“To win four times now in Atlanta, it’s neat to have four wins at a place. The only track I’ve won more at is Bristol. I feel like the older I get, the younger I get. And I just keep plugging away and using all the Mark Martin skills that I have in the back of my mind,” said the 42-year-old Kurt, referencing another former driver famed for his longevity.
The view of Sunday’s winning pass varied, depending upon which Busch was telling the tale.
With Kyle in the lead, 25 laps to go in the 260-lap race, he ran up on some lapped traffic. Unfortunately for him, the lapped car belonged to Kurt’s Ganassi teammate, Ross Chastain. Rather than moving down the track and making way for Kyle, Chastain kept his position on the track. That momentarily slowed Kyle, and forced him to duck down into a middle-of-the-track groove. In swooped Kurt, who passed his brother down low.
Leading a total of 144 laps Sunday — it was a Busch bonanza, for Kyle led for 91 — Kurt never trailed again. And in the forensic review of the moment, Kurt extolled his teammate’s virtues.
“Shake and bake! Shake and bake!” Kurt exclaimed, dipping into the movie “Talladega Nights” for a reference about teamwork.
“The 42 (Chastain), he did his job as a teammate. Ross is going to get a little flak for it, but that’s what it takes to be a good teammate at the right moment, so I couldn’t be more proud of Ross Chastain. I’ll pay him back eventually, but right now this is our No. 1 car in Victory Lane.”
Meanwhile Kyle referred to Chastain in one post-race interview as a “butt-head.”
“He did stop by Victory Lane and do the Kyle Busch grumpy. That’s what I expected,” chuckled big brother.
Kyle Busch (right, red) congratulates his brother, Kurt Busch, (left) on winning the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart Sunday, July 11, 2021, at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton. Busch passed brother Kyle with 24 laps left and won the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday to complete a sibling weekend Atlanta sweep. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
As for the race pole-sitter, Dawsonville’s Chase Elliott, it was another disappointing run for the defending NASCAR Cup champion at his home track. He broke out to the lead for the first 13 laps, but his car was not strong enough to stick. Grinding for the rest of the day, Elliott managed a 7th place finish.
And the day had broken with such promise for him, as during pre-race introductions he was introduced to his new NASCAR championship banner that will hang here in the company of other Georgia series champions. The list is short. There’s the younger Elliott (2020), his father Bill (1988) and Tim Flock (1952, ’55). They’ll hang, appropriately enough, in the concourse of the Champions Grandstand.
“I appreciate them doing that and showing support for the guys from Georgia,” Elliott said earlier in the day. “To share something like that with your father, what more could you ask for, really?”
The events of Sunday also underscored the need for the repaving of the AMS track that will take place over the next few months. About 250 miles into the race, the cars were parked for nearly 20 minutes while a work crew repaired a cratered section of the frontstretch. It’s never healthy to run at these speeds over a surface that resembles the Sea of Tranquility.
Sunday was a day for the drivers to bid a very reluctant farewell to the gnarly AMS surface. Getting all sentimental about 24-year-old asphalt with a rough, Danny Trejo kind of look would seem a waste of perfectly good emotion. But Kurt Busch set the tone in a pre-race media gathering, saying, “It will put that much more emphasis on winning that last one here today, because it will be that old nostalgic feel.”
Afterward, he was claiming a kinship with the old surface, which is female, by the way.
“What a battle. What a genuine awesome old school race track,” Kurt said. “I just asked the track today for the last time on your old asphalt can I have an old guy win? And she answered.”
Kurt is the most tenured active driver in this sport. He plans to keep that status for a good while longer. If he only had more tight finishes like this with his brother, it might keep him young and active for another decade. There is no one he seems to enjoy beating more.
The big brother teasing was unrelenting. As when Kurt said post-race, “I taught the kid everything he knows. He should be grateful.”
“I know as we have gotten older the stats have stacked in his favor and I’ve come to agreement with that in my own mind,” said Kurt. He’s down 59-32 in career victories, but added, “The fun factor is there for me.”
More seriously, he said, “It’s an awesome genuine battle between the two of us. We’ve had some friction over the years but as we get older we’ve gotten slightly bit wiser and we’ve raced each other with a ton of respect on the track.”
The two have only finished 1-2 in a race four times now. With the victory Sunday, the fraternal scoreboard is now even at two victories each. The last time in this situation, in Kentucky in 2019, Kurt won and lost his plane ride home when Kyle took off early while his brother was meeting all his post-race obligations. This time, Kurt said, “I already knew to find another ride, especially with Ross Chastain coming off the top ropes and throwing down a good block.” It’s a relatively easy drive back to Charlotte.
But it was another record Kurt took aim at Sunday. He invoked Bobby and Donnie Allison’s record win total for a pair of brothers – 94. “They still have that record, but Kyle and I are out here finishing one-two. We can chip away at it and try to get that done,” he said.