(Motorsport-Total.com) – 23XI Racing, the NASCAR team of basketball legend Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, celebrates the second victory in the team’s young history. After Bubba Wallace’s debut success in October last year in Talladega, it was Kurt Busch on Sunday at the Kansas Speedway who bagged the first win of the season for himself and for 23XI Racing with a commanding drive.
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With the “Air Jordan” logo on the hood, Kurt Busch was unstoppable
The older of the two Busch brothers fought a gripping duel with reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Larson (Hendrick-Chevrolet) in the final segment of the AdventHealth 400, which he ultimately won.
“It was all teamwork. I couldn’t do it alone,” were Kurt Busch’s first words after his first victory in the service of 23XI Racing. Fittingly, that win came with the first use of a paint scheme that featured the logo of Michael Jordan’s sporting goods manufacturer large on the hood. (Photos: NASCAR at Kansas Speedway)
Kurt Busch has now achieved the feat of winning at least one cup race for Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota. Before he docked with 23XI Racing in winter, he had already made it into the Victory Lange for the teams Roush, Penske, Stewart/Haas and Ganassi.
By the way: Denny Hamlin, the co-owner of 23XI Racing alongside “Air Jordan”, also drove his Gibbs-Toyota into the top 5. And Bubba Wallace drove the second 23XI-Toyota into the top 10. (Result: NASCAR on the Kansas speedway)
Christopher Bell (Gibbs-Toyota) started from pole for the third time this season. And aside from a couple of early lead laps for Tyler Reddick (Childress-Chevrolet) and for Kyle Larson, Bell had much of the first segment of the race under control.
But after 60 of 80 laps in Stage 1, Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse-Chevrolet) had a crash caused by a flat tire and was given a yellow card. Leader Bell drove over debris and caught a flat tire himself. Because that happened to him under yellow immediately before the tire change that was planned anyway, the loss of time was limited.
Stage 1 victory for Kyle Busch in a photo finish by the last point
In the final laps up to the first stage flag, Kyle Busch (Gibbs-Toyota) was the dominant driver. He took his first stage win of the season ahead of Ross Chastain (Trackhouse-Chevrolet) and Chase Elliott (Hendrick-Chevrolet).
Over P10 in Stage 1 and thus the last bonus point in the first race segment, 0.008 seconds decides in favor of Alex Bowman (Hendrick-Chevrolet) over Denny Hamlin, who started from the end of the field.
Stage 2 was initially determined by William Byron (Hendrick-Chevrolet) after teammate Chase Elliott had come out of the pit lane first in the stage caution, but was then penalized. Because he had run over a compressed air hose, Elliott had to restart at the end of the lead lap.
Stage 2 victory for Kurt Busch after tire damage at William Byron
Things only got better for Byron for a limited time, though. On the 113th lap, while clearly in the lead, he suffered a puncture on the left rear. At least he was able to avoid a crash. A lap deficit could not be avoided with an emergency pit stop under green.
Byron’s puncture did not result in a yellow card, but shortly afterwards Kevin Harvick (Stewart/Haas-Ford) spun instead. This spin happened in the middle of a pit stop passage that was put under green.
Kurt Busch had the best ending for himself. He was leading at the restart and then confidently defended the lead up to the second stage flag. Stage 1 winner Kyle Busch crossed the line second, followed by Ryan Blaney (Penske-Ford).
Race victory for Kurt Busch after a close duel with Kyle Larson
Shortly after the start of the last segment of the race, the most spectacular scene of the day: Attempting to replace Kurt Busch as the leader, Kyle Larson pulled off a crazy drift on Turn 2.
The reigning NASCAR champion – with the help of the track barrier – was able to catch the car and avoid a spin. A collision was also avoided, which was not least due to the fact that Busch took a wide turn to the left and thus maintained the lead.
After another puncture on a Hendrick Chevrolet – in this case Chase Elliott’s – caused a yellow phase, the duel between Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson for the lead continued. The two drove side by side for two laps until Larson clipped the wall at the end of Turn 4, putting Busch in the lead.
But there was still a yellow phase. The reason was Kevin Harvick’s wall contact at the end of Turn 4, which in itself had no major consequences. The consequence, however, was that it went to the pits one last time under yellow. And on that final pit stop, Kurt Busch lost the lead to brother Kyle Busch, who was the fastest of his Gibbs crew to get rid of.
At the restart, however, Kyle Larson was the best and took the lead straight away from Kyle Busch. And so, in the final rounds, it was a three-way battle for victory: Kyle Larson versus the Busch Brothers. Kurt Busch passed Kyle Busch to move up to second position.
Nine laps before the end, the older Busch brother grabbed leader Larson and conceded him as well. The Hendrick pilot hit the wall at the scene, but everything was within reason. Kurt Busch, who had accumulated over 100 laps in the lead, deservedly drove home the first win of the season for himself and 23XI Racing.
Behind the top 3 – Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch – Denny Hamlin, who had started from the back, finished in P4 and thus achieved a top 5 place himself in his team’s victory. Christopher Bell, who started from pole, put three Gibbs-Toyota in the top five in fifth place. But the biggest celebration in the Toyota camp came from 23XI Racing.
For the second time in NASCAR’s 2022 season, this coming weekend will see a non-championship point race, the All-Star Race. As in 2021, this will again be at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, on Sunday evening (in CEST on the night from Sunday to Monday). The first race without points in 2022 was the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in early February.