Moonlighting Cup drivers dominated Saturday’s Rinnai 250 Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as Kyle Busch sped away from second-finishing Brad Keselowski on a restart with 16 laps remaining and was in control until the checkered flag fell.
Two other Cup drivers, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick, finished third and fourth respectively, while Xfinity regular Elliott Sadler completed the top five.
The victory was Busch’s 87th in NASCAR’s No. 2 series and his second at AMS, the first coming last season.
“It took me so long to get here, and now we’ve won two in a row,” Busch said.
However, Busch’s car was found to be too low in the front after the race. Under NASCAR’s penalty schedule, the team could lose between 10 and 40 points, the crew chief faces a suspension of from one to three races, and the team faces a fine between $10,000 and $40,000. Busch is not subject to a driver points deduction since he doesn’t compete for points in the Xfinity series.
Keselowski said he was hindered by slower lapped traffic as he tried to overtake Busch in the closing laps.
“You have a lot of diversity as far as speed in the cars out there, and that is not a bad thing,” he said. “When you catch those slower cars, it is always a game of cat and mouse. Sometimes it feels like chicken. I kept catching them all in the wrong place, and I thought that kept me from having a shot at catching Kyle there.”
The race was divided into three segments, per NASCAR rules for this season, and Cup drivers won those, too, as Keselowski won the first 40-lap run, while Harvick took the second.
Xfinity regular Darrell Wallace Jr. recovered from an early brush with the wall and nearly falling off the lead lap to finish sixth, just ahead of the top-finishing rookie, William Byron.
Brandon Jones, from Atlanta, finished 14th, tops among the four Georgians in the race. Ryan Sieg of Tucker was 22nd, Garrett Smithley from Peachtree City finished 27th and Chris Cockrum from Conyers was 34th.
In the companion Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series race, pole-sitter Christopher Bell dominated most of the race, but had to come from behind in the latter stages to get his third career victory.
Bell led the first 83 laps, thereby winning the first two 40-lap segments, but his teammate Kyle Busch beat him out of the pits on a stop at Lap 83.
While Busch motored away to a sizable lead, Bell struggled to get up to speed from the outside lane, which typically is slower on restarts at AMS.
Busch led until the next round of pit stops at Lap 103, but he had a slow pit stop, which opened the door for Bell to move up and challenge race leader Matt Crafton and eventually take the lead.
Then the final restart set up one last, two-lap showdown between Bell and Crafton. Bell powered into the lead and took the win over Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes and Chase Elliott.
“It was just a dream machine,” Bell said of his No. 4 Toyota.
Crafton ended his post-race comments with a plea to track officials to hold off on a planned repave after this weekend.
“This is by far the coolest race track we race on,” he said of AMS’s 20-year-old surface.