The NASCAR Cup Series returned to action on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 was the sixth race of the season meaning that we are now 1/6 of the way through the 2021 season. The race was dominated by Kyle Larson until a late winning pass by the Penske Ford of Ryan Blaney gave us the sixth different winner of the season.
NASCAR Cup Series Recap | Ryan Blaney Wins at Atlanta
Folds Honor QuikTrip 500 Stage 1
Denny Hamlin started on the pole and led the first few laps until Kyle Larson got to the point. The first incident of the day happened when Tyler Reddick got into the wall and cut a tire down in the process. However, there was not a caution flag thrown. The first caution of the day was the competition caution on lap 25. Kevin Harvick had a problem with the valve stem on his left rear tire and had to pit to put on four fresh tires, giving up his fourth-place spot in the process. The rest of the stage stayed under green as Larson lapped half the field on his way to the stage win.
Folds Honor QuikTrip 500 Stage 2
Getting back to green for Stage 2 brought on the only wreck of the day when Kyle Busch spun the tires causing everyone to slow down. In the process, Kurt Busch was hit by Denny Hamlin and sent into the wall, bringing an end to the Monster Energy Camaro’s day. Martin Truex Jr. slid up in front of Brad Keselowski causing damage to Keselowski’s nose. The damage slowed the No. 2 car down a lot. Larson continued his dominant day by increasing his advantage to ten seconds and earning a Stage 2 win.
Folds Honor QuikTrip 500 Final Stage
Larson brought the field back to green and this restart went better than that of Stage 2. Then, Chase Elliott’s engine expired and ended the day for the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion. On the pit stops, Ryan Blaney’s crew put together an incredible time to get him out ahead of Larson. This was the first time anyone was able to pass the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports car all day.
Larson eventually got the lead back about five laps after the restart. This time though, he could not pull away as he did earlier. Blaney stuck with him even though the next green flag pit stops. Anthony Alfredo had a scary moment on pit road. He spun trying to get into his box and almost hit Aric Almirola’s pit crew. Thankfully he was able to get it stopped in time before anything bad happened.
The race would stay green for the last stint of the race. Almost sixty green flag laps of Atlanta Motor Speedway were on the tires by the end. Blaney started to reel Larson in down the stretch. He got closer and closer as the laps ticked down. As Larson went to lap Blaney’s Penske teammate, Joey Logano, the dirty air may have slowed him down further. With eight laps to go Blaney got around Larson for the lead and went on to get his first win of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Final Folds Honor QuikTrip 500 Thoughts
This was honestly one of the tougher Atlanta Motor Speedway races to watch in recent memory. I personally love this track, but today was not a good look for NASCAR even with the surprising finish. Hopefully, people see that this track is good because of the high levels of tire strategy and tire wear management that take place. That said, side-by-side battles aren’t always the norm. The second NASCAR Cup Series race in July will hopefully make things better for the old surface.