Old track gave a win to the old guy: Kurt Busch
Atlanta Motor Speedway opened its doors in July 1960. Through the years, it has become a fan favorite on the schedule. Sunday saw his last race under its current configuration. The track will be redesigned and repaved for the first time since 1997. Last weekend saw the old track give its last win to an old guy: Kurt Busch.
The Battle of the Brothers
Chase Elliott took the lead for the checkered flag. The rest of the pack went to battle for a piece of track. Three wide is not uncommon at the old surface in Atlanta and this time wasn’t any different.
Kevin Harvick was not having fun. The former champion was slowly going down the field early on. He was as low as 22nd but managed to settle outside the top 10 on the 15th spot. Elliott also lost the lead to last week’s winner Kyle Busch. Harvick, despite losing spots was committed, as he usually does, to race the very bottom of the racetrack. Stewart Haas Racing’s number 4 stuck like glue to the green line of the oval. There were quite a few problems in the first stage. For starters, reigning champion and hometown driver, Elliott had trouble with handling. “Just figuring out how to drive this thing” he said.
Most of the pack complaint about not being able to read their lap times on their dashboards. That normally isn’t much of an issue but, in a track like Atlanta, where you must constantly look for a decent groove to race, lap times are crucial. Cody Ware had all sorts of troubles as well. He slid up the bottom of the track midway through the stage and took Daniel Suarez and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with him for a ride into the inside wall.
The final laps of the first stage saw the battle of the brothers: Kyle Busch led his elder Kurt in a battle for the first playoff point of the evening. Kyle held brother Kurt for the stage win. He did so slowly as the old asphalt chewed rubber as if it were meatballs.
Green, Green, Green
The second set of 80 laps saw its entirety ran on green flag. This wasn’t the best thing for tires but, it allowed Kurt Busch to get a bit of a lead over his brother at the front of the pack. Behind them was Tyler Reddick, who snuck on 3d almost out of nowhere. Bubba Wallace had a similar story to tell. He ran a solid race on the 10th spot without making much noise.
Others struggled. Alex Bowman, for instance, tried to remain in contention for the lead despite reporting heavy vibrations inside his number 48 Chevy. Drivers took to the pit lane exactly at the midway point of the second stage. That allowed Ryan Preece and Aric Almirola to fight for the lead. Nonetheless, Kurt Busch went past them as if they were parked on the street.
Busch had another move to make before the end of the stage as he started closing out on Joey Logano who was the last driver on the lead lap. He ran out of turns and couldn’t pull the move after all. Nonetheless, he took the second stage as well. The last 100 laps were up next.
Road Works and a Win for the Old Guy
The start of the final stage showed everyone why the beloved racetrack had to be repaved. A red flag came up. Why? Because a crack opened up in the last bit of the backstretch. Trucks and track personnel took their time peeking at the hole. They stepped on it and even pulled at the edges to see if anything else would come out. It didn’t so the filler came in to patch it up. Once dry, we were back to racing.
Road works did wonders for Kyle Larson. Rick Hendrick’s number five climbed up to 4th despite a lackluster performance and a tight race car in the previous stages. Kurt Busch maintained his lead despite constant pressure from brother Kyle. Back in the 15th spot, Chase Briscoe was making life impossible for Harvick. Both teammates were opposites, Briscoe had pinpoint precision and the latter, well, he was all over the track.
Calling it a battle earlier was a bit of an understatement. They were stuck together like superglue on a piece of paper. Kurt Busch fought plenty of lapped cars, cleared them as if they were traffic cones. Behind him came Kyle. The older brother pitted, behind came Kyle. Eventually, the 18 ran out of laps and tires.
Kurt Busch won the brother duel and the race at Atlanta. This is his 33rd career win, the last ever for the Cup Series at the old Atlanta surface and, it could be the last win of Chip Ganassi Racing as we know it after their acquisition by Track House Racing.
What’s Next for NASCAR?
New Hampshire is next for NASCAR’s greatest season ever. Action starts Saturday with the Xfinity Series.
Missed last week’s race? Check it out HERE
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