KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kyle Busch did everything right during the opening stage of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, leading 39 of the first 80 laps to notch his 14th stage win of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Busch first took the lead after Martin Truex Jr. was posted on the first restart of the day, dominating the green-flag action from there and picking up 10 crucial bonus points after entering Sunday’s race below the elimination line.
However, despite the stage win and an early race retirement for playoff contender Kyle Larson, Busch was quick to point out that his ticket to the Round of 8 is far from secure.
“We can’t count our chickens before they hatch,” Busch said. “We’ve got a long way to go here and we’ve got a really good race car. We just have to keep our eyes on the prize and we’re going to try to win this thing if we can. We just need to keep doing the right things here.”
Truex dominated the opening portion of the stage, leading the first 35 laps of the race from the pole, but was tagged for a restart violation for changing lanes before the start-finish line following the competition caution at lap 30 and had to serve a pass-through penalty as a result.
That turned over the top spot to Kyle Busch, who held command over the field until Brett Moffitt tagged the outside wall on lap 47 to draw the day’s second caution flag and split the pit strategy throughout the frontrunners.
Six cars, led by Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney, stayed out on older tires while Busch led Kevin Harvick and the other leaders with fresh rubber from seventh on back.
On the restart, Blaney shot to the lead as Busch rocketed from seventh to third in just one lap, taking the point back two circuits later and holding it all the way until a catastrophic engine failure for Larson ended the stage under caution four laps shy of the green-checkered flag.
Harvick was second at the stage break, followed by Denny Hamlin, Blaney and Jamie McMurray.
Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Truex, Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones completed the points-scoring drivers inside the top 10 at the first stage break.
Larson ended the stage in the garage and will be credited with a 38th-place finish. He sat 21 points below the cut line under caution as the field ran on-track, and while it’s not a guarantee, his championship hopes likely ended as his motor went south.
“It’s just a bummer, man,” a dejected Larson said. “It stinks, but it is what it is and we can’t change it.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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