Kurt Busch wins battle of brothers at Atlanta
With the “help” of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Ross Chastain, Kurt Busch bested his brother, Kyle Busch, to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Leading the race with 25 laps to go, Kyle Busch closed on Chastain to put him a lap down. But Chastain ended up slowing Kyle Busch down, enabling Kurt Busch to catch and pass him for the lead.
Kyle Busch didn’t let his sibling get away and almost took the lead back off a massive run inside with seven laps to go. But Kurt Busch repelled the attack, then pulled away through lapped traffic to a 1.2-second win.
Kurt Busch, who became the 12th driver to clinch a spot in the 16-driver Cup playoff field with a win, channeled his inner Ricky Bobby when asked about Chastain’s role in the outcome.
“Shake and bake!,” Kurt Busch yelled during his post-race interview with NBCSN, drawing a hearty cheer from the crowd.
“He did his job as a teammate. Ross is gonna 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. I’ll pay him back eventually, but right now, it’s our No. 1 car in Victory Lane.”
Kyle Busch, who settled for runner-up, wasn’t as thrilled.
“Same as always, we just don’t have that front end with laps on tires,” Kyle Busch told NBCSN. “I had everything I had there early in the run and then just smoked it behind the 42 (Chastain) obviously - shows you what kind of driver he is.
“Just tried to fight hard after that when I got passed and had one valiant effort off of (turn) two but just didn’t have enough momentum to drag (Kurt Busch) down and make him go high in three and four. After that, the tires were smoked.
”...The 1 (Kurt Busch) was definitely better than us today. I just thought I had him. And we did. But racing just didn’t play out that way for us.”
When asked by NBCSN if he changed what he’d been doing as the Busch brothers closed from behind, Chastain said he was asked by Kurt to give him the bottom lane.
“I’m racing to stay on the lead lap, and I’m very aware of what’s going on, on the track around me,” Chastain added. “Kurt asked for the bottom and I gave it to him.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third to give Joe Gibbs Racing two cars in the top three at day’s end. Alex Bowman finished fourth. Ryan Blaney, who won at Atlanta in March, finished fifth.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kurt Busch
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tyler Reddick recorded his third straight top-10 finish with a sixth-place showing ... Dawsonville, Georgia native and Cup champion Chase Elliott finished seventh at his home track ... Matt DiBenedetto has back-to-back top 10s after placing ninth on Sunday.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Already on the fringe of the playoff picture, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez were both swept up in a multi-car crash at Lap 31. That relegated Suarez and Stenhouse to 36th and 37th-place finishes, respectively ... A potential top-five run for Kyle Larson was undone by a speeding penalty on his final pit stop at Lap 212. Larson could only recover for 18th place.
NOTABLE: Perhaps to show why it’s set for its first repave in a quarter century, a chunk of the racing surface came up on the front stretch and forced a red flag for repairs at Lap 167. The red flag lasted for 19 minutes, four seconds.
NEXT: Sunday, July 18 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)