NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2021 Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas

What happened?

Kyle Busch fittingly won the Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas on Sunday (May 2) after a series of chaotic late restarts. 

Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five finishers.

How did it happen?

Keselowski and William Byron started on the front row together and didn’t get too separated throughout the first stage. Keselowski jumped to the lead and held off Byron for the first 25 laps until the competition caution. The big mover before that break was Kyle Larson, who charged from 32nd to seventh by lap 25.

Keselowski held the lead on the following restart and again defended his position from Byron. Byron rode in second for most of the stage until Larson finally got by. The No. 5 eventually got by Keselowski with six to go in the first stage. Larson used up his tires, though, and relinquished the lead to Busch with three laps to go in the stage. The victory was Busch’s first stage win of 2021.

Larson regained the lead on pit road during the stage break as Busch dropped to third. Busch worked his way back to second as Larson held a comfortable lead around two seconds until green flag stops began at lap 40 of the 80-lap stage.

On the pit cycle, Larson extended his lead over Busch to seven seconds. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. held the lead while staying out and trying to catch a caution, but it stayed green and Larson got back out front. The No. 5 cruised to an easy stage victory — fourth of the season for Larson.

Larson led after the stage three restart as the green flag racing continued. He was in cruise control yet again, stretching his lead to over three seconds ahead of Denny Hamlin and Busch. Green flag stops began with just under 60 laps to go. On the stops, Tyler Reddick’s crew lost control of a tire, which rolled out onto pit road and stopped on the infield grass. NASCAR kept the race green until every car made their green flag stop, even as Chris Buescher stayed out and led until there were 41 laps to go. With 38 laps left, NASCAR threw the caution for the tire. This was the first caution of the day besides the stages and competition caution.

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Zach's Turn: Chris Buescher Gets Butt End of NASCAR's Decision

Larson and Hamlin led the race off pit road and the restart with just over 30 to go. Hamlin, after a good battle, took over the top spot.

Hamlin blocked as well as he could, but eventually was pushed too far and made a mistake exiting turn 4. The contact with the wall ended Hamlin’s chances at his first victory of the season.

On the restart with 18 laps to go, Larson cleared Busch as Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain battled for third. Just three laps later, though, Stenhouse and Austin Cindric collided and brought out another yellow.

The race restarted again with 10 to go. This time, it was Busch clearing Larson for the top spot. The green flag lasted less than a lap as Christopher Bell spun and collected the JTG Daugherty Racing duo of Stenhouse and Ryan Preece.

The final restart came with two laps left. Busch, started on the inside, got ahead of Blaney on the outside before he and Larson got too close for comfort. The two drifted out of the picture as multiple drivers got three-wide behind Busch on the final laps. The birthday boy held on for his first win of 2021 and the 58th of his career.

Who stood out?

Kyle Busch had his best performance since 2019 when he won the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Last season was miserable for the two-time champ, as he didn’t win until Texas Motor Speedway in October. Even then, he didn’t run as well in that race as he did at Kansas. Busch was out front all day. While he definitely didn’t have the best car (more on that later), he obviously had a car capable of winning.

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The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2021 Buschy McBusch Race 400

This win is huge for Busch on multiple levels. An early-season win gives the No. 18 a pass into the playoffs and the ability to go for broke the rest of the regular season. New crew chief Ben Beshore can take chances — both with setups and strategy — to try out things for the playoffs. The rest of the field should be nervous to see Busch in victory lane again.

Like Busch, Harvick ran near the front of the field all day. There was a lot of concern – and rightfully so – about Stewart-Haas Racing entering Kansas. Harvick proved that while his teammates continue to struggle (all three finished 20th or worse), we shouldn’t worry about him. If it wasn’t for a late penalty on pit road, perhaps the No. 4 would’ve been one spot better and ended up in victory lane.

For the third straight week, the final part of this section belongs to DiBenedetto. He was quiet for most of the race, running anywhere from seventh to 15th all afternoon. In the end, though, the No. 21 pitted at the right time and made the right move to capitalize and score its second straight top five. That also marks seven straight top-15s for Matty D.

Even more remarkably, DiBenedetto has willed this car back into the top 16 in points. He sits 12 points ahead of 17th-place Kurt Busch and is a prime playoff contender despite his pitiful start to the season. It’s been an incredible turnaround for a driver and team that are easy to root for. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if the No. 21 finds victory lane before the end of the season.

Who fell flat?

Larson really doesn’t belong in this section after the race he had. For the third time this season at a 1.5-mile track, Larson led the most laps. He’s only won one of those races (Las Vegas Motor Speedway). He was in total control on all the long green flag runs during the race, and it just didn’t fall his way with all the late yellows.

Finishing races continues to be a problem for Larson. It’s something he has to improve if he wants to be a serious championship contender. There’s no doubt he has the car speed and skill to win a title. But self-inflicted errors have cost him so many times throughout his career, and that still doesn’t look like it’s been solved yet in 2021. We still have a long way to go this season, so Larson’s finishing skills are something to keep an eye on moving forward.

It was strange to see Joey Logano out of the picture at Kansas, where he’s won three times. Most of his race was spent running 15th or worse. I kept waiting for him to get up there and join his teammates Keselowski, Blaney and even DiBenedetto out front. Cindric, running a part-time schedule, was about on pace with Logano for most of the day. He got toward the front when he took two tires on a late stop, but quickly faded again to finish 17th.

What did this race prove?

Larson is the man to beat at every 1.5-mile track from here on out. Yep, he’s that fast. I mentioned before but it’s worth noting again – he’s led the most laps at three of the four 1.5-mile races this season. His speed throughout the race is remarkable every time we go to one of these tracks. Kansas was his first finish outside the top five at a 1.5-mile track, and it was arguably his best car of the four (I would still say the Atlanta Motor Speedway one was better).

NASCAR officials have bad races too. The loose wheel that rolled onto the infield grass during green flag stops was a bad look. NASCAR waited until the cars cycled through pit stops and then threw the caution. In my opinion, you have to either throw the caution right away or don’t throw it at all. The tire appeared to be out of harm’s way, and after waiting that long, why even bother going yellow? I get their thought process; I just don’t agree with it.

See also
Zach's Turn: Chris Buescher Gets Butt End of NASCAR's Decision

Just when we thought the tire debacle was as bad as it would get, NASCAR proceeded to waste a handful of laps on the final caution just to make it a green-white-checkered finish. The caution came out with nine laps to go and we didn’t restart until two to go (seven-lap caution). The previous two cautions before that both only four laps.

Paint scheme of the race

Verizon returning to NASCAR this year created one of my favorite stories of the season. Back in 2010, Keselowski ran his first full-time Cup season with Team Penske in the No. 12 Verizon-sponsored Dodge Charger. The only problem was Sprint sponsored the series and didn’t allow other phone carriers to have logos on cars. So, Keselowski ran this Verizon-sponsored car with Penske logos.

Eleven years later, Keselowski finally drove a Verizon car.

Better than last year?

Last year, the spring Kansas race was run on a Thursday night in late July due to COVID-19. It was a solid race with great restarts and multiple contenders. Six drivers led at least 25 laps throughout the event. There were also a few big wrecks, including hard hits by DiBenedetto and Preece. Harvick got to the lead on a late restart but couldn’t hold off Hamlin, who went on to win the race.

This year, the race had much less carnage until the final laps. The race was thoroughly dominated by Larson, as he led 132 laps to Keselowski’s 72, Stenhouse’s 23 and Busch’s 20. The finish was better just because of the restarts and intrigue of not knowing who would win, but I don’t think the overall show was better than last year. Still, a solid Kansas race with an exciting, unpredictable finish? Can’t ask for too much more than that.

Playoff picture

Busch is the 10th winner in 11 races this season as we continue the shocking streak of parity. The win doesn’t shake up much in the playoff picture as Busch was pretty securely in the mix, but it does lock in another spot with still 15 races until the regular season ends. 

DiBenedetto entered the top 16 as his consistent run of good finishes continued. Buescher also jumped up a spot to 15th as Stenhouse fell four spots to 19th. Hamlin, Elliott, Harvick, Austin Dillon, Buescher and DiBenedetto are currently in the playoffs based on points. Here’s a look at the standings following Kansas:

What’s next?

The Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway for its annual throwback weekend. This will be the first time throwback weekend is in the spring, as Darlington now has two races on the schedule once again. The Goodyear 400 is set for Sunday (May 9) at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. The 293-lap race will have stage breaks after laps 90 and 185.

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Big lou

Little boy Wallace again can’t hang with the big boys. I’m glad it’s jordon paying a loser cause I sure would’nt. Wise up jordon. Maybe Wallace should take up golfing since he back into the hamlet tournament. He’s worried more about Netflix than racing he’s a back runner and finisher and when he gets a top 10 or top 5 it’s because all the big names had problems. What a joke!!!

Mizzou Fan

Yeah, like YOU would perform better in the car. New team struggles and you have to blame the driver, likely because you don’t like the melatonin in his skin

David Edwards

Funny how anybody that isn’t a lily white male becomes a lightning rod for some fans.

Bill B

Our old friend Beau Ring showed up this week. What a snoozer until NASCAR threw that questionable caution. I agree, they either need to throw the caution within a few laps of the “incident” or forget about it and let the chips fall where they may. Then, as is usually the case, cautions breed cautions which produced a crapshoot ending. At least Busch ran in the top 5 all day so he was a contender.

Shout out to Hamlin for another choooooooke. I think the lack of a win is making him go mental. He is trying so hard he is making mistakes…. two weeks in a row.

Jo

The racing in Stages 1 and 2 was excellent throughout the pack, proving once again that short stages are the best way to insure close racing. Stage 3 was a dud until the cautions flew. I know most fans would recoil at the idea, but NASCAR’s choice for good finishes continues to be to rely on late accidents or add another stage break toward the end.

As for Larson, his entire Cup career has been hampered by self-inflicted mistakes. He apparently believes his own press clippings that he is invincible. Guess what, Larson? You’re not!

WJW Motorsports

They shouldn’t even bother then in keeping up the farce of a full length race. Just set up a series of extremely short stages so the entire “race” is just a bunch of re-starts.. – that’s the magic formula right? TV is happy then with all their scheduled TV time-outs and demo-derby/WWE crowd will be happy with the carnage. As far as Larson goes, I’d say the vast majority of his Cup career has been hampered by driving for an inferior team. Improving, yes, but not one of the big 3. I’d say he’s doing just fine for season one on a good team and we’ll see if he’s blessed with the luck (the kind of luck that comes from race control – you know – controlling the outcome of races with the late-caution factor) and maturity to finish races.

Tony Fonzarelli

Prediction: minimum 5 stages next year. That’s what they are field testing with this year’s All-Star race.

What did Dale Sr say in 2000?: “Mr. France would roll over in his grave if he seen that deal”

Tony Fonzarelli

Call it. May 2, 2021: NASCAR officially ‘jumps the shark’.

Jo

The elephant in the room that all the critics are ignoring is the fact of so few cautions for on-track incidents over the last two seasons. Maybe it’s the unintended consequence of no practice and qualifying, but even the usual suspects are strangely well-behaved until the latter stages of the race. Racing has only EVER been exciting with lots of wrecks and cautions. If the drivers won’t provide them, then I personally see no problem with NASCAR adding cautions to bring the field together to satisfy the ADD crowd. All poor Larson had to do was execute a couple good restarts, like Kyle Busch did, and the Great Asian-American Hope would have won, but he failed.

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