Kurt wins in Busch family duel to secure his playoff bid in the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Kurt Busch out-dueled his younger brother Kyle Busch in the pair’s fourth career one-two finish to secure his 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs position and take his 33rd career victory in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart.
Kurt Wins in Busch Family Duel to Secure his Playoff Bid
Busch, 42, has been particularly good at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway. Sunday’s win was his fourth there, most among the current field, and the last trophy given before the historic NASCAR track is repaved and reconfigured going forward.
More importantly, Sunday’s work was a big statement for Busch, who started the race with only a 25-point buffer in the championship standings with six races left to set the 16-driver Playoffs field. Now with the win, he’s ‘in,’ and his emotions climbing out of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 Chevrolet certainly reflected the relief and joy.
He simultaneously earned a Playoffs position and evened the score with his brother – each has won two races in the four times they have finished first and second.
“Hell yeah, we beat Kyle,’’ a smiling Kurt Busch said after climbing out of his car, putting his fists in the air, and turning toward the cheering crowd in the grandstands.
“What a battle on an old-school race track,’’ said Busch, who has 33 career NASCAR Cup Series wins.
“It’s been one of those years where I knew we were going to have our back against the wall, just above the [Playoffs] cut-off line and needed to race hard and race smart.’’
Not too surprisingly, Kyle Busch’s mood standing by his car on pit lane was markedly different than his brother’s. He felt like Kurt’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Ross Chastain interfered a bit as the two brothers were fighting for the race lead while navigating lapped traffic.
Kyle Responds to Busch Family Duel
Kurt led a race-high 144 of the 267 laps – the most he’s led in a single race since 2015 (291 laps at Richmond, Va.) and the two each won a Stage. Kurt came out behind his brother on track when the final round of pit stops cycled out, but ultimately passed Kyle for good with 25 laps remaining and crossed the finish line 1.237 seconds ahead of his brother. Kyle was able to pull alongside Kurt with seven to go, but unable to make the pass in lapped traffic.
“I gave everything I had there early and then just smoked it behind the 42 [Chastain] obviously, shows you what kind of driver he is,’’ Kyle Busch said. “Just trying to fight hard after that when I got passed.
“Great effort, the guys gave me a great piece,’’ Kyle continued. “The 1 (Kurt Busch) was definitely better than us today, I just thought I had him.’’
The Best of the Rest
Kyle’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. finished third, rallying from a 37th place starting position. Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman was fourth followed by Penske Racing’s Ryan Blaney, who won at Atlanta this March.
Tyler Reddick, Georgia native Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Matt DiBenedetto, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-ten.
Larson Missing from the Front Runners
Noticeably absent from that group is the series’ only four-race winner Kyle Larson. He ran among the top five for most of the race but was penalized for speeding on pit road during his final pit stop. He instead finished 18th.
Championship points leader Denny Hamlin, who is still looking for his first win of 2021, finished 13th. He also was handed a pit road penalty early in the race, which was red-flagged for about 20 minutes just after the completion of Stage 2 so track workers could repair the track surface.
The series moves to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway one-miler next week for the Foxwood Resort Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
With five races remaining to set the 16-driver Playoffs field, 12 drivers have now earned automatic bids with a race victory. Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, who rallied to an 11th place finish Sunday, Austin Dillon, and Reddick are the four highest-ranked drivers on points.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – 52nd Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 11, 2021
1. (8) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 260.
2. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 260.
3. (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 260.
4. (17) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 260.
5. (15) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 260.
6. (7) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 260.
7. (1) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 260.
8. (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 260.
9. (12) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 260.
10. (14) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 260.
11. (21) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 260.
12. (13) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 260.
13. (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 260.
14. (24) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 260.
15. (11) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 260.
16. (18) Chris Buescher, Ford, 260.
17. (23) Cole Custer, Ford, 260.
18. (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 260.
19. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 259.
20. (19) William Byron, Chevrolet, 259.
21. (9) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 259.
22. (26) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 258.
23. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 258.
24. (22) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 258.
25. (34) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 258.
26. (32) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 257.
27. (25) Michael McDowell, Ford, 256.
28. (29) Ryan Newman, Ford, 256.
29. (28) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 255.
30. (36) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 254.
31. (37) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 253.
32. (33) Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, 253.
33. (31) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 253.
34. (30) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 248.
35. (35) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 248.
36. (27) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 243.
37. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Suspension, 178.
The Quaker State 400 Stats
Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.207 mph.
Time of Race: Two Hrs, 50 Mins, 8 Secs. The Margin of Victory: 1.237 Seconds.
Caution Flags: Four for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: Ten among seven 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 three times for 144 laps; Kyle Busch three times for 91 laps; Chase Elliott one time for 13 laps; Aric Almirola one time for eight laps; Denny Hamlin one time for two laps; * Ryan Preece one time for one lap; Cole Custer one time for one 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