and 2] really good down the backstretch and had a big tow on Chris and got him to kind of enter shallow, and I just committed really hard up top.

“I wasn’t quite sure if we were going to make it out the other side; I got super loose in the center, and then I’m trying not to get too far ahead of him to where he can side draft, and then I was just trying to kill his run. It was just crazy.

“That race from the start to finish was amazing. That first stage was incredible, the second stage at the end was fun and then that whole last stage with the wrecks and cautions and then fuel strategy and tires running long and all that was wild.

“You guys got your money’s worth today, and I’m just proud to be a part of the show.”

The victory was Larson’s second of the season and second at Kansas Speedway. It is the 25th of his career. He led 63 laps. Meanwhile, Buescher was on the losing side of history while earning his second runner-up finish of the season.

Buescher’s runner-up finish was his first-career top-five on a mile-and-a-half. After the race, The RFK Racing driver was left in disbelief as he expressed confusion on why official timing and scoring showed him as the winner while NASCAR’s official photo showed Larson.

“I don’t know what to say right now. I haven’t seen a replay other than a picture and I sure can’t see it in that picture,” said Buescher, who led 54 laps. “We were celebrating down the backstretch and looked at the pylon, and we were P1 up there.

“Everything we had said we had gotten it. Obviously not. Like I said, the only thing I have to go off of is a grainy photo right now, and at this point, it just sounds like I am complaining, and I guess I am, because I don’t see it in that.

“I don’t understand how the timing system can read it out one way and not the other. We just gotta understand it better.

“That sucks to be that close. … It was a great finish for us, a really strong day, and a lot of speed in this Castrol Edge Ford Mustang, and we really needed that. Needed a win more and thought we might have had that one.

“We had a lot of speed there firing off, we were really good really all day, and I’m really proud of that. We had some good strategy to get us back up there and tried to cover what I could, and gave him half a lane too much, I suppose. Good, hard race there down to the line. Yeah, that hurts.”

Hendrick Motorsports notched two top-three finishes with Larson’s teammate Chase Elliott in third. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell finished fourth through sixth with a third Hendrick driver, Alex Bowman, in seventh. Hamlin led a race-high 71 laps.

The overtime resulted from a caution for a Kyle Busch spin on lap 261 of the 267-lap scheduled distance. When lead-lap cars pitted, Hamlin retained his lead with a two-tire stop. Truex had taken second from Buescher on lap 259 but was back to 10th for the final restart after a four-tire pit stop.

Buescher restarted second. He took the lead from Hamlin when the race returned to green, and Larson took second. After nearly two-thirds of the race ran incident free, the first caution for an on-track incident came on lap 176 for a multi-car crash involving Jimmie Johnson, Corey LaJoie and Austin Hill.

“I just had contact from behind and, really, nothing I can do at that point, especially at that critical part of the corner turning in,” Johnson said. “And I know it wasn’t on purpose, but it’s just unfortunate.”

That caution began a series of four yellow flags in close succession. After Busch took the lead from Larson on lap 184, the yellow waved, again, a lap later for a crash involving, Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell and Bubba Wallace Jr.

Cautions also came on lap 192 for a Harrison Burton and on the lap-198 restart for a Joey Logano spin. The period of frequent cautions led to varying pit strategies with most of the race field pitting during the lap-198 caution.

Todd Gilliland was up front for the restart with Hamlin and Buescher in second and third after staying out. Gilliland had pitted during the lap-176 caution and Hamlin and Buescher during the Burton yellow flag. Busch restarted seventh after a two-tire stop and Larson 13th after taking four tires.

Hamlin and Buescher took the top-two positions when the race restarted on lap 206. They traded the lead back-and-forth before Hamlin took command of the position on lap 215. Hamlin won the 80-lap opening stage with Ross Chastain in second, Larson third and pole sitter Bell in fourth.

Hamlin took second from Chastain on lap 60 and the lead from Larson on lap 66. Soon after losing the lead, Larson lost second to Chastain. Larson previously took the lead from Chastain on lap 52 and Chastain later took the lead from pole sitter Bell on lap two, and Larson passed Bell for second on lap 10.

Chastain and Larson gave up the top-two positions to pit during a green-flag cycle of stops on lap 33. Larson beat Chastain off pit road, but Chastain passed Larson for position before the cycle of stops completed.

Chastain and Larson moved back into the top-two positions on lap 42 when they passed Derek Kraus before Kraus made his first pit stops. Chastain and Larson, then, battled back-and-forth for the lead before Larson finally took command of the position.

Hamlin, then, went from the lead to eighth during pit stops after stage-one, because he was blocked in his pit box by Hill. Chastain and Bell, meanwhile, were the first two off pit road to restart first and second for stage two.

Larson took the lead and Buescher second on the lap-89 restart. Buescher won the 85-lap second stage at lap 165 after cycling to the lead when a second round of green-flag pit stops completed on lap 125. Larson was second and Hamlin third at the end of stage two.

Larson gave up the lead to pit during the cycle of stops on lap 119. A slow stop because of a problem on the left-front resulted in him running fourth after the pit cycle. However, he beat Buescher off pit road after stage two to retake the lead. Then, Buescher was penalized for one of his crew members going over the pit wall too soon.

Hamlin was late off pit road after being held up, again, this time by Ryan Preece.

Completing the top 10 finishers were Busch in eighth, Noah Gragson in ninth and Michael McDowell in 10th.

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