There aren’t many adjectives that can accurately describe the caliber of race that fans were treated to in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Kansas Speedway.
With a record-smashing number of lead changes, a fantastic battle for the victory – which ended in an aggressive last-lap pass, and amazing storylines of drivers rebounding from adversity to finish strong, the 2023 AdventHealth 400 had it all.
Denny Hamlin, driving the No. 11 Toyota Camry TRD for Joe Gibbs Racing, looked extremely fast from the moment NASCAR Cup Series practice started on Saturday, establishing himself as an early favorite to win.
While he did end up parking his car in victory lane after 400 miles, it wasn’t the lights-out victory that many expected by looking at the long-run timing figures from practice. Leading 34 of 267 laps, Hamlin hovered around the top five for much of the afternoon.
However, as the race approached its final 20 laps, the Chesterfield, Virginia native found himself running in second place, about one second behind the leader at the time, Kyle Larson, who was searching for his third win of 2023.
Having speed superior to that of Larson on the longer runs, Hamlin was patient and slowly reeled in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro, as the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion fought a loose condition in the race’s closing laps.
Despite a couple of side-by-side moments with Larson over the closing laps, Hamlin wasn’t able to make his move for the victory until the final lap, using the air to gain momentum on Larson off of the second corner.
While attempting to side-draft the Hendrick Motorsports driver, who started from the outside of the front row, Hamlin clipped the left rear of the HendrickCars.com entry, sending the No. 5 into the outside wall nose first.
Hamlin was able to get away from the incident without any hesitation, bringing his No. 11 Toyota Camry to the start-finish line first, scoring his first victory of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Kyle Larson was able to limp his No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro home in the runner-up position, despite being spun from the lead on two separate occasions throughout the 267-lap event. Despite the last-lap contact, Larson finished only 1.3 seconds behind the winner.
After winning his 10th career NASCAR Cup Series pole on Saturday, William Byron was able to score a third-place finish but had to overcome an early speeding penalty and unscheduled pit stop, to score his series-leading fifth top-five of 2023.
Bubba Wallace continued a pattern of strength for 23XI Racing at Kansas Speedway, bringing the No. 23 Toyota Camry home in fourth place, resulting in his second top-five finish of the season and a much-needed momentum boost.
Ross Chastain completed the top five but had his fair share of drama take place after Sunday’s AdventHealth 400. After an incident with Noah Gragson mid-race, the LEGACY MOTOR CLUB driver took issue with Chastain’s attitude and came to his pit to have a discussion.
While speaking with Chastain, who has seemingly become the catch-all for on-track issues in the NASCAR Cup Series, Gragson grabbed his firesuit, which resulted in a scuffle on pit road, in which the Trackhouse Racing driver delivered a clean punch to the face of the Las Vegas, Nevada-native.
Joey Logano salvaged a sixth-place finish, in what seemed to be a lackluster day for the Team Penske driver. Chase Elliott finished in seventh, his second top-10 since returning to the NASCAR Cup Series.
Martin Truex, Jr., Tyler Reddick, and Austin Dillon completed the top-10, in a race that featured several different twists and turns throughout the event, but overall delivered an amazing on-track product.
A total of 12 different drivers spent time leading the 400-mile event on Sunday, swapping the lead 37 times between them, by far surpassing the record for a NASCAR Cup Series event at Kansas Speedway.
Christopher Bell, who entered the race as the NASCAR Cup Series points leader, crashed out early in the going, finishing 36th, and losing a substantial amount of ground to fifth-place finisher Ross Chastain.
Exiting Kansas, Chastain returns to the top of the NASCAR Cup Series points, 31 points ahead of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick completed the top five in points.
Up next for the NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Darlington Raceway, for the 13th event of the 2023 season. The series joins both the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series at the South Carolina race track, as NASCAR honors its 75th anniversary with Throwback Weekend.