- Josh Scott
Ryan Blaney denies Larson back-to-back wins at Atlanta
Ryan Blaney beat Kyle Larson by 2.1 seconds, after passing him with eight laps to go, to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. The win is Blaney's first at the 1.5-mile track and only his fifth career NASCAR Cup Series win in 204 total starts. The victory also snaps a 28-race winless streak for the High Point, NC native.
"It took us a little bit to get going (at first)," Blaney said during his post-race interview. "I'm happy that there were a couple of long runs at the end for us to get up there...it's nice to close out a race like that, that was awesome."
Alex Bowman finished third place, a season-best since taking over the number 48 car from Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin fourth, and Kyle Busch fifth. Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Phoenix winner Martin Truex Jr, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10. Harvick had a left-rear tire go flat early in the race and, despite being two laps down at one point, fought back valiantly for his fifth top 10 of the season.
Chase Elliott lost an engine in his return to his home track while running inside the top 10 on lap 220, resulting in a 38th place finish.
Larson dominated the race, leading 269 of 325 total laps, a career-high, and looked to have the race in-hand after taking the lead on lap 272. However, as the laps wound down, Larson's number 5 car started getting loose. With the help of a few lapped cars, Blaney took advantage and as a result became the sixth different winner of the 2021 season.
Larson admitted during his post-race interview that Blaney running him down late in the race "changed up his flow." "(Early in the race) I could get out to such a big lead...and run the bottom lane where it might be slower, but I could take care of my tires. I wanted to maintain the gap (between me and Blaney) and run the faster lane and I used up my stuff. Hate to lead a lot of laps then lose."
The Cup Series makes its next stop at the World's Fastest Half-Mile, Bristol Motor Speedway, where for the first time in 50 years, the Cup cars will race on dirt. Coverage begins Sunday, March 28th, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.