Ryan Blaney spoiled Kyle Larson’s party at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday. Larson led a race high 269 of 325 laps and appeared to be the car to beat all day long. But Blaney had the last laugh catching and passing Larson with under 10 laps to go and holding on for his fifth NASCAR Cup series win.
“We had a great long run car all day,” Blaney said. “It took us a little bit to get going. I was pretty free all day, so we made a really good change to tighten me up where I needed it and it looked like Kyle was getting loose.
“I’m happy it worked in our favor that there was a couple long runs at the end that kind of let us get there. He got slowed up behind some lap traffic… We’ve been good this year and had some bad breaks and it’s nice to close out a race like that. That was awesome.”
Larson swept both stages and had a lead of 10 seconds at one point. The only car all race long who appeared to have a shot was Blaney who took the lead out of the pits after Stage 2. Blaney’s crew had a stop 1.2 seconds faster, the fastest by any crew so far in 2021 giving Blaney the lead which he held for the next 13 laps before Larson once again charged back to the point.
The field had a final round of green flag stops starting on lap 267 with Larson cycling back to the lead. Blaney was second and Larson’s lead never grew beyond 1.2 seconds. Blaney slowly reeled Larson in and with 10 laps to go, the lead was under half a second. Blaney was able to catch Larson, make a clean pass with 8 to go and went on to win by 2.083 seconds.
“I think (Blaney) just got a lot better there in that last stage and it changed up my flow of the race,” Larson said. “He was fast there and I just wanted to maintain that gap I had. So I had to run on the faster part of the race track and use my stuff up. “
Alex Bowman was third, polesitter Denny Hamlin fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
Blaney’s victory makes him the sixth different winner in NASCAR’s Cup series in 2021. All Blaney’s wins have come with passes with less than 10 laps to go.
“The 5 (Larson)was crazy fast there the whole race and then we started closing in,” Blaney said. “Our car got a lot better there. I think towards the end of stage two it was starting to get there and then before that last green flag stop it really came to life and he was starting to struggle getting really free. I don’t know if the track changed or what, but we were just tightening it up all day. I’m happy there were a couple long runs at the end. That’s where our strong suit was and we capitalized on it.”
For Larson Sunday marked his 10th career second place finish on 1.5-mile tracks, and the third time in his career he has swept both stages and not won.
“I hate to lead a lot of laps and lose,” Larson said. “It was a really good car we brought to the track. Our Hendricks Cars.com Chevy was stupid fast there for a long time. I don’t know if we got that much worse or he got that much better.”
The race featured only two cautions for incidents, the first for a crash involving Kurt Busch on lap 114 that occurred on a restart when his brother Kyle Busch spun his tires in front of him, jammed up the field with Denny Hamlin hitting the back of Kurt Busch’s car sending it front first into the turn 1 wall.
The second incident came on lap 221 when Chase Elliott’s Chevy lost an engine. Elliott’s car had failed inspection prior to the race, and he started in the rear of the field. He raced his way into the top 10 but sustained damage in the same incident that took out Kurt Busch. He was running 14th when the engine let loose and forced him to the garage.
Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. held the sixth through ninth finishing positions. Defending race winner Kevin Harvick who was forced to pit with a flat tire just before the field went back to green after Stage 1 and fell two laps down, rallied to finish 10th.
The NASCAR Cup series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway where it will race on dirt for the first time since 1970 next Sunday.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 21, 2021
- (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 325.
- (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325.
- (14) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 325.
- (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325.
- (19) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325.
- (13) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 325.
- (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 325.
- (9) William Byron, Chevrolet, 325.
- (2) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 325.
- (7) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325.
- (20) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 325.
- (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 325.
- (28) Ryan Newman, Ford, 325.
- (21) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 325.
- (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 324.
- (15) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 324.
- (25) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 324.
- (27) Cole Custer, Ford, 324.
- (18) Michael McDowell, Ford, 324.
- (16) Aric Almirola, Ford, 324.
- (8) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 323.
- (39) Austin Cindric(i), Ford, 323.
- (24) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 323.
- (22) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 323.
- (23) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 323.
- (29) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 323.
- (32) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 322.
- (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 321.
- (30) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 319.
- (26) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 319.
- (33) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 316.
- (34) James Davison, Chevrolet, 316.
- (35) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 314.
- (31) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 313.
- (36) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 308.
- (38) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 305.
- (37) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 285.
- (5) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Engine, 220.
- (11) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 113.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 144.595 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 41 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.083 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 25 laps.
Lead Changes: 11 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin 1-27;K. Larson 28-63;K. Busch 64;W. Byron 65-66;K. Larson 67-118;R. Blaney 119;K. Larson 120-160;D. Suarez 161;K. Larson 162-221;R. Blaney 222-236;K. Larson 237-316;R. Blaney 317-325.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Larson 5 times for 269 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 27 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 25 laps; William Byron 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,18,12,1,11,48,19,9,17,24
Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,12,48,18,24,21,3,17,11,99
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