Larson Slams Past Buescher for Record Win; Hamlin Extends RLC Lead

Race Breakdown

It was a 0.001 second Margin of Victory.  The closest finish in NASCAR history.  FOX and the scoring pylon show Chris Buescher holding off Kyle Larson at the line for the narrowest of margins.  Wait.  Not so fast.  Upon further review and before Buescher could get back to do celebratory burnouts, the Kentucky Derby’esque High Speed cameras set up at the Start/Finish Line (whatever that is) show it’s Larson with the win.

10 laps from the end of the race, it was a fuel mileage battle.  Denny Hamlin was leading the field but was in big time fuel saving mode.  Behind him was Buescher, a hard-charging Martin Truex, Jr., a sinking fast Larson, followed by a nearly dry Kyle Busch.  Three laps later the entire race changed as a fortuitous spin by then P4 running Busch put the field under Caution, allowed those nearly bone dry or tread-bare cars to take on some much-neededSunoco and put on fresh Goodyears. The now P5 Larson was one in dire need of both.

Kyle Busch, #8, Martin Truex Jr., #19 and Tyler Reddick #45, race during the NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 05, 2024 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Like the top 10 cars around him, the 5 took two tires and fuel and rolled back out P3, behind Hamlin and Buescher, with teammate Chase Elliott alongside.  With fuel savings now out the window, the field could run wide open for the Overtime.  On the restart, Larson dove low, Chase went high and it was four wide coming out of Turn 2.  When they got sorted out it was Buescher, Larson, Hamlin and Elliott, soon to be joined by Martin Truex, Jr. on four fresh stickers.  

Buescher held the lead back to the line and looked like he was in control when Larson made a final run down the backstretch and eked into the narrowest of openings left on Buescher’s high side.  Side by side, they made contact, Buescher dove low to get room, Larson, went down and slammed him for good measure and then went up to block the charge by Elliott and Truex, Jr.   

Telemetry showed that Buescher had hit the line first to which FOX announced the 17 as the winner, but after review of the high speed cameras that record at the finish line, the decision was overturned and Larson was declared the winner in the closest finish in NASCAR history – 0.001 seconds.

It was Larson’s second win of the season, the 25th win in his Cup Career, placing him 34th on the All-Time Cup Win list tied with Jim Paschal and Hall of Famer and 2-time Cup Champ, Joe Weatherly.  He is now 6th on the Active Cup Win List and his 9th GEN 7 win, places him second on the GEN 7 win list.

The win put HMS/JGR back atop the 2024 Winner’s Circle.  In addition to taking the closest win in Cup history, these two teams dominated the Top 10 with HMS’s Larson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman taking P1, P3 and P7 respectively.  Joe Gibbs Racing placed Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell in positions 4-6.  Ford missed the win by Buescher who finished P2 and placed Noah Gragson (P9) and Michael McDowell (P10) in the Top 10.  RCR’s Kyle Busch was the other outlier, finishing P7.

Denny Hamlin won Stage 1 with Buescher taking Stage 2.  With his race win and a second and third in Stage Points, Larson earned the most points for the race and stretched his Regular Season Points Lead over Martin Truex, Jr, to 29 points.  Chase Elliott is third, nearly a full race behind at 55 points down.  Six drivers scored Stage Points in both Stages and finished in the Top 10.  Only 12 different drivers scored Stage Points, barely over the minimum of 10.  

Lead Change Breakdown

Here is a statistical breakdown of the changes we saw at Kansas: 


Denny Hamlin had the most Racing Lead Changes (+4) and extended his lead in the RLC Standings.  Kyle Larson picked up 3 RLCs to leap-frog Martin Truex, Jr. into second as shown in the rankings below:


Kansas’ 10 RLCs ranks 5th in the RLC Track Ranking.  Talladega had the most with 49 and Richmond had a single. This is the first race not named Daytona, Talladega, Atlanta or have major tire issues like Bristol to record double-digit RLCs.  From a Racing Lead Change perspective, this is the best showing for a traditional 1.5 miler to date.

Passing Breakdown

Here is a breakdown of the remainder of passes throughout the race.  Like eight of the twelve races this season, the bulk of the passing was found in the P16-P37 positions or the back of the field.


White Flag Thoughts

Here’s some thoughts coming down to the Checkered Flag.

Just when you thought Ford might pull off a win – they didn’t. Well, they did for about 15 seconds… but that was as close as they could come.

I wonder how different the finish might have been had the 17 moved just three feet up higher in Turn 3? Would he have successfully blocked the charging Larson, or would he have found himself in the spin cycle coming to the line? I’m guessing the latter.

The record finish played havoc on the NASCAR and their stats. When originally released, the Cumulative Report-Final Stage had the 5 winning the Final Stage, but never showed the Lead Change for the 5 passing the 17 on the last lap. That threw off the Lead Change totals and Laps Led totals. The next morning that had that straightened out, but they never figured out the On the Lead Lap results. If P32 finished one lap down in the race results, how can 32 cars finish on the Lead Lap? Asking for a friend. 

Although the record finish was something to see, I wonder how the race would have played out had Kyle Busch not taken that last lazy spin. Before that it was Hamlin saving fuel trying to make it to the end vs. a fueled up Truex, Jr. burning Sunoco as fast as he could trying to catch up before they ran out of laps, with Larson out of contention and dropping like a rock. I’m not a fan of fuel mileage races, but this one was shaping up like one of old, rather than a GEN 7, let’s all go as slow as we can go.  It was going to get interesting and a throwback to an earlier time. But alas, it was not meant to be. It is amazing just how fast things can change though.

I appreciated the various battles throughout the first and last Stages. First it was Ross Chastain, Larson and Hamlin and later Hamlin and Buescher. It was nice to see cars after the restart challenge for the point, especially during that first Stage. They raced up front, actually raced like every lap mattered, which is something that has only been present in words only for many races this season.

The race scored a record high in the Jeff Gluck’s “Was it a Good Race?” Poll with just under 96% voting “YES”. Impressive numbers.  Have you noticed something though? I’ve not heard anything about fuel mileage, aero blocking, packages, tires or any other of the narratives that have surfaced in the last half of the season. Do you reckon “good” racing fixes a lot of what ails the sport today?

One minor meltdown was F1 beat Cup in the TV Viewership wars for the first time in maybe forever. Fans were either having a cow or going into full court apologist mode explaining away how such a thing could happen.  I know-F1 was on a network channel and Cup was on cable. F1 came off on time, while Cup, which was to go essentially head-to-head against faced a rain delay throwing the start time off. F1 scored record numbers while Cup was down 2% over last year. I’m sure it’s not important to some, but to me it was good to see motorsports set records this week-be it F1 or Cup or both. How many fans of one series tuned into the other because of the way things worked out, I’m not sure it’s important other than it probably happened. All in all, I think both series got some benefit this weekend-they got record TV numbers and a new winner and Cup got a record finish on a “good” race.  It’s all good.

Some additional good that is not being talked about is the Cup’s “Desired Demographics” – those in the 18-49 age group – the Non-Legacy Fans. The Kansas race pulled in 484K or 21.1% of the viewers were in this age group.  This was the highest percentage of DD viewers for the season so far.

What’s also not being talked about is that 41.9% or 1.214 million of the F1 viewers were in the “Desired Demographics”, more than double what Cup pulled. Is that worth being concerned about? For advertising purposes which target the DD, it may be more impressive for F1 than the overall viewership numbers.  Also telling is of the top seven programs in viewership on Sunday (of which Cup was #3), it only beat the PGA in the Desired Demographic numbers (259K).    

I’ve been a fan for 6 plus decades and if I heard it, I must have forgotten it, but did you realize the Start/Finish line plays no part in declaring the winner? Instead, it is decided by a laser line from a high-speed camera placed in the pit area that shoots across pit lane and the track to the outside wall that establishes the “official” finish line. I’m glad they use the technology and glad they posted the “picture” used to make the final decision. And I’m glad they took this opportunity to explain it after this race because now I know.  Based on the post-race reaction though I got the feeling I wasn’t alone in this revelation, leaving me asking, why wasn’t this explained earlier… like after Atlanta? If the line is essentially meaningless in determining the winner, why do nearly all the photos used to show how close the finish was from the “outside” camera which uses the Start/Finish Line (and meaningless) as the reference, and finally, when they did post the “official” picture, why wasn’t a similar picture posted after the near record finish at Atlanta? Transparency is good – especially when you have sportsbetting bucks on the line, but selective transparency is troubling. That coupled with not educating your fans, especially your new fans on the important processes doesn’t help either.  

A shout out to NASCAR for getting the track dry after the weather went through. Yeah, the start was delayed, but they got a full race in and that’s always good.

A final shout out to the fans who rode out the delay and endured the wet and cold conditions. Record finishes like this one are few and far between. Hopefully, it provided the perfect race experience to close out a challenging day.

It’s on to Darlington for the Spring Throwback Race.  Last year saw a total of 13 Green Flag Lead Changes with only one being a Racing Lead Change.  Ross Chastain captured that.  Will we see more than one RLC this spring?  

Todd Gilliland, #38, Michael McDowell, #34 and Chase Elliott, #9, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 14, 2023 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

If you recall, this is the race where Chastain and Larson tangled going for the win, Larson’s Crew Chief, Cliff Daniels called on Chevrolet to intervene and Rick Hendrick publicly called out the Trackhouse driver and turned his drivers loose. Coincidentally, immediately after this race, the #1 car’s performance dropped as qualifying took a downturn, Stage Points dried up, and top finishes became almost as rare as a Ford win this year. Within two races he had dropped from the points lead and except for the Nashville and Phoenix wins he went from being THE Chevy driver of 2022 and early 2023 to a non-factor. 2024 has shown flashes of early 2023 but nothing sustained. Can the downward spiral be righted? It started here – here would be a good place to turn it around.

Tune in and find out.


Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

Photo Credit (cover): Logan Riely/Getty Images

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