Take a look at the winners and losers after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway:
Kurt Busch -- Kurt Busch’s Kansas triumph was significant in a number of ways. In addition to scoring his first win at the 1.5-mile speedway, Busch brought home a trophy for 23XI Racing, the organization’s second victory in addition to Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win in October 2021. That makes team co-owner Michael Jordan a multiple-race winner in NASCAR with the Jordan Brand covered across the No. 45 Toyota in Victory Lane. It also signifies the team is capable of winning when the pit crew has a clean day, which has not been a guarantee in the team’s first year as a multi-car organization. Suddenly, Busch is in the playoffs again and has some room to breathe over the second half of the regular season.
Denny Hamlin -- One of the only people happier about Busch’s win was the team’s other co-owner, Hamlin. In addition to a fourth-place finish -- only his second top 10 of the season -- Hamlin saw the fruits of his team’s labor come to fruition when Busch took the checkered flag. Hamlin was emotional after the race: “Certainly, there’s been no win that I’ve had that has equaled the emotions of this one for sure.” Starting from the rear after replacing the diffuser Saturday, Hamlin drove to 11th in Stage 1 and eighth in Stage 2 before notching a top five.
Christopher Bell -- Bell was on the receiving end of some good luck Sunday. When Daniel Suarez spun at Lap 62 with a left rear tire flat, Bell was leading the race -- and suffering a flat of his own. Bell nursed the car to pit road, then rallied back to finish fifth for his third top five of the year and sixth top 10 in the past eight races.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- Stenhouse could hardly buy a good finish to start the season. The No. 47 car finished outside the top 25 in eight of the year’s first 10 races. It’s a much different story now. A runner-up finish at Dover has sparked a three-race streak of top 10s for the JTG Daugherty Racing driver, scoring consecutive eighth-place finishes at Darlington and Kansas. Stenhouse started Sunday’s race from the rear after wall contact in practice forced the crew to repair the primary car. He steadily worked through the field and came away with another good finish.
Austin Cindric -- A stretch of disappointing finishes for the No. 2 team was resolved Sunday with Cindric’s 11th-place run, his best since finishing 11th at Martinsville on April 9. The four races in between Martinsville and Kansas produced finishes of 16th (Bristol dirt), 21st (Talladega), 36th (Dover, DNF) and 18th (Darlington). The Daytona 500 champion is already locked into the playoffs but better results always help the morale. He can hang his hat on being Ford’s highest finisher Sunday despite not earning a top 10.
Bubba Wallace -- Wallace showed plenty of speed out of his No. 23 Toyota. But while teammate Kurt Busch went to Victory Lane, Wallace was left fuming after his pit crew cost him positions on numerous occasions. The crew has been heavily criticized this season. On Sunday, they incurred two separate penalties -- one at Lap 83 for stepping over the wall too soon and another at Lap 198 for a tire violation. Wallace believed he had a “top-two car,” he said on the radio. His pit crew hampered him and forced him to rally from the rear. To Wallace’s credit, he did and scored a 10th-place finish, his second of the year and first since a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500.
Tyler Reddick -- Reddick started second at Kansas but had a dismal day. After leading laps early, Reddick contacted the wall in Stage 2 and was sent to pit road. He battled multiple vibrations and never overcame his issues, resulting in a 30th-place finish. It’s his third finish of 30th or worse in the past four races, a streak broken up by a runner-up finish last week at Darlington.
Chase Elliott -- Count Daniel Suarez in here too. Both drivers faced flat left-rear tires and spun -- Suarez at Lap 62 and Elliott at Lap 197. They also faced identical issues: Both drivers begged to be pushed back to pit road, but issues and miscommunications with the crews led to lost time and lost tempers on the radios. Eventually, Elliott finished 29th, three laps down, while Suarez was 33rd, 11 laps down.
Erik Jones -- Jones spent much of the early parts of the race in or around the top 10. That was until the lug nut on his right-rear tire became so stuck that the team had to resort to power tools during a 10-minute pit stop that resulted in the No. 43 team sawing the wheel off the car. Jones wound up 32nd, six laps down, when the checkered flag flew.
Ford -- While Toyota and Chevrolet enjoyed triumphant days, Ford was hardly anywhere to be found. Austin Cindric started fifth and Ryan Blaney led a lap, but no Fords finished inside the top 10. Blaney’s one circuit out front was the only lap led by a Ford on Sunday. The manufacturer was victorious a week ago at Darlington Raceway, so there remains hope for the Blue Ovals. But the results didn’t show up in Kansas.