While others fought through left-rear tire issues, the Busch brothers kicked off NASCAR’s spring Kansas Speedway race weekend in style.
Sporting a paint scheme adorned with 23XI Racing co-owner Michael Jordan’s iconic Jordan Brand, Kurt Busch topped the weekend’s lone practice session with a 175.564mph lap around the 1.5-mile oval. The 2004 Cup champion is winless in 32-career starts at Kansas, with five top-fives and a best result of second (2013, 2017).
Younger brother Kyle Busch followed, leading Group A with a 175.416mph lap. Much like the conclusion of the Bristol dirt race, the two-time champ narrowly beat Tyler Reddick, who laid down a 175.069mph lap. Only Ross Chastain (175.041mph) and Christopher Bell (175.023mph) also crossed over the 175mph average in the session.
Speeds ultimately played second fiddle to survival for many in the field after a rash of left-rear tire blowouts.
Chris Buescher was the first to have issues, cutting a tire and spinning into the outside wall in Turn 1. The Texan sensed the issue before it happened but didn’t have enough time to make a save.
“We lost a left-rear [tire] down the front stretch, or I guess corner entry,” Buescher said. “I started feeling a vibration, tried to slow down and didn’t get it knocked down in time.
“It’s a pretty big shame for our Castrol GTX Mustang to be sitting on wreckers like that. We haven’t gotten it back to the garage to see how bad it is, but we have the backup [car] behind us, obviously ready. It’s going to be a long night.”
Buescher’s No. 17 RFK Racing team ultimately elected to go to a back up car.
While he was the least fortunate one, Buescher was far from the only driver with left-rear tire issues. Ryan Blaney cut the same tire in Turn 4, but was able to slow his machine down and take the reverse entrance to pit road. Denny Hamlin suffered tire trouble at the same place minutes later.
The tire attrition continued into Group B. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. suffered a flat and spun into Turn 3 early in the session. Last week’s winner, Joey Logano, suffered a tire issue of his own at the same corner and crashed shortly after the session resumed.
“As soon as I turned down off into the corner, I could feel it shaking and I knew it was bad,” Logano said. “It just swaps ends so fast when the left-rear blows out. We’ve seen that happen a few times today.
“Unfortunately for us, the old Verizon Mustang’s going to have to come from the rear, but we’ll be alright and we’ll fight through it, I’m sure. I think we were pretty decent on lap times before that…on the long haul at least. If we keep the tires on it, I guess we’ll be alright.”
Logano’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, claimed he’d elected to add pressure to Logano’s tires after seeing the issues in Group A. The 2012 championship-winner was unsure of the cause behind the various tire concerns.
“It’s just hard to tell,” Wolfe said. “Obviously we saw a lot of cars have issues in the first practice. I put a little air in it just trying to be conservative, but maybe there’s something else in the setup. We’ll have to look at all that and see if we need to adjust for Sunday.”
Both sessions were briefly extended due to the various stoppages. Group A saw one additional red for a Cody Ware spin along with the spat of tire troubles.
Aric Almirola, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott completed a session-high 24 laps. Bell had the quickest 10-lap average speed of 173.630mph.
Up Next: Cup Series qualifying at Kansas Speedway.