For the first time in the last five NASCAR Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a Ford didn’t emerge victorious. Instead, it was a Chevrolet driven by Kurt Busch.
The veteran racer earned his 33rd career win after spending most of the afternoon battling his younger brother Kyle for the top spot in the Quaker State 400. Kyle won the first stage and was just two-tenths of a second behind Kurt in the final 10 laps, but he couldn’t quite get his No. 18 car past Kurt’s No. 1 car.
Kurt Busch’s victory was an important one, as it assured him a spot in the 2021 NASCAR playoffs. It also was a crucial victory; he can become a free agent at the end of the season and his place in the No. 1 car is far from certain after Chip Ganassi Racing was sold to Trackhouse Racing.
In Kurt’s estimation, he did something just as important as winning; he beat his brother.
There were only a handful of cautions during the race, but there was a red flag, and it wasn’t due to a crash. It was because a pothole opened up in the pavement at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which hasn’t been modified since 1997. The racing surface is scheduled to be repaved for the 2022 season.
Sporting News tracked updates and lap-by-lap highlights from the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart (all times Eastern).
NASCAR at Atlanta live updates, highlights from Quaker State 400
6:58 p.m. — And Kurt Busch has emerged as the winner! He staves off a late push from his brother Kyle to earn the win. Here are the unofficial top 10 finishers from Sunday’s race.
1. Kurt Busch
2. Kyle Busch
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Alex Bowman
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Tyler Reddick
7. Chase Elliott
8. Christopher Bell
9. Austin Dillon
10. Brad Keselowski
6:57 p.m. — Two laps left. The gap is still 1.2 seconds. It should be Kurt Busch’s race to win, barring something unexpected in the final two laps.
6:56 p.m. — Kyle Busch had a bit of an issue near the wall. He’s fine, but the gap between him and Kurt is now 1.2 seconds.
6:54 p.m. — Six laps to go. Kyle Busch nearly overtook Kurt again. The elder brother just staved him off.
6:51 p.m. — There are 10 laps left to go. Kurt Busch leads, but by Kyle has come within 0.2 seconds of taking the lead. It will come down to the wire between these two.
6:45 p.m. — Kyle Busch ran into some troubles with lapped traffic and Kurt gained on him. The brothers were side-by-side for a while but Kurt has now take the lead by a quarter of a second.
6:41 p.m. — We’re down to 30 laps to go. Kyle Busch leads Kurt by 0.5 seconds. Everyone else is at least 5.5 seconds off the lead.
6:32 p.m. — Kyle Busch has overtaken Kurt after both make pit stops. Kyle Larson, who had been running in the top five, was slapped with a speeding violation on pit road. He dropped down to 21st as a result, which will make it difficult for him to make any sort of comeback with 45 laps left.
6:29 p.m. — Kurt Busch has pulled away again. His lead over Kyle is now a full second.
6:26 p.m. — We’re seeing a Busch brothers showdown right now. Kurt Busch is in front, but his little brother Kyle is just a half-second behind him. They’re jockeying for position, and Kurt is trying to stave off Kyle’s advances by staying largely on the inner lane.
6:24 p.m — We just finished the 200th lap. There are 60 left. Kurt Busch continues to lead and has held onto it since the end of the second stage.
6:15 p.m. — With 75 laps to go, not much has changed. The Busch brothers are still in front. Martin Truex Jr. (sixth) and Chase Elliott (10th) are continuing to climb the standings after early setbacks. Buckle up, this should be a competitive finish.
6:08 p.m. — We’re now out of caution and there are 90 laps to go. Lots of cars bunched up near the top, but Kurt Busch still leads.
6:05 p.m. — And here we go: We’re getting restarted. There are 92 laps to go and Kurt Busch is still out in front.
6:00 p.m. — We’re still at a red flag. They’ve made progress filling in the pothole and race officials appear to be checking the surface.
5:42 p.m. — RED FLAG (Lap 168). A chunk of the asphalt has come up at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which hasn’t been repaved since 1997. The cars will are stopped as race officials work to fix the pothole. The pothole didn’t cause any crashes.
5:41 p.m. — Denny Hamlin was penalized for being too fast on pit row. That will drop him to 22nd in the racing order for the final stage.
5:36 p.m. — The Busch brothers stay in front coming out of pit row as we get ready for another restart.
5:33 p.m. — As the caution continues, here’s a cool look inside the cars of five drivers at once.
5:31 p.m. — Caution 4 (Lap 160). We’re now through two stages of the race and have 100 laps to go. Once again, the Busch brothers finish in the top two spots, but this time, it’s Kurt that wins the stage. Two Hendrick Motorsports drivers are in hot pursuit.
1. Kurt Busch
2. Kyle Busch
3. Alex Bowman
4. Kyle Larson
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Tyler Reddick
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Austin Dillon
10. Martin Truex Jr.
5:27 p.m. — There are eight laps to go in Stage 2. Kurt Busch is still out in front as he looks to win the stage. He finished second in the first stage.
5:22 p.m. — Chase Elliott is climbing back into the race. He has moved up to 11th place in the race. He started as the pole sitter at his hometown track but fell to 20th after a rough pit stop early in the race.
5:17 p.m. — This happened earlier, but a member of Cole Custer’s pit crew got hit in the back by a tire that was clipped by Chase Elliott on his second uneven pit stop. The crew member was fine and effectively changed the tire. Incredible effort.
5:15 p.m. — The race is now official. We are through 130 laps and there are 30 to go in Stage 2. Ryan Preece briefly took the lead from Almirola before Kurt Busch passed him to retake first.
5:13 p.m. — Aric Almirola is in the lead, and it looks like he wants to avoid pitting right now. He says the rain is picking up, so he’s trying to stay out and in first place as long as he can.
5:10 p.m. — There are six laps left before the race becomes official at the 130th lap, halfway through the 260 laps. That will prove crucial with potential bad weather in the area.
5:06 p.m. — Keep an eye on the weather. The radar shows some storms in the area and the broadcast just said there were some “sprinkles” on pit row.
5:00 p.m. — Kyle Larson is starting to make a bit of a move. He has moved into fifth place and just passed Denny Hamlin.
4:55 p.m. — Ryan Blaney (ninth) and Bubba Wallace (10th) have climbed into the top 10 of the race. Blaney was the winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this year.
4:49 p.m. — They’re restarting the race and beginning Stage 2. Kurt Busch is in the lead after taking it from his brother Kyle coming off pit row.
4:44 p.m. — The Atlanta Motor Speedway is getting re-paved for the first time since 1997 in the near future, and you can see why. The track has ripped up some tires today, notably the front right one for Ryan Newman, and NASCAR’s Twitter account joked about the track’s surface.
The @amsupdates surface is like when a waiter is grating cheese and you ask them to stop, but they never do.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 11, 2021
4:41 p.m. — Caution 3 (Lap 80). Stage 1 is in the books. After taking over the lead from Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch led pretty much wire-to-wire. Here are the top 10 finishers from the first 80 laps.
1. Kyle Busch
2. Kurt Busch
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Alex Bowman
5. Tyler Reddick
6. Kyle Larson
7. Joey Logano
8. William Byron
9. Matt DiBenedetto
10. Kevin Harvick
4:35 p.m. — Kyle Busch continues to lead through 70 laps. There are 10 laps to go in the first stage of this race.
4:28 p.m. — Martin Truex Jr. was supposed to start fifth in the race but was dropped to the back of the pack after failing inspection twice on Sunday. He has since climbed from last (37th) all the way back to 10th overall.
4:26 p.m. — Alex Bowman has climbed into third place. He is the highest-ranked Hendrick Motorsports driver in the race right now. Kyle Larson (eighth) and William Byron (ninth) are also currently in the top 10.
4:24 p.m. — Strike that: Stenhouse is actually out. Tough luck.
Update: Stenhouse is now out.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 11, 2021
4:20 p.m. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez, who were involved in the crash earlier, are not out. The two will continue to race after their crash.
Update: Suarez and Stenhouse are not out.
They have met minimum speed.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 11, 2021
4:18 p.m. — We’re through 40 laps, halfway through the first stage of the 260-lap race. The Busch brothers now lead the race. Kyle leads Kury by 0.57 seconds.
4:17 p.m. — We’ve got the two Busch brothers in the top three. Kurt Busch has climbed into third and trails only Denny Hamlin and his brother, Kyle.
4:09 p.m. — Caution 2 (Lap 31). Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez were involved in a crash along with Cody Ware. It looks like Ware spun out just a bit and clipped Stenhouse. Anthony Alfredo, the No. 38 car, did well to dodge the crash.
4:05 p.m. — Denny Hamlin takes over first after pit row, taking it from his teammate Kyle Busch. Elliott had a rough pit stop, going a bit too far forward and having to put his car into reverse. That cost him a couple of seconds and dropped him from third to 20th coming out of the caution.
4:02 p.m. — Caution 1 (Lap 25). We’re at a competition caution with the 25th lap in the books. No major issues so far, though Elliott is trying to figure out how to drive his car. That’s part of why he dropped from first to third during the first 25 laps of the race.
4:00 p.m. — We’re through 22 total laps now and Kyle Busch is holding a 2.6 on Chase Elliott, who has Denny Hamlin breathing down his neck.
3:56 p.m. — Kyle Busch had taken the lead on Chase Elliott on the 14th lap. He passed him on the outside lane and had too much speed for Elliott to compete with.
3:55 p.m. — Tyler Reddick had a sweet pass early in the race, coming around a few cars on the outside lane.
3:53 p.m. — Elliott is off to a good start after being on the poll. He has led each of the first 10 laps of this race with Kyle Busch. sitting about half a second behind him.
3:49 p.m. — We’re off with the Quaker State 400!
3:48 p.m. — Martin Truex Jr. has to start at the back of the pack. Originally, he was supposed to be fifth, but he was moved back after failing his inspection twice on Sunday.
3:41 p.m. — The drivers have started their engines. Next up, the race!
3:35 p.m. — Chase Elliott’s car looks sharp. Is the red and black design a head nod to the Falcons?
3:30 p.m. — The pre-race ceremony is beginning now. The race is set to officially begin at 3:48 p.m. ET.
3:25 p.m. — According to the broadcast, Kyle Larson is heavily favored to win this event. He has +220 odds to win at Pointsbet Sportsbook and has won four of the last 10 NASCAR Cup series races.
3:20 p.m. — Corey LaJoie will be driving an… interesting car in the Quaker State 400. His vehicle is covered in “Boss Baby: Family Business” advertisements and imagery, as Dreamworks looks to draw attention to the second feature-length installment in the “Boss Baby” franchise.
3:17 p.m. — The pace car driver for this race will be familiar to NFL fans and Georgia natives. Lions running back D’Andre Swift, a former star at Georgia, will be the honorary pace car driver.
3:15 p.m. — The sun is out now, but there is rain in the area for the race. Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass has said that it will be “hit-or-miss” throughout the day. So, expect some potential cautions and delays.
Rain cell came through the track. But sun is out now. I know many want a prediction for today but it seems it will be hit-and-miss so will just have to see. pic.twitter.com/wqR6mq2ShV
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) July 11, 2021
3:07 p.m. — This will be the last NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway before the track undergoes some major changes.
2:54 p.m. — Ryan Blaney won the most recent race at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this year. His car is looking sharp ahead of Sunday’s race.
NASCAR start time today
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET (TV time)
- TV channel: NBCSN (TSN in Canada)
- Live stream: NBCSports.com | fuboTV ( 7-day free trial )
The green flag for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is scheduled for 3:48 p.m. ET.
Weather could play a big role in when the race begins, however. The National Weather Service’s Sunday forecast for Hampton, Ga., where the track is located, calls for showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m. and before 9 p.m., with a high temperature near 90. The chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
NASCAR starting lineup at Atlanta
Here is the complete starting lineup for Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Quaker State 400, without qualifying. Thirty-seven drivers were entered for the race.
|Start pos.||Driver||Car No.||Team|
|1||Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports|
|2||Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|3||Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|4||Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|6||Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports|
|7||Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing|
|8||Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|9||Ross Chastain||42||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|10||Joey Logano||22||Team Penske|
|11||Chase Briscoe||14||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|12||Matt DiBenedetto||21||Wood Brothers Racing|
|13||Austin Dillon||3||Richard Childress Racing|
|14||Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske|
|15||Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|17||Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports|
|18||Chris Buescher||17||Roush Fenway Racing|
|19||William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports|
|20||Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|21||Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|22||Erik Jones||43||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|23||Cole Custer||41||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|24||Bubba Wallace||23||23XI Racing|
|25||Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports|
|26||Corey LaJoie||7||Spire Motorsports|
|27||Daniel Suarez||99||Trackhouse Racing Team|
|28||Justin Haley||77||Spire Motorsports|
|29||Ryan Newman||6||Roush Fenway Racing|
|30||Josh Bilicki||52||Rick Ware Racing|
|31||Cody Ware||51||Petty Ware Racing|
|32||Anthony Alfredo||38||Front Row Motorsports|
|33||Bayley Currey||15||Rick Ware Racing|
|34||Ryan Preece||37||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|35||Quin Houff||00||StarCom Racing|
|36||BJ McLeod||78||Live Fast Motorsports|
|37||Garrett Smithley||53||Rick Ware Racing|