It’s Kyle Larson In Closest Cup Series Finish Ever


Kyle Larson (5) won the closest NASCAR Cup Series race ever at Kansas Speedway. (Logan Riely/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sunday night’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway proved the old adage, “It’s not over until it’s all over,” true in spades.

In the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history, Kyle Larson made a last-corner move to the outside of Chris Buescher stick, with the pair slamming doors back to the start-finish line in a virtual dead heat.

Though timing and scoring initially showed Buescher as the winner, a video review revealed that Larson’s Chevrolet edged out Buescher’s Ford by the slimmest of margins.

Larson’s 25th career Cup Series win came by an unofficial margin of victory of .001 seconds, besting the previous record of .002 seconds at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 2003 and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 2011.

It was a thrilling end to a day that began with a three-hour rain delay before cars ever hit the racetrack.

“That was wild,” said a breathless Larson after climbing from his car. “I was obviously thankful for that caution. We were dying pretty bad. I was happy to come out third [off pit road], and figured my best shot was [choosing the] bottom and trying to split [the leaders] three wide to the inside. That move worked out, my car turned well, and I was able to get some runs.


Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane at Kansas Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

“[The last lap], I got through [turns] one and two really well, and down the backstretch I had a big [draft] on Chris, where I could get him to kind of enter [the corner] shallow,” Larson explained. “I just committed really hard up top. Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure if we were going to make it out the other side, because I got super loose in the center, and then … I was trying not to get too far ahead of him where he could side draft me and kill the run. It was crazy.”

In all, the lead changed hands 28 times among 10 different drivers, and it was the third Kansas Cup Series race in a row where the pass for the win came inside the final two laps.

“That race from start to finish was amazing. That first stage was incredible,” added Larson, who dueled with Ross Chastain for the majority of the first 60 laps. “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, it was all wild.

“[The fans] got their money’s worth today, and I’m just proud I was a part of the show.”

For most of the evening, it appeared that the road through Kansas City was going to be a tame one, as the first two stages ran without any cautions for incident.

The stage wins were split by Denny Hamlin and Buescher, respectively, before everything devolved into madness.

Following the lap-174 restart that began the final stage, a whirlwind of four yellow flags in a 25-lap span led to a shuffling of strategies and contenders that looked like – at first – it might come down to fuel mileage.

It started with a three-car crash in turn two on lap 177, where Corey LaJoie turned Jimmie Johnson into the outside wall after Johnson checked up for cars that were losing momentum ahead of him.

At that point, Todd Gilliland came down pit road for two tires and fuel, hoping to go 87 laps on one tank of gas in an economy run to the checkered flag.

The next melee was one lap after the ensuing green flag at lap 184, when Hamlin slowed off turn two in a four-wide scramble and ultimately pinched Austin Cindric into the outside wall. Cindric then spun down the track and sent Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell spinning as they tried to avoid the No. 2.

A solo spin by Harrison Burton brought a handful of cars – including Hamlin and Buescher – down pit road for service with 73 to go, in a bet that more caution flags would allow them to stretch their fuel to the finish as well.

That bet was proven true coming to 69 to go, when Joey Logano spun on the frontstretch to bring out the sixth yellow flag of the race. The remaining leaders pitted for service with 65 to go, meaning that most of the field was comfortable on fuel to the finish.

But those stops also cycled Gilliland, Hamlin, Buescher, and company up into the top half dozen, setting the stage for a wild sequence in the closing stanza.

When racing resumed with 62 to go in regulation, Hamlin and Buescher made quick work of Gilliland before waging war for the lead between themselves. The pair traded the top spot four times over the next 24 laps before Hamlin took control with 39 to go and a fuel-saving game of cat-and-mouse began.

Both Hamlin and Buescher were coached over the radio to “roll out in the throttle” on the straightaways in an effort to conserve every drop of gas possible, as those like Larson behind them tried desperately to make up any amount of distance possible.

Buescher eventually dropped off of Hamlin’s bumper inside of 15 to go and it appeared the race would come down to Hamlin vs. his teammate Martin Truex Jr., who had pitted with 65 laps left and was good to go on his fuel number.

However, a spin by fifth-running Kyle Busch in turn two with seven to go erased any questions over fuel mileage and set the stage for the question of the night: two tires or four tires?

Hamlin, Buescher, and Larson led a group of nine cars off pit lane that took right-side tires only, while Truex lined up 10th for the overtime restart on four fresh Goodyear Eagles.

Buescher got a good push from Chase Elliott at the green flag to get the lead off turn two as Larson took his car three-wide to the inside of Hamlin at the lowest groove on the racetrack. The Texan led at the white flag, but had Larson in his trunk down the backstretch on the final lap as they fought for the win.

As Larson stayed committed next to the outside wall, Buscher entered turn three a bit soft on the throttle in the middle of the race track, allowing Larson to pull fully alongside exiting turn four headed for the finish line.

The two slammed into one another some 300 yards from the flagstand before Larson found just enough momentum to nip Buescher in a finish that was initially too close to call.

Buescher could only shake his head in disappointment after climbing out on pit road.

Larson Buescher Elliott Truex Kansas

The top four crossed the finish line within a tenth of a second of one another Sunday night at Kansas Speedway. (HHP/David Graham photo)

“I don’t know what to say right now,” lamented Buescher. “I haven’t seen a replay other than just a picture, and I just couldn’t see it in that picture. It sucks to be that close. It was a great finish for us, a really strong day. We had a lot of speed in this Castrol Edge Ford Mustang, and we really needed that.

“We needed a win more, though, and I thought might have had that one. It hurts.”

On the outside of both Larson and Buescher, Elliott and Truex also came to the line side-by-side, making for a four-wide finish that was separated by just .075 seconds from winner Larson to fourth-place Truex.

It’s believed to be the closest four-car finish in Cup Series history, but it isn’t the closest four-wide finish in motorsports. That honor goes to the 2013 Indy Lights (now Indy NXT) Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, won by Peter Dempsey, where the top four were separated by .0443 seconds.

Hamlin closed out the top-five finishers, followed by polesitter Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Busch, Noah Gragson, and Michael McDowell.

Cindric and Johnson, the only two drivers to retire from the race due to their crash damage, were scored 37th and 38th, respectively.

Once it finally got going, Sunday’s event was completed in three hours, 10 minutes, and 42 seconds, at an average speed of 126.481 mph. Larson holds a 29-point lead over Truex in the updated standings.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads next to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on May 12 for the sport’s annual throwback weekend, which culminates in the running of the Goodyear 400.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.