NASCAR Cup Series

Ryan Blaney passes Kyle Larson late, wins Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

4 Mins read
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Kyle Larson was poised to win his second NASCAR Cup Series race of the season when he won two stages and led 269 laps in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. However, he did not lead the final eight as Ryan Blaney chased down the dominant #5 car and took the spot late to win.

Denny Hamlin started on the pole ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate and Phoenix winner Martin Truex Jr. Chase Elliott and Timmy Hill failed pre-race inspection multiple times (twice for Elliott, thrice for Hill) and were sent to the rear, as was Quin Houff for unapproved adjustments; Hill also lost his car chief Sebastian Laforge and had to serve a pass-through penalty. On Twitter, Laforge explained the #66 car encountered inspection troubles involving the rear toe and camber.

Stage #1

As Hamlin led every lap to the competition caution on lap 25, Hill served his penalty and Josh Bilicki‘s car lost power, forcing him to the garage before returning multiple laps down. Elliott reached fifteenth by the competition yellow.

Larson was the first off pit road to assume the lead for the restart on lap 31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Corey LaJoie suffered speeding penalties on their stops while Kevin Harvick had to pit again for a flat left-rear tyre.

When the lap counter reached the sixties, green-flag stops commenced. Kurt Busch and William Byron briefly inherited the lead before they pitted, which cycled the spot back to Larson. The Las Vegas race winner led for the remainder of the segment to take the green-checkered flag. Kyle Busch, Blaney, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Alex Bowman, Truex, Elliott, Chris Buescher, and Byron also scored stage points.

Stage #2

Ross Chastain received an uncontrolled tyre penalty between stages.

The race resumed on lap 113 as Larson and the inside line took off, while Kyle Busch spun his tyres on the outside and stacked up the lane. Brother Kurt was hit from behind by Hamlin and went into the turn one wall, ending his day and producing a caution.

Another restart took place on lap 119, with a repeat of the previous green flag occurring as Larson drove away while Byron suffered a tyre spin while leading his lane. Blaney led the lap before Larson retook it.

Lap 160 saw the next pit cycle under green. Daniel Suárez, working with interim crew chief Jose Blasco-Figueroa (the first Mexican driver/crew chief duo since brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez in 1959), momentarily held the lead before he hit pit road. Like in Stage #1, the stops ended with Larson taking the lead and pulling away for the stage victory.

Blaney, Kyle Busch, Byron, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Buescher, Hamlin, and Suárez rounded out the top ten. Suárez’s stage points were his first of the season and the first in Trackhouse Racing Team history.

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Stage #3

Hendrick Motorsports team-mates Larson and Byron led the field to the final stage’s start on lap 218. As with the previous segment, green-flag racing barely lasted a lap as Hendrick driver Elliott’s engine expired to produce a caution.

Blaney beat Larson off pit road, while Busch received a speeding penalty. Larson chased down Blaney and passed him for the spot on lap 237.

The final stops under green commenced on lap 265. Suárez was penalised for speeding on pit road, while Anthony Alfredo spun and nearly sandwiched Aric Almirola‘s crewmen between the cars.

Blaney attempted to give chase to Larson, whose lead was 2.3 seconds with twenty laps to go. Five laps later, the margin was down to below a second, and was further reduced to half a second by the ten-to-go mark. Further complicating matters for Larson was lapped traffic, which included Blaney’s Team Penske colleague Joey Logano.

The lead change took place on the frontstretch with eight laps remaining and Blaney began building a gap that reached over a second after four laps. Blaney pulled away to win his first win of the year, fifth of his career, and first on a 1.5-mile track.

“We had a great long-run car all day,” Blaney told Fox. “It took us a little bit to get going and I was pretty free all day. We made a really good change to tighten me up where I needed it and it looked like Kyle was getting loose. I’m happy it worked in our favour that there was a couple long runs at the end that let us kind of get there. He got slowed up behind some lapped traffic.”

Larson had to settle for second.

“I think (Blaney) just got a lot better there that last stage and that kind of changed up my flow of the race a little bit,” he commented. “I could get out to such a big lead and then I could take care of my stuff and run the bottom where he was maybe slower but I could take care of my tyres. He was fast there, and I just wanted to maintain that gap that I had, so I had to run on the faster part of the race track and just use my stuff up. He was just a lot better than me late in the run.”

Bowman scored his first top five of the season in third followed by JGR’s Hamlin and Busch. Austin Dillon finished sixth for his first Cup top ten at Atlanta, and behind him was Chris Buescher with his first top ten of the year. Blaney’s Penske team-mate Austin Cindric finished twenty-second in his second career Cup start.

Race results

FinishStartNumberDriverTeamManufacturerLapsStatus
11012Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord325Running
265Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet325Running
31448Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet325Running
4111Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota325Running
51918Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota325Running
6133Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet325Running
71717Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord325Running
8924William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet325Running
9219Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota325Running
1074Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord325Running
112021Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord325Running
121247Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet325Running
13286Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord325Running
142142Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet325Running
15322Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord324Running
161523Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota324Running
172599Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet324Running
182741Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord324Running
191834Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord324Running
201610Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord324Running
21820Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota323Running
223933Austin Cindric*Team PenskeFord323Running
232414Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord323Running
242243Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet323Running
252337Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet323Running
26298Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet323Running
273238Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord322Running
2842Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord321Running
29307Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet319Running
302677Justin Haley*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet319Running
313351Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet316Running
323415James DavisonRick Ware RacingChevrolet316Running
333500Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet314Running
343178B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord313Running
353653Joey GaseRick Ware RacingFord308Running
363866Timmy Hill*MBM MotorsportsFord305Running
373752Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord285Running
3859Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet220Engine
39111Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet113Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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