KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history produced quite a range of emotions for the No. 5 team at Kansas Speedway. 

For just a few seconds, driver Kyle Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels thought they had come up just short of their second win of 2024. Then, spotter Tyler Monn's joyous exclamation conveyed a different outcome. 

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"Initially, when we hit the stripe, I was like, I think I got him," Larson said of his dramatic finish with Chris Buescher. "So I'm like, did we get him? Did we get him? He's (Cliff Daniels) like, it doesn't look like we got him. He was pretty calm, so I was like, we definitely didn't win. I was silent down the backstretch for a second and I'm still kind of like, man, I hope I won. Then, Tyler (Monn) is like, 'We won, we won, we won' and going crazy. Then I'm going crazy, screaming, banging my head off the headrest and all of that."


The call from television was that Buescher had crossed the line first as timing and scoring initially had the No. 17 entry in front of Larson. That led to Daniels' telling his driver in those first post-checkered flag moments that he had come up just short.

Upon reviewing the track's high speed cameras monitoring the start/finish line, it was determined the Larson did in fact beat Buescher to the checkered flag.

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"I've never been a part of a finish like that in a stock car," Larson said. It's really cool. You see those finishes happen a lot at Daytona (International Speedway), Talladega (Superspeedway) and I'm never in the running for those. Go figure it happens on a mile-and-a-half."

The Kansas finish, with the leaders separated by 0.0001 seconds, surpassed two finishes that had margins of 0.002 seconds: the memorable last-lap dual between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington Raceway in 2003 and Jimmie Johnson's victory at Talladega Superspeedway over Clint Bowyer. 

And it was a finish that nearly didn't turn out in Larson's favor. Over a 56-lap green-flag run before the race's final caution, the right-front tire was cording on the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Larson had fallen from third to sixth in the five laps before the yellow came out.

Under the yellow, Daniels brought his driver down pit road with a call for two right-side tires. The pit crew got their driver out of the pits in third, a three-spot gain from where he entered. The first nine cars for the overtime restart had all taken two tires, with Martin Truex Jr. the first car on four tires in the 10th. 

"It's a complete Hail Mary," Daniels said of the two-tire call. "I knew that it was going to be pretty dicey on the restart. The further up in traffic you could be, you were going to have a better shot at it."

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On the ensuing restart, Larson chose the inside lane in row two behind the leader, Denny Hamlin. The 2021 Cup Series champion made an aggressive move to the bottom, forcing Hamlin into the middle and leaving Larson battling Buescher for the win. Coming to the white flag, Larson thought he had made a costly misjudgment going to the bottom of (turn) three on the first of the two-lap finish. We'll let the 31-year-old driver describe it from here. 

"I thought I was done," Larson said. "We came to the white (flag) and I figured I'd try and run up the racetrack in (turns) one and two and build a run. My run was better than I was expecting. He (Buescher) got looking in the mirror and entered a little bit lower into (turn) three and I had that momentum with some clean air to get to his right side. I got pretty loose in the center of (turns) three and four next to him in an awkward aero spot and figured I would smash the wall off of (turn) four.

"Somehow, it gripped up really good. We touched a little bit off of (turn) four. I noticed that he was going to have the run back, so I hung a left and just tried to kill his momentum."

"It was certainly wild to watch," Daniels said. "I was hoping we had put the right adjustments in the car for what we needed for the short run, knowing that the caution had really saved us."

This result happening at Kansas adds "something to it" for Larson. In Daniels' words, the 1.5-mile track in Kansas City has been "a nemesis for us." In the spring 2021 race, Larson led a race-high 132 laps before getting shuffled back on a late-race restart. Later that year, the team dominated the playoff race. Since then, though, it's been a string of near misses. Among those were a runner-up finish in the spring of 2022, contact with Hamlin on the final lap last spring to finish second and leading a race-high 99 laps in the 2023 playoff race.   

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The Kansas victory is just the latest chapter in what has turned out to be a storybook 40th anniversary for Hendrick Motorsports in the first half of 2024. Among the team's series-leading six victories is a win in the DAYTONA 500 (the organization's first in 10 years and a 1-2 finish in that race), a road course victory at Circuit of The Americas, a 1-2-3 sweep of its 40th-anniversary race at Martinsville Speedway and a three-for-three mark on 1.5-mile tracks. Being on the winning side of the closest finish in Cup history will stand out for the 14-time premier series championship-winning team. 

"We need moments like that," Jeff Andrews, team president and general manager, said. "Those are great stories for our sport and a great moment in history for our company. "Every time you see that highlight reel, it's going to be Kyle (Larson), Hendrick Motorsports and Mr. Hendrick. It's certainly something we're proud of."

May will be a busy month for Larson, with his effort to make the Indianapolis 500 — with Hendrick Motorsports' partnership with Arrow McLaren — going full bore next week. Sunday's victory is an excellent kickoff to that for the 31-year-old driver and a moment he is sure to remember for a long time. 

"I'll always remember it," Larson said. "When you have the closest (to this point) finish in Cup Series history, I don't think you'll ever forget about it, even if it gets broken someday."