In what could be his final NASCAR Xfinity Series start of his illustrious racing career, Kyle Busch walked off as a winner after dominating and fending off the field in overtime to claim the inaugural Credit Karma Money 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 10. The victory made Busch five-for-five ini this year’s Xfinity season as he also claimed his 102nd career win in his 362nd series start.
The starting lineup was based on a performance metric formula, weighing the driver’s and owner’s results from a previous Xfinity event, the owner points position and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Xfinity race. With that, Kyle Busch, winner of last weekend’s Xfinity event at Road America, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with teammate Daniel Hemric.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Kyle Busch rocketed away with the lead from the inside lane, where he led the first lap followed by AJ Allmendinger, Harrison Burton and Justin Haley while Hemric, who started on the outside lane, slipped out of the top five through the first two turns.
Following the first five laps of the event, Kyle Busch was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Allmendinger, with Haley, Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson running in the top five. Jeremy Clements was in sixth followed by Hemric, Austin Cindric and Jeb Burton while Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones were battling for 10th.
Five laps later, Kyle Busch’s advantage grew to nearly two seconds over Allmendinger wile Haley, Harrison Burton and Gragson continued to run in the top five. By then, Austin Dillon, who filled in the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in place of Michael Annett with Annett absent due to a leg injury, was battling for a top-25 spot after starting at the rear of the field.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 20, Kyle Busch was out in front by nearly seven-tenths of a second over Allmendinger. Meanwhile, Harrison Burton was up in third followed by Gragson, Haley and Hemric.
Under the competition caution, some led by Austin Cindric pitted while the rest led by Kyle Busch remained on the track.
On Lap 24, the race restarted and Kyle Busch received another strong start to retain the lead while the field behind fanned out to three lanes. While Haley and Hemric struggled to launch on the outside lane, Allmendinger moved up to second followed by Harrison Burton and Gragson.
By Lap 30, the No. 54 Extra Gum Toyota Supra driven by Kyle Busch was leading by six-tenths of a second over the No. 16 Hyperice Chevrolet Camaro piloted by Allmendinger. Harrison Burton, racing in the No. 20 Offerpad Toyota Supra, was in third followed by teammate Hemric, Gragson, Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier, Brett Moffitt, Haley and Alex Labbe.
With a clear, early advantage, Kyle Busch was able to cruise to the first stage victory on Lap 40. Allmendinger settled in second followed by Harrison Burton, Hemric, Gragson, Moffitt, Labbe, Haley, Brandon Jones and Austin Dillon.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Harrison Burton emerged with the lead followed by Hemric, Allmendinger, Gragson and Kyle Busch, who lost the lead following his service.
The second stage started on Lap 46 with Harrison Burton and Gragson starting on the front row. At the start, Gragson and Harrison Burton battled for the lead through the backstretch before Gragson pulled out ahead. Behind, Kyle Busch marched his way to third place behind teammate Harrison Burton before taking over the runner-up spot.
By Lap 49, Kyle Busch returned to the lead after overtaking Gragson on the outside lane in Turn 3. Shortly after, the caution flew due to an incident on the frontstretch involving Matt Mills and veteran David Starr.
When the race restarted on Lap 55, Kyle Busch launched ahead with the lead followed by Gragson while Harrison Burton, Allmendinger and Hemric engaged in a three-wide battle for third in Turn 1. Through the backstretch, Hemric was able to prevail ahead over teammate Harrison Burton with Allgaier moving up to fifth over Allmendinger.
By Lap 60, Kyle Busch continued to lead by four-tenths of a second over Gragson. Behind, Harrison Burton moved back into third place followed by Allmendinger and Hemric, who was being pressured by Allgaier and Moffitt for more.
Nearly three laps later, the caution returned when Josh Berry spun off of Turn 4, though he was dodged by the incoming traffic.
On Lap 66, the race restarted and Kyle Busch was able to clear AJ Allmendinger entering Turn 2 to retain the lead while the field behind battled through multiple lanes for positioning.
Through the first 70 laps of the event, Kyle Busch remained out in front by more than a second over Allmendinger, with Gragson, Allgaier and Hemric in the top five. Harrison Burton was back in sixth followed by Moffitt, Brandon Jones, Ty Dillon and Austin Dillon.
Like he did in the first stage, Kyle Busch was able to muscle away from the field with a comfortable advantage and claim the second stage victory on Lap 80 by eight-tenths of a second over Allmendinger. Gragson, Allgaier, Hemric, Harrison Burton, Moffitt, Ty Dillon, Haley and Austin Dillon settled in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and this time, Kyle Busch exited pit road with the lead over Allmendinger, Gragson, Hemric and the field. Following the pit stops, Allmendinger was assessed a pit road speeding penalty. In addition, Harrison Burton pitted for a second time to have the lug nuts on his car tightened.
With 77 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Hemric started on the front row. At the start, Kyle Busch received another start on the inside lane to retain the lead followed by Gragson while Hemric slipped back to third.
Seven laps later, Kyle Busch stretched his advantage to more than a second over Gragson, with Moffitt running in third place ahead of Hemric and Allgaier. Running in the top 10 were Haley, rookie Sam Mayer, Austin Dillon, Cindric and Ty Dillon. Allmendinger, meanwhile, was in 16th behind teammate Jeb Burton while Harrison Burton was in 19th in front of Gray Gaulding.
Not long after, the caution returned for an incident involving Gray Gaulding, who spun and hit the backstretch wall. Under caution, some led by teammates Gragson and Allgaier remained on the track while the rest led by Kyle Busch pitted.
With 62 laps remaining, the race restarted. By then, Gragson surrendered his spot near the front to pit and have a flat tire addressed. At the start, Allgaier retained the lead over Haley while the field behind fanned out to multiple lanes between competitors on fresh tires over those with none.
A few laps later, Allgaier was leading by nearly six-tenths of a second over Hemric, with Haley, Jeb Burton and Ty Dillon in the top five. By then, Kyle Busch was in ninth in between Cindric and Allmendinger while Harrison Burton was in 11th ahead of Moffitt.
With 58 laps remaining, Hemric muscled his No. 18 Poppy Bank Toyota Supra into the lead over Allgaier. By then, Kyle Busch worked his way back into the top five. Another few laps later, Busch was up into second place and trailing teammate Hemric by more than a second.
Down to the final 50 laps of the event, Hemric was still leading, but his advantage decreased to a second over his hard-charging teammate Kyle Busch. Allmendinger, meanwhile, trailed by more than two seconds while the Dillon brothers rounded out the top five ahead of Moffitt, Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Cindric and Haley.
Five laps later, the caution returned for an incident involving Brandon Jones and Ryan Sieg in the backstretch, with Jones making hard contact against the outside wall. Under caution, names like Ty Dillon, Myatt Snider, Tommy Joe Martins and Gragson remained on the track while the rest led by Hemric and Kyle Busch pitted. Prior to the restart, Allgaier was sent to the rear of the field due to a commitment line violation,
With 39 laps remaining, the race restarted. At the start, the front-runners fanned out to three lanes before Hemric muscled to the lead followed by Kyle Busch on the outside lane. With Busch close behind, Hemric was leading while seeking his elusive first victory in NASCAR.
With 30 laps remaining, Hemric continued to lead by three-tenths of a second over teammate Kyle Busch. Behind, Allmendinger and Moffitt battled for third followed by Harrison Burton, Austin Dillon, Haley, Cindric, Sieg and Clements. Allgaier, following his commitment line penalty, was in 12th while teammate Gragson was in 14th.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event and with the leaders catching lapped traffic, Hemric stabilized his advantage to nearly six-tenths of a second over teammate Kyle Busch, who was unable to close in for the lead despite keeping his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate within sight.
Three laps later, the caution flew when Carson Ware spun on the backstretch. By then, Hemric stretched his advantage to nearly a second over Busch.
Under caution, nearly all of the leaders pitted and Hemric exited pit road ahead of teammate Kyle Busch by a nose. Back on the track, Kyle Weatherman did not pit and assumed the lead.
With 11 laps remaining, the race restarted. At the start, Hemric moved himself quickly back to the front followed by Kyle Busch and the competitors on the inside lane. For Weatherman, however, his time at the front did not last long after a transmission issue while restarting resulted with him getting hit by Brandon Brown and Harrison Burton before spinning, thus bringing back the caution flag.
Under caution, few like Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider and Tommy Joe Martins pitted while the rest led by Hemric remained on the track.
With six laps remaining, the race restarted under green as Hemric and Allmendinger started on the front row in front of Kyle Busch and Allgaier. At the start, Allmendinger issued a challenge for the lead on Hemric, who had teammate Kyle Busch trying to push him out in front. While trying to maintain the lead, Hemric was then bumped by teammate Busch, who then was turned into Allmendinger and sent sideways while making hard contact with the outside wall in Turn 1. The incident all but spoiled another opportunity for Hemric to achieve his first NASCAR national touring series win.
With Hemric out of contention, Kyle Busch was back out in front followed by Moffitt, Jeb Burton, Haley and Allmendinger.
Down to a two-lap shootout, the race restarted with Kyle Busch and Jeb Burton starting on the front row. At the start, Busch managed to clear Burton through the backstretch to retain the lead. While Burton kept Busch within his sights, the latter started to pull away and maintain a decent advantage when he started the final lap.
For one final lap, Busch was able to keep Jeb Burton and Gragson at bay as he came back around and claimed the checkered flag for the win.
In addition to winning for the 102nd time in the Xfinity circuit and winning in all five of his scheduled Xfinity starts, Busch also recorded his third series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway and his 222nd NASCAR national touring series career victory.
While celebrating on the frontstretch in front of the grandstands, Busch took a moment to address his late restart incident involving his teammate Daniel Hemric.
“Yeah, I meant to push [Hemric], and I wanted to hit him, I just wanted to ht him forward and straight but turned him sideways a little bit, and I think he got more help on his right side,” Busch saaid on NBCSN. “Just trying to help a teammate there, and that’s why I restarted behind him. Overall, great day for our 54 car, but [Hemric] was better and deserved this win. So, I’m sorry to Daniel and all those guys. I hate it that all that transpired. That’s why this win is a little more somber than others have been. You don’t take solace in a win like that. But a win’s a win.”
“Yeah, as far as I know, as far as what’s gonna happen right now, it’s never say never,” Busch, when addressing the potential end of his Xfinity Series career, added. “This is it.”
Behind Busch, Jeb Burton claimed his second-best result in the series after finishing in the runner-up spot followed by Gragson. Haley came home in fourth place followed by Ty Dillon.
Moffitt, Allgaier, Clements, Sam Mayer and Cindric finished in the top 10.
Austin Dillon finished 11th wile filling in for Michael Annett. Allmendinger finished 13th, Riley Herbst came home in 19th, Myatt Snider fell back to 21st, Harrison Burton ended up in 24th and Hemric settled in 30th.
“What could’ve been, right?” Hemric said. “That’s all you think about. On the flip side of it, you can’t change it. Obviously, I know it wasn’t intentional by no means…Our day will come.”
There were 16 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured 10 cautions for 43 laps.
Austin Cindric continues to lead the regular-season standings by 74 points over AJ Allmendinger and 112 over Daniel Hemric.
1. Kyle Busch, 97 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
2. Jeb Burton, one lap led
3. Noah Gragson, five laps led
4. Justin Haley
5. Ty Dillon, four laps led
6. Brett Moffitt
7. Justin Allgaier, four laps led
8. Jeremy Clements
9. Sam Mayer
10. Austin Cindric
11. Austin Dillon
12. Ryan Sieg
13. AJ Allmendinger, two laps led
14. Ryan Vargas
15. Alex Labbe
16. Tommy Joe Martins
17. Jade Buford
18. Josh Williams
19. Riley Herbst
20. Colby Howard
21. Myatt Snider
22. Jeffrey Earnhardt
23. Josh Berry
24. Harrison Burton, three laps led
25. Joe Graf Jr.
26. Matt Mills
27. Ronnie Bassett Jr.
28. Jesse Little
29. Mason Massey
30. Daniel Hemric, 45 laps led
31. Brandon Brown – OUT, Accident
32. Kyle Weatherman – OUT, Accident, three laps led
33. Santino Ferrucci, two laps down
34. Bayley Currey, two laps down
35. Gray Gaulding, four laps down
36. Carson Ware – OUT, Accident
37. CJ McLaughlin, 25 laps down
38. Landon Cassill, 36 laps down
39. Brandon Jones – OUT, Accident
40. David Starr – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway following a one-year absence. The event is scheduled to occur at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.