Ryan Blaney ruins Kyle Larson's dominating day to win at Atlanta

Nick Bromberg
·5-min read
HAMPTON, GEORGIA - MARCH 21: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Ford, reacts after winning the the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 21, 2021 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney is the sixth winner in six different Cup Series races. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney stole a win from Kyle Larson.

Blaney passed Larson with less than eight laps to go to win Sunday's Cup Series race at Atlanta. Larson had absolutely dominated the entirety of the race but his car quickly faded over the last 15 laps and Blaney was able to chase him down for the win.

Larson led 269 of the race's 334 laps and won the first two stages. He looked untouchable and there's no telling how many cars he could have lapped had there not been stage cautions. But Blaney had a fast car too and it was faster than Larson when it needed to be.

Blaney is the sixth different winner in six Cup Series races so far in 2021. Larson was looking to be the first two-time winner this season after his win at Las Vegas.

Blaney said his car was really good on long runs all day. And the race ended on a long run. The final caution came on lap 219 and Blaney last pitted for tires 57 laps from the finish. While Larson had a big lead at the end of that pit stop cycle, Blaney slowly chipped away at that lead and ultimately got the win.

Kurt Busch is the only car that crashes out

The race's only wreck came right after the second stage began. Denny Hamlin was pushing Kurt Busch on the restart to begin the stage and Busch's car went into the outside wall.

Busch wasn't too thrilled with Hamlin after the crash and you can't blame him for feeling that way. But that wasn't an intentional wreck. You have to push the driver ahead of you on restarts at intermediate tracks now.

NASCAR's combination of low horsepower and high downforce on cars at intermediate tracks means that drivers have to essentially bump and push draft each other on restarts to gain positions. Without great acceleration, drivers can't pull away from one another and have to use their combined momentum to find speed.

Busch's wreck is simply a product of how NASCAR wants restarts to look like at tracks like Atlanta.

Atlanta races haven't been great

Sunday's race wasn't a thriller. Part of that had to do with Larson's sheer speed advantage over the field for most of the race. And part of it seems like it has to do with Atlanta itself.

The 1.5-mile track simply hasn't produced the most compelling racing in recent years. The track seemingly has a combination that would create compelling racing. It has old pavement that wears tires quickly and drivers can run different grooves through the corners for more passing opportunities.

But those passing opportunities sure don't materialize. Especially over long green-flag runs. Drivers rarely lose control of their cars at a slick track like Atlanta because of all the downforce that's on them.

Atlanta has had just one race per season since 2010. In any other year this past decade the lack of good racing at the track would be a problem to worry about next year. But Atlanta has two races in 2021. The next race is in July. Let's hope that race is a bit more compelling than any Atlanta race has been in the past five seasons.

Chase Elliott blows an engine

Chase Elliott returned to his home state track for the first time as a Cup Series champion. He finished a spot ahead of Kurt Busch in 38th.

Elliott caused the final caution of the race after his car's engine had a problem and dropped fluid on the track.

“I hate it, for sure. I feel like our car was pretty decent," Elliott said. "We drove up there – we got up to 10th, or so, at the Stage. I felt like we were in a decent position to work on it throughout the day. I appreciate all the effort. It’s great to be home in Georgia; home for me and home for NAPA Auto Parts."

Race results

1. Ryan Blaney

2. Kyle Larson

3. Alex Bowman

4. Denny Hamlin

5. Kyle Busch

6. Austin Dillon

7. Chris Buescher

8. William Byron

9. Martin Truex Jr.

10. Kevin Harvick

11. Matt DiBenedetto

12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

13. Ryan Newman

14. Ross Chastain

15. Joey Logano

16. Bubba Wallace

17. Daniel Suarez

18. Cole Custer

19. Michael McDowell

20. Aric Almirola

21. Christopher Bell

22. Austin Cindric

23. Chase Briscoe

24. Erik Jones

25. Ryan Preece

26. Tyler Reddick

27. Anthony Alfredo

28. Brad Keselowski

29. Corey LaJoie

30. Justin Haley

31. Cody Ware

32. James Davison

33. Quin Houff

34. BJ McLeod

35. Joey Gase

36. Timmy Hill

37. Josh Bilicki

38. Chase Elliott

39. Kurt Busch

Points standings

1. Denny Hamlin, 277 points

2. Kyle Larson, 234

3. Joey Logano, 214

4. Martin Truex Jr., 212

5. Brad Keselowski, 206

6. Kevin Harvick, 203

7. Ryan Blaney, 191

8. William Byron, 188

9. Christopher Bell, 183

9. Chase Elliott, 183

11. Austin Dillon, 170

12. Kyle Busch, 163

13. Michael McDowell, 158

14. Alex Bowman, 157

15. Kurt Busch, 152

16. Chris Buescher, 144

17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 138

18. Ryan Preece, 135

19. Bubba Wallace, 118

20. Ryan Newman, 108

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