Kurt Busch holds off brother Kyle to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Published 10:28 pm Sunday, July 11, 2021
HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Kurt Busch asked for a final favor from Atlanta Motor Speedway’s old, battered track.
Busch’s wish came true on the track’s farewell race.
Busch passed brother Kyle with 24 laps left and won the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday to complete a sibling weekend Atlanta sweep.
It was the final race for the current track surface. It was installed in 1997 and is the oldest on the NASCAR circuit. Construction on a repaving and reprofile project is expected to begin immediately.
“What a genuine, awesome, old-school race track,” Kurt Busch said. “I just asked the track today for the last time on your old asphalt can I have an old guy win, and she answered.”
Kurt Busch, 42, raced to his first victory of the season, 33rd overall and the fourth of his career at Atlanta. He locked up a spot in the playoffs and possibly improved his chances of securing a new ride next season.
“Hell yeah, we beat Kyle!” he said.
Kyle Busch reclaimed the lead with 47 laps remaining, but couldn’t hold off his older brother on Lap 236. Kurt Busch took advantage of lapped traffic, especially teammate Ross Chastain, to pass his brother. Chastain helped Kurt Busch choose the lane needed to make the crucial pass.
“The 42 did his job as a teammate,” Kurt Busch said. “Ross is going to get a little flak for it, but that’s what it takes to be a good teammate at the right moment. I couldn’t be more proud of Ross Chastain.”
Said Chastain, who finished 21st: “Kurt asked for the lane and I gave it to him. … One team, one goal and that’s to win.”
Kyle Busch pushed for the lead with eight laps remaining, but Kurt pulled away in the final laps to win by 1.237 seconds.
Kyle Busch said his brother “was definitely better than us today. I thought I had him, and I did, but racing just didn’t play out for us today.”
Kyle Busch won the Xfinity Series race Saturday, giving him five wins in his maximum five races in the series this season. He said he doesn’t plan to return to the Xfinity Series next season.
Kurt Busch’s contract with Chip Ganassi Racing expires at the end of the year, and Ganassi sold the team to Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks this month.
“I don’t know where I’m going, but I just love racing cars and I want to race that Next Gen car,” Busch said, referring to NASCAR’s planned new car for next season. “That’s why I want to stick around.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third after starting at the back of the pack. Alex Bowman was fourth, followed by Ryan Blaney.
Truex had been slated to start fifth but was pushed to to the rear of the pack after his Toyota failed two pre-race inspections.
Denny Hamlin was fifth at the end of the second stage but was penalized for entering the pits too fast and had to move to the back of the pack for the restart. He finished 13th.
Atlanta Motor Speedway president Brandon Hutchinson said the planned resurfacing was overdue. Proof of the poor condition of the old asphalt came holes which developed on the front straightaway had to be repaired following the second stage.
The race was delayed for 19 minutes during a red-flag stoppage as a crew filled the gaps in the track with caulk.
Pole-sitter Chase Elliott finished seventh. Elliott fell back after his brakes locked, causing him to miss his pit box, on a competition caution on Lap 27. Elliott struggled to make up ground and remained winless in seven starts at his Atlanta home track.
Elliott described the finish as “solid, just not great.”
LIGHT RAIN, NO DELAY
Light rain, and the threat of a heavier downpour, affected strategy late in the second stage. Some drivers were instructed to delay pit stops and remain on the track in case rain forced a delay or early end to the race. There was no weather delay.
The NASCAR Cup series moves to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Brad Keselowski won last year’s race.