YouTube sensations Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl were favored to win the $1 million, but ended in third place

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YouTube stars and Michigan State University grads Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl didn’t win the $1 million prize during “The Amazing Race” finale Friday.

But the pair happily acknowledged they’d earned another reward by finishing an incredible journey.

“I am so glad that Korey and I did the race together. There’s no one else I would want to run it with,” Oakley said in the closing minutes of the finale. “Korey knows how to bring out the best in me, and we had so much fun. I feel like I won because I had the trip of a lifetime with my best friend.”

Coming in first place in the previous three episodes, the best friends were favored to win season 28 of the reality TV show that sends teams around the world in search of clues to get to the next leg.

They became one of the last three competing for the grand prize. In the finale, they crossed the finish line third, behind Viner Cole LaBrant and his mother, Sheri LaBrant. Engaged dancers Dana Borriello and Matt Steffanina came in first, winning the race.

This season featured teams with at least one internet celebrity.

Kuhl’s mother, Danette Smith of Jackson said her son has always been a “diehard” reality TV fan.

“He has watched every episode of ‘Survivor,’ ‘Big Brother’ and ‘The Amazing Race’ since they all started,” she said.

Of her four boys, Smith says Kuhl is the most adventurous and “willing to do anything.”

“I always knew he’d do something fun and exciting, but I never dreamed he would be moving to LA and having this kind of life,” she added.

Kuhl, 30, and Oakley, 27, met at MSU, where Oakley posted his first YouTube video. Their internet fame took off when they moved to California after graduation and turned their stardom into careers. Combined, they have nearly 22 million followers on social media platforms.

In podcasts and videos, the friends talk freely about their lives and pop culture. Their latest video this week answers questions from Twitter followers about “The Amazing Race.” (If you’re curious, they didn’t get to try many foods in countries they visited. “It was a lot of room service, protein bars and beef jerky,” Oakley said.)

Constantly laughing, their humor resonates with their young following.

“It’s kind of hard to not love that laugh Tyler has,” Smith said. “They’re so about being who you truly are and not letting people bully you and I think that helps a lot of kids.”

During Friday’s finale, when “Amazing Race” host Phil Keoghan asked Kuhl about Oakley, he responded: “He’s one of the most confident people I know. Spending every day with him, working together, he makes me more confident in myself and makes me comfortable in my own skin. I look up to him so much.”

Okemos native Dolan Bloom, 27, has known Oakley since sixth grade. Though he may be biased since he’s Oakley’s childhood best friend, the New York City actor was confident #TeamTylerAndKorey was going to win.

“I feel like if I was going to put money on it, I would definitely be betting on Tyler and Korey,” he said before the final episode aired.

At Okemos High School, Bloom and Oakley participated in a mock version of “The Amazing Race” with friends from the drama department. They were the youngest team, but they beat the upperclassmen.

“The hosts were chosen a year out, and they would plan an ‘Amazing Race’ that would go all over Okemos and East Lansing,” Bloom said. “The year we won there were CD clues and someone on your team had to have a car with a CD player so you could go from clue to clue.”

Bloom said Kuhl — whom he first met when he was Oakley’s resident assistant at MSU — is the perfect partner for Oakley in the real race.

“They are the ying to each other’s yang,” he said. “I think the fact that they’ve worked together for so many years on important projects and things with deadlines, they have that trust as collaborators, and they don’t get flustered when there’s pressure on each other. ... They say, ‘You’re going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ And they get the job done.”

When addressing the pair for the last time on "Amazing Race," the host noted they did “not stop smiling this entire time" and maintained their close friendship.

For his part, Oakley said he simply loved the experience. “It’s like my expectations were exceeded a millionfold,” he said during the broadcast. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

ssteinberg@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2156

@Steph_Steinberg

‘The Amazing Race’

8 p.m Friday

CBS

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