Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson put on a masterclass of NASCAR Cup Series racing Sunday at Kansas Speedway, with the Joe Gibbs Racing driver coming out the victor after contact on the last lap.
Larson was hounded by the Toyota over the final 14 laps and tried to fend off the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet getting underneath him multiple times. Never able to complete the pass, Hamlin kept working Larson over as the No. 5 got looser as the run continued.
On the final lap, Hamlin entered Turns 1 and 2 slightly lower than Larson but close enough to apply pressure as the two exited the corner. Larson brushed the wall and with Hamlin side drafting, the two came together off the corner.
"One of the greatest finishes here at Kansas!"@KurtBusch, @ClintBowyer and @mikejoy500 break down Denny Hamlin's battle with Kyle Larson on the last lap. pic.twitter.com/dDA8dRUCJi
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 7, 2023
The JGR car made contact with Larson in the left rear, which turned the Chevrolet into the outside wall. Hamlin drove to victory and Larson salvaged a second-place finish.
“So proud of this whole FedEx team,” Hamlin said after his first win of the season and the 49th of his Cup Series career. “I got position on him there, and I was trying to side draft him but clipped his left rear. But glad he was able to at least finish.
“Proud of my FedEx team, though. Four hundred wins now for Joe Gibbs Racing — just such a great accomplishment for them.”
The victory is Hamlin’s fourth at Kansas Speedway. He led 34 laps and won the first stage.
Larson led a race-high 85 laps. It was also a rebound day for the 2021 champ, who was spun off Turn 4 from the race lead by Tyler Reddick on lap five. The two were racing in close quarters off the corner and Reddick got into the back of Larson as they exited.
“I was really loose; I was trying to do what I could to manage it but was really loose at that end (Turn 2),” Larson said of his battle with Hamlin. “He was a little bit better than me at the end. I haven’t seen a replay either, but obviously he was side drafting really aggressively like you would, but he was like touching me, it felt like, and it had me out of control.”
William Byron finished third after starting from the pole and going two laps down early in the day. He struggled with his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and contact with the wall put him behind on track position.
Bubba Wallace finished fourth and Ross Chastain finished fifth. On pit road after the race, Chastain was confronted by Noah Gragson, whom Chastain admitted he crowded into the fence early in the race when he got tight. Gragson grabbed Chastain’s firesuit, and Chastain connected with a punch before the two were separated by NASCAR security.
Joey Logano finished sixth after winning the second stage. Chase Elliott finished seventh, Martin Truex Jr. eighth, Tyler Reddick ninth and Austin Dillon 10th.
It was an eventful afternoon at Kansas, the first intermediate race for the Cup Series since March. Ty Gibbs, Kyle Busch, and Christopher Bell were the three drivers who failed to finish the race after being involved in crashes, and there were 10 cautions for spins.
There were 11 cautions in the AdventHealth 400 and 37 lead changes among 12 drivers — a record for Kansas Speedway. .