Kyle Larson can’t hold off Kurt Busch down stretch, takes second place

Kyle Larson had a slide job gone wrong, a save for the ages, a late-race pass for the lead — and ultimately, a second-place showing Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

With nine laps remaining in the AdventHealth 400, Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was passed by the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota of Kurt Busch, who beat Larson to the checkered flag by 1.413 seconds. The final results marked Busch’s first victory of 2022 and Larson’s sixth top-five finish. Larson, the reigning champion, last won on Feb. 27 at Auto Club Speedway.

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“We were racing for the win there,” Larson said. “Yeah, he never got into me, so I’m trying to squeeze throttle to get position on him and just got tight, so that was fun racing with Kurt the last half of the race.

“I was trying hard the whole time. I about spun out in front of him there at some point I think in the third stage, and then we just kept fighting through it.”

In the Final Stage, which spanned from Lap 165 to 267, Busch led three different times for 73 laps. Larson led twice for 26 laps. Busch’s younger brother, Kyle, had a three-lap stint out front to complete the 102-lap stretch. Kyle, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, finished third, 1.991 seconds behind Kurt.

There were six Toyotas in the top 10. That’s all of them.

“The Toyotas are obviously extremely good today,” Larson said. “I think they’re all in the top 10, it looks like. So they had the handling as well as a lot of speed, just raw speed.

“It was hard to hold off Kyle, and then I knew when Kurt got by him it was going to be really hard to hold him off. I did my best, but came up one spot short.”

Larson’s car bounced off the wall multiple times throughout the 13th points-paying event as he ran the high line at the 1.5-mile track, with the final brush coming as he tried to hang on to the lead at the end.

Larson fired off from the third starting position, was 15th when Stage 1 wrapped on Lap 80, and worked his way up to sixth come Stage 2’s conclusion on Lap 165. In total, he maintained P1 for 29 laps.

Kyle Busch won Stage 1. Kurt, Stage 2. Both were firsts for the Busch brothers this season. Kyle earned a win earlier this season at Bristol Motor Speedway, the dirt race on April 17.

Larson and the Busch duo are all provisionally in the NASCAR Playoffs now by virtue of a victory. They’re all former champions, too.

“Thanks to my team for building me a war machine,” Larson said. “I hit the wall a lot today and just struggled. Like people could put air on me and get me really tight and then I hit the wall, so we’ll work on that and figure it out, but happy with my car.”