Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, GA — July 11, 2021
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart. It is the first time since 2010 that the track has hosted 2 races in the same season at the 1.54 mile speedway just South of Atlanta.
According to NASCAR, Atlanta’s surface is the second-oldest in the series, only behind the concrete at Dover International Speedway. The track was last paved and reconfigured in 1997. On Tuesday, Atlanta announced it would again be resurfacing and reconfiguring the racing layout. This time creating 28 degrees of banking in the corners while also narrowing the racing surface.
Stages today are 80/80/100 laps, the 260 circuits total 400.4 miles. Ryan Blaney(12) won the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta in March, he starts 15th on the grid today. Chase Elliott(9) is on the pole with Kyle Busch(18) sitting beside him. Kyle Larson, the fastest driver in recent weeks take the green in the 6th position.
Ford Performance is looking for their 6th consecutive Cup Series victory at the track. Joey Logano(22), the highest Ford qualifier, starts in the 10th position.
Corie LaJoie was sporting a new sponsor for today’s race, the hood of his car featured “The Boss Baby” character from the new movie produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Universal Pictures. Corie’s drivers suit was unique as well.
Elliott charged off from the front row into the lead entering Turn 1 and held it for the first 13 laps. Kyle Busch took over the top spot and held it until the competition caution was displayed after 25 laps. Busch battled with teammate Denny Hamlin(11) on the restart before moving away just as an accident sent cars spinning on the backstretch.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47), Daniel Suarez(99), and Cody Ware(51) got together putting the race under caution for the 2nd time. When they restarted it was Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Kurt Busch(1), Tyler Reddick(8), and Alex Bowman(48) out front.
In the last 6 races, Kurt Busch has gone from 83 points out of the playoffs in 19th place in the points standings to moving above the cut line with a 25 point margin. After today’s event, 5 races remain until the start of the NASCAR Playoffs.
The Busch brothers finished the Stage 1-2 with Kyle taking the win and the extra playoff point.
Stage 1 Results
|9||19||Martin Truex Jr.||2|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The brothers exited the pits first, sharing the front row for the restart, this time Kurt outran Kyle into Turn 1 and took his turn at the front of the field. Kurt held the lead until green flag pit stops began with 40 laps to go in the Stage. As drivers were pitting for new tires and fuel, light rain began to fall at certain points around the track.
Not enough precipitation to wet the track and racing continued. Kurt Busch was back out front on Lap 132, followed by Kyle Busch, Bowman, Reddick, and Larson with 28 laps to go to the green and white checkered flag at the end of Stage 2.
Reversing the finishing order Kurt took the Stage win with Kyle in 2nd this time.
Stage 2 Results
|10||19||Martin Truex Jr.||1|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
The Top 4 exit pit road the same way they entered, a scramble on the restart is likely to occur as everyone wants the clean air to run in. Denny Hamlin was too fast entering pit road and will have to go to the rear of the field and try to work his way back into contention.
Before the restart, the red flag was displayed to allow the track crew to repair a couple of holes in the asphalt just entering the tri-oval on the front stretch. The stoppage lasted just over 19 minutes and when they went back to racing it was a wild restart. Two and three-wide racing shuffled the pack but Kurt and Kyle retained the Top 2 spots.
Green flag pit stops began with 50 laps to go. Kyle Busch pitted on the next lap, Kurt followed a lap later. When stops had cycled through, Kyle held the lead with Kurt 2nd. Kyle Larson was penalized for speeding on pit road during his stop. The drive-through penalty dropped him to 21st, the last car on the lead lap and likely out of contention for the win.
With 30 laps to go Kurt Busch had cut the lead of his brother to just under 6/10’s of a second. It was clearly a 2-man race as the rest of the competitors continued to fall further behind unless a late caution changes the status of the race. At the 25 laps to go mark, Kyle got hung up behind a lapped car and Kurt pulled even side-by-side across the start/finish line.
When the traffic cleared, Kurt held the lead. With 11 laps to go, Kyle had closed to Kurt’s bumper. As they both searched for the best lines around the worn racing surface the interval fluctuated inside of half a second.
Side-by-side with 7 to go, Kurt held off a run by Kyle. More lapped traffic loomed over the final laps. But, Kyle’s tires seemed to go away after pushing hard to catch his brother. Kurt took the win and locked himself into a playoff spot, the 42-year old driver proved he may still have something left for the young guns on the circuit.
Commenting on the victory over his younger brother Kurt said, “I taught that kid everything he knows, he should appreciate that.”
Kurt Busch’s win was bad news for the drivers below the cut line. Moving Busch into a playoff lock increased the interval to the cut line to 96 points for 17th place Chris Buescher. With a 138 point deficit for Matt DiBenedetto in 18th, it is fast becoming a situation that it will take a win to qualify as those qualified currently on points have a safe margin.
Of course, a win by a driver outside the Top 16 is going to add a new level of excitement for Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick in the 15th and 16th positions.
|1||Kyle Larson||826||In Win(4)|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||671||InWin(3)|
|6||William Byron||733||In Win|
|7||Joey Logano*||700||In Win|
|8||Ryan Blaney*||639||In Win|
|9||Brad Keselowski*||623||In Win|
|10||Kurt Busch||530||In Win|
|11||Christopher Bell||492||In Win|
|12||Michael McDowell*||436||In Win|
|NASCAR Playoff Cut Line|
|21||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||402||-161|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of The Quaker State 400 from Atlanta Motor Speedway
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||2.347||260|
|37||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-82||178|