One incident ends the day for two top contenders, at different times, at Atlanta

HAMPTON, GEORGIA - MARCH 21: Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, spins into the wall after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 21, 2021 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

NASCAR Cup races at Atlanta normally feature long green flag runs, Sunday’s race was no exception. Beyond a competition caution on lap 25, the first Stage ran without incident.

It was on the restart after that stage that trouble took out one contender and led to another being forced out later.

On a restart on Lap 113 Kyle Busch who was second in the Stage and lined up on the outside row, spun his tires at the front of the pack. Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch were among those behind forced to check up.

Kurt Busch tried to dive down to the middle lane but contact from Denny Hamlin’s Toyota away from the center of the back of Busch sent the No. 1 Chevrolet into the Turn 1 wall and out of the race.

“Yeah, I think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was the outside-lead car,” said Kurt Busch, who ran near the front of the field throughout the first stage. The No. 9 (Elliott) kind of checked-up, too. I checked up… It was just the accordion effect and then I jumped to the middle. I’m like ‘I’m here’; I positioned myself. It wasn’t like I rearranged my lanes and made another block.

“He (Hamlin) didn’t do anything vicious or malicious there. It’s a 500-miler, and these are the days that it hurts the worst. This absolutely hurts the worst because we had a top-five, winning Monster Energy Chevy.”

Elliott had some damage but was able to continue. His troubles surfaced later when his Chevy began to smoke on lap 219 and he slowed. The next lap saw the Chevy’s engine expire and he was out of the race causing the fifth and final caution.

“Yeah, obviously we broke a motor there later on,” Elliott said. “We got some damage there on that restart. Kyle (Busch) kind of spun his tires and then I was pushing him, and Kurt (Busch) was pushing me. We all just really jammed together hard and ended up hurting the nose some. I don’t know if that had something to do with breaking the engine or not.

“I hate it, for sure. I feel like our car was pretty decent. We drove up there – we got up to tenth, or so, at the Stage. I felt like we were in a decent position to work on it throughout the day. I appreciate all the effort. It’s great to be home in Georgia; home for me and home for NAPA Auto Parts. I wish we could have had a good result, but we’ll try again at Bristol.”

Elliott was scored 38th, Kurt Busch 39th.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 21: Smoke is seen from the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, driven by Chase Elliott, during the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 21, 2021 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)