At Kansas Speedway, if it weren’t for bad luck, Kyle Busch would have no luck. In his first sixteen starts at the 1.5-mile track, the Las Vegas native only acquired two top-5 finishes, with an average finish just over 20 spots back from the top of the field. From blown tires to getting caught up in other driver’s wrecks, Busch never could get a handle on the heartland track. In a three race stretch from 2012 to 2013, Busch failed to even finish inside the top 30.
Kansas was always a place that Busch could count on for some misfortune, that is, until before Saturday night.
Busch’s car looked strong throughout the majority of the Go Bowling 400, but along with the rest of the field, he didn’t seem to have anything for Martin Truex Jr. Whenever Truex took the lead, his No.78 machine began to yard the field. His car appeared so dominant that at one point in the race, his lead stretched out to around five seconds over second place.
But on one of the final pit stop sequences, Truex Jr. had to come back down pit road after feeling a vibration in his right front wheel, putting the No.78 Toyota one lap down, and out of contention.
That yielded the race lead to Busch, who fended off and maintained the lead after a few hard charges from Kevin Harvick and others. The No.18 M&M’s Toyota crossed under the finish line first, giving Busch his first career win at Kansas Speedway.
“Harvick was making it tough,” said Busch. “He was right on my bumper there for a few laps. I kind of pulled slide job off of turn four, cut it a little bit close. We touched a little bit. After that, I kind of refocused on being able to hit my marks and hit the line that I was running before the caution came out where I was really fast. From there, I was kind of able to pull back away and do what I needed to do in order to try to win.”
Busch exclaimed after the race on Saturday night that it was finally nice to get the “monkey off his back” in capturing a victory at Kansas. Before the victory, Kansas was one of three tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit that Busch had not won at. Now, he only has two left, Charlotte and Pocono, that he needs to cross off before he can make history being the only driver to win at every active track.
“I look forward to the challenge,” said Busch. “Every single week, every single year, everything’s a challenge. We do this for many reasons. But for me, it’s just the challenge of being able to go out there and to continue to try to thrive and be good at what we do; win championships and win races. It’s certainly been some tough roads along the way here at Kansas, but it’s certainly nice to win this one. I look forward to being able to hopefully knock off some more this year at Charlotte and Pocono to complete the list.”
The race slowed down six times for caution flags, one of them featuring an incident between Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Hamlin made a bold move in between Keselowski and Kyle Larson headed into Turn 3, which got Keselowski in the No.2 loose, sending him sliding sideways as Hamlin got loose underneath Larson, which sent him spinning sideways. Hamlin spun right in front of Logano, who had nowhere to go and drove right into the side of the No.11 machine.
“I was going in there three-wide,” said Hamlin. “I wasn’t letting off and the No.42 (Larson) was just too close up there. It wasn’t his fault by any means, but we were both trying to drive in there to clear each other and I just got loose.”
Keselowski no doubt lost any chance he had at winning the race, but didn’t suffer too much damage in the incident.
“I’m disappointed, but I don’t think there was anything malicious,” said Keselowski. “We’re just all racing for wins and that was everybody’s shot to win the race.”
Keselowski rebounded for a solid tenth place finish.
Harvick, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, and Chase Elliott rounded out the rest of the top-10 finishers from Kansas.
Every win gives a driver a huge feeling of accomplishment, but for Busch, Saturday night’s victory has probably taken a huge weight off his shoulders as he can now return to Kansas Speedway in the future with something actually positive to look back on.