HAMPTON, Ga. (March. 4, 2017) – After going 11 races, over a span of 13 years, without an XFINITY Series win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch is a repeat champion.
Busch and Brad Keselowski duked it out from the beginning of the Rinnai 250 on Saturday with challenges from Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.
Larson led for 20 laps late in the race, but dropped to fourth on a restart and Busch jumped back into the lead for good on lap 145 of 163.
“We weren’t great early on and we weren’t great through the middle,” Busch said. “But they really brought the NOS Energy Drink Toyota to life at the end.
“We’re pretty proud to put ourselves here in victory lane once again. It took me so long to get here to begin with and now we’ve won two in a row. That feels really good.”
Keselowski was chasing Busch through lap traffic and couldn’t quite bridge the gap, finishing second.
“It was part of the battle,” Keselowski said. “In the XFINITY Series you have a lot of diversity as far as the speed in the cars out there — and that’s not a bad thing. So when you catch those slower cars, it’s sometimes a came of cat and mouse, that sometimes feels like chicken.
“I kept catching them all at the wrong place and I thought that kept me from having a shot to make a run at passing Kyle there. I was right there, just needed to pop that bubble. But all in all, a good day for us.”
Larson ended up third and Harvick was fourth.
The top finisher eligible to earn XFINITY Series points was Elliott Sadler, who was fifth. Darrell Wallace Jr. was sixth and rookie William Byron was seventh. Austin Dillon, Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer rounded out the top 10.
“Looking through the field, my spotter said this to me before we started the XFINITY race at Daytona, in front of you is Tyler Reddick and behind you is Daniel Hemric,” Keselowski said. “Both of those guys drove for (Brad Keselowski Racing) and they’ve graduated.
“It’s a real thrill for me. That’s what that program is supposed to be about. There’s nobody out there that’s sent more drivers up through the ranks than BKR.”
Keselowski won Stage 1 and led 53 laps overall. The restart for Stage 2 brought the field back together with Harvick lurking. He jumped into the lead on lap 62 and held it for a race-high 64 laps before Larson and, finally Busch, got to the front.
“You have to keep working and keep communicating and trying to make your race car better,” Busch said. “I was hoping I was saying the right things to get the car better each and every time (in pit lane) and I felt like we did that. (Crew chief) Scott (Graves) made some good calls on being able to get me the grip that I was looking for.”