Some tracks fit well for certain drivers. Conversely, some tracks do not fit well. For Kyle Busch, Kansas Speedway is definitely in the latter category.
Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas was a critical one for Busch going in, as he had struggled mightily at the 1.5-mile oval throughout his Sprint Cup career. Unfortunately for him, he encountered calamity once again in the Heartland, crashing out of the race late.
Before Sunday, Busch was in third place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at 12 points behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth. But now, as NASCAR heads for home ground next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Rowdy One sits fifth in the standings at 35 points back of Kenseth.
“We’ll just have to work hard,” Busch said about his title hopes from here on in. “We’ll just have to keep doing what we’ve done and getting us to this point all year long and that’s been consistency.
“And every other track except Kansas seems to be able to bode well for us, so we’ll see what happens and if it doesn’t happen — then it doesn’t happen. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Like Kenseth, Busch struggled mightily with both track conditions and Goodyear’s zone tire on Sunday. Prior to wrecking out, Busch had been involved in two other incidents; he was able to dodge a spinning Danica Patrick on the opening lap and was then spun out himself by Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 186.
He came out of both of those matters unscathed, but on Lap 199, contact with Carl Edwards sent Busch into the Turn 2 wall. Unable to continue, Busch was forced to swallow a 34th-place result.
Now, Busch will likely have to be perfect – forget about being close to it- over the final six Chase races to have a chance at winning the Cup.
Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.
“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”
Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.
“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”
In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.
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Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.
Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.
Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.
Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.
Oliver Bennett completed the top five.
Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.