Home/NASCAR

USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

If the Daytona 500 provided an entertaining watch, the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway only took it to the next level. The race on Sunday probably had everything, with Daniel Suarez triumphing in the end. In fact, it took a three-wide at the line, including Suarez, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Blaney, to register a mind-boggling finish to the race.

The Trackhouse Racing driver registered his second-ever race win in the Cup Series and that too in some style. While it came with the slimmest of margins, there were plenty of other notable events in the race.

Daniel Suarez triumphs in a nail-biting race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

It all began when Michael McDowell won his first Cup Series pole in his 467th start. While he was joined by Joey Logano in the first row, the Team Penske driver faced an issue just hours before the main race on Sunday. The #22 car was penalized for violating rule 14.3.1.1 of the NASCAR Rule Book before the start of the race.

The incident resulted in Joey Logano dropping to the rear and serving a pass-through penalty at the start of the race because his gloves did not meet the SFI specification. While it was bad news for Logano and his team, he was blessed with a fine opportunity due to an unexpected start.

Just like Daytona, the race began with a bang, with a crash in the 2nd lap itself. 16 cars got piled up in Turn 1 in a multi-car crash. It all seems to have started when Todd Gilliland tried to make a hole for Michael McDowell toward the front. Luckily for Logano, he was serving his pass-through lap when the wreck took place. This saved him from losing a lap.

 

At the same time, debutant Josh Williams saw his race cut short because of the early crash. Earlier in the weekend, Williams finished P37 in the Xfinity Series. It is worth noting that this comes after his P34 finish at the Daytona 500 and the DNQ at the Clash.

Later on, Chris Buescher also faced problems as he spun in turn 4 on the 26th lap. Not only that, the fans witnessed several race leaders during Stage 1. Until lap 40, the race had 10 lead changes. Interestingly, this is more than the entire 500-mile race at Atlanta in 2017 (nine lead changes).

 

Things only got wilder when Denny Hamlin got spun by Kyle Busch in lap 54. Where the hell was he going? exclaimed Busch on the radio. At the same time, Hamlin’s radio also sparked, “What happened? I thought I was clear.” His spotter, Chris Lambert, was super quick to comment, “Negative.”

READ MORE – Denny Hamlin Shoots Himself in the Foot After Nerve-Wracking Wreck With SHR Star Brings Out Red Flags

With so much drama, Stage 1 ended with Michael McDowell taking up the lead position. Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, and Kyle Busch followed him to make it into the top five. Interestingly, he led four different times in the first 60 laps of the race.

 

Next, Stage 2 witnessed Todd Gilliland dominating in the early phase. In fact, for the second straight week running, he set a new record for most laps led in a race. At Atlanta, he led for 17 laps until lap 80. While the 2nd stage saw multiple leaders, it got chaotic when Chris Buescher ran into the wall, collecting Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin with him in the 160th lap.

Indeed, it was surprising how Atlanta witnessed plenty of crashes this weekend. However, that didn’t stop Austin Cindric from winning Stage 2. Interestingly, the spice only got added up in Stage 3 as leaders kept changing. It only got more chaotic when, in lap 241, Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe made contact, collecting Harrison Burton, Josh Berry, and Justin Haley in the process.

 

Nine laps later, Austin Cindric got loose and checked up. This resulted in Josh Berry going sideways and collecting Carson Hocevar and Chase Elliott. Not only that, it also allowed Daniel Suarez to take the lead for the first time in the race with 10 laps remaining.

However, the most thrilling moment of the race was yet to come. The dying laps of the race saw Daniel Suarez go head-to-head with Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch for a photo finish. In fact, it ended up being a 3-wide finish at the line. Moments later, Suarez was confirmed as the rightful winner, registering his second-ever race win in the Cup Series. This also means he will be making it to the playoffs for the second time since 2022.

 

Undoubtedly, this race will be remembered as one of the greatest in the history of NASCAR. With a margin of 0.003 and 0.007 seconds separating Daniel Suarez from Blaney and Busch, respectively, it couldn’t get any tighter. It is unfortunate for both Blaney and Busch, especially for the latter, given his ongoing winless spell in the Cup Series.

How did Kyle Busch miss out on making it count at the Atlanta Motor Speedway?

It is no secret how Kyle Busch has been hungry for a Cup Series win in the new season. With his last victory coming in June last year, Rowdy has been keen on making it big. In fact, starting in the 2nd row on Sunday, expectations were high from No. 8. While he gave it his all, the Richard Childress Racing driver was unable to make it to the finish line on time. A margin of 0.007 seconds is heartbreaking, but it is what it is. Despite winning the Craftsman Truck Series race in Atlanta this year, Kyle Busch struggled to end his Cup Series woes.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

Nevertheless, it is an inspiring performance that will certainly boost his confidence. Rowdy will certainly look to make it count in Las Vegas next weekend. For now, it is time for Daniel Suarez and his team to celebrate. It is worth noting that this was the closest finish in the Cup Series since Talladega in the spring of 2011.

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

A race like that in Atlanta on Monday, despite drivers worrying about its track limitations and uncertain handling issues, is what makes NASCAR the amazing sport it is. Surely, the fans will be looking forward to more such races in the upcoming weeks.

READ MORE – Kyle Busch Warns Entire Grid of Detrimental Consequences of Nascar’s Atlanta Revamp