It was fitting that one of NASCAR’s older drivers pulled out a win on NASCAR’s oldest surface.
Sunday, Kurt Busch waged an epic battle at Atlanta Motor Speedway with his younger brother in the closing laps and held him off to score his first victory since Sept. 2020.
The 42-year-old became the last winner on Atlanta’s worn-out surface which is NASCAR’s oldest, and which will get a repave for the first time in 25 years starting next week, along with a reconfiguration.
“Hell yeah we beat Kyle!” Busch exclaimed after scoring his 33rd career win and tying his brother for 1-2 finishes at 2.
“I taught that kid everything he knows; he should be grateful,” he added smiling. “What a battle. What a genuine, awesome, old-school racetrack, and I just asked the track today, last time here on your old asphalt, can I have an old guy win, and she answered. Thank you, Atlanta Motor Speedway!”
Kurt was the somewhat unexpected class of the field after the early part of the race leading a race high 144 of the 260 laps taking the lead for the first time on lap 84. Younger brother Kyle led the second most laps on the day, 91 and won Stage 1 and looked to be the class of the field. But Kurt won stage 2 which ended at lap 160. As if sending a message that a repave is overdue, the race was stopped shortly after the end of Stage 2 to repair a hole in the track on the frontstretch.
After a nearly 20-minute red flag Kurt again had the lead. However, Kyle was able to re-take the lead when he pitted under green for the final round of stops a lap earlier than Kurt with 50 laps to go.
“When I saw we cycled out in front of him,” Kyle said. “I thought that was our shot, and certainly it was.”
But Kurt fought back, caught Kyle and reclaimed the top spot with 24 to go. From there the Busch brothers navigated lapped traffic and with a little help from his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Ross Chastain who was a lap down and made it tough for Kyle to pass at one point, Kurt was able to keep the lead.
“Ross is going to get a little flak for it,” Kurt said. “But that’s what it takes to be a good teammate at the right moment, so I couldn’t be more proud of Ross Chastain. I’ll pay him back eventually, but right now this is our No. 1 car in Victory Lane.”
Kyle tried one last time to get the point with 7 to go getting inside his brother but faded. He scraped the wall with 5 to go and Kurt was able to stretch out his lead winning by 1.2 seconds.
“We just don’t have enough front end with laps on tires,” Kyle said. “I had everything I had there early and then just smoked it behind the 42, obviously. Shows you what kind of driver he is. And just tried to fight hard after that when I got passed and had one valiant effort off of 2 but didn’t have enough momentum to drag him down and make him go high in 3 and 4, and after that the tires were smoked.”
Behind Kyle, Martin Truex Jr. who was forced to start at the back of the field after two pre-race inspection failures rallied to finish third; Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.
Tyler Reddick was sixth while Chase Elliott who started on pole and struggled much of the day and had issues on pit road staged a late race run to come home seventh. Christopher Bell, Matt DiBenedetto and Brad Keselowski completed the top 10.
Kyle Larson’s hope to catch Denny Hamlin atop the points standings took a hit when he was penalized for speeding during the final round of green flag stops and left him with a 18th place finish. Hamlin too was penalized for speeding, but he was able to fight back and finished 13th.
The win for Kurt Busch secures his spot in the Playoffs, and with his future in doubt due to sale of Chip Ganassi Racing, will keep his name in the mix for next season.
“You know, for all of Ganassi, Trackhouse bought our team,” he said. “I don’t know where I’m going, but I just love racing cars and I want to race that Next-Gen car. That’s why I’m trying to stick around.”
The Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 11, 2021
- (8) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 260.
- (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 260.
- (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 260.
- (17) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 260.
- (15) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 260.
- (7) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 260.
- (1) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 260.
- (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 260.
- (12) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 260.
- (14) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 260.
- (21) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 260.
- (13) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 260.
- (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 260.
- (24) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 260.
- (11) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 260.
- (18) Chris Buescher, Ford, 260.
- (23) Cole Custer, Ford, 260.
- (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 260.
- (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 259.
- (19) William Byron, Chevrolet, 259.
- (9) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 259.
- (26) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 258.
- (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 258.
- (22) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 258.
- (34) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 258.
- (32) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 257.
- (25) Michael McDowell, Ford, 256.
- (29) Ryan Newman, Ford, 256.
- (28) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 255.
- (36) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 254.
- (37) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 253.
- (33) Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, 253.
- (31) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 253.
- (30) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 248.
- (35) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 248.
- (27) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 243.
- (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Suspension, 178.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.207 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 50 Mins, 8 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.237 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Elliott 1-13;K. Busch 14-27;D. Hamlin 28-29;K. Busch 30-83;K. Busch 84-121;C. Custer 122;A. Almirola 123-130;*. Preece 131;K. Busch 132-212;K. Busch 213-235;K. Busch 236-260.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kurt Busch 3 times for 144 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 91 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 13 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 8 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 2 laps; * Ryan Preece 1 time for 1 lap; Cole Custer 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,1,11,48,8,5,22,24,19,4
Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,18,48,5,11,8,12,2,3,19
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