Spoiler: Ryan Blaney Runs Down Dominant Kyle Larson To Win In Cup Series At Atlanta

Ryan Blaney celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

You can call Ryan Blaney “The Spoiler.”

With a pass for the lead with eight laps left in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Blaney took the air out of an otherwise dominating performance by Kyle Larson, who had to settle for second place after winning the first two stages and leading 269 of 325 laps.

“Gosh, we had a great long-run car all day,” Blaney said after climbing from his No. 12 Team Penske Ford. “It took us a little bit to get going. I was pretty free all day, so we made a really good change to tighten me up where I needed it.  

“It looked like Kyle was getting loose, and I’m happy it worked into our favor that there were a couple of long runs at the end (that) let us kind of get there, and he got slowed up behind some lapped traffic… It’s nice to close out a race like that—it was awesome.”

Blaney’s first victory at Atlanta and the fifth of his career extended the streak of different NASCAR Cup Series winners this season to six. The victory was the fifth straight at the 1.54-mile track for Ford drivers. 

For the fourth time in his career, Larson swept the first two stages of a race and failed to win the event.

“I think he (Blaney) just got a lot better that last stage, and that changed up my flow of the race a little bit,” said Larson, who won each of the first two stages by more than six seconds. “I could get out to such big leads, and I could take care of my stuff and run the bottom where it was maybe slower, but I could take care of my tires.

“He was fast there (in the final run), and I just wanted to maintain that gap that I had, so I had to run in the faster part of the race track and just used my stuff up. He was a lot better than me there late in the run. I hate to lead a lot of laps and lose, but we had a really good car that we brought to the track. Our (No. 5) Hendrick Cars Chevy was stupid-fast there for a long time. I don’t know if we got that much worse, or if he got way better.” 

Alex Bowman ran third, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10. 

The first two stages featured only one caution for an on-track incident. On a restart on Lap 113, after the break at the end of Stage 1, Kyle Busch spun his tires at the front of the pack in the outside lane, causing Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch to check up behind him.

Kurt Busch steered down to the middle lane, but off-center contact from Hamlin’s Toyota sent the No. 1 Chevrolet into the Turn 1 wall and out of the race.

“Yeah, I think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was the outside-lead car,” said Kurt Busch, who ran near the front of the field throughout the first stage. The No. 9 (Elliott) kind of checked-up, too. I checked up… It was just the accordion effect and then I jumped to the middle. I’m like ‘I’m here’; I positioned myself. It wasn’t like I rearranged my lanes and made another block.

“He (Hamlin) didn’t do anything vicious or malicious there. It’s a 500-miler, and these are the days that it hurts the worst. This absolutely hurts the worst because we had a top-five, winning Monster Energy Chevy.”  

Elliott, the reigning series champion, sustained damage on that same restart, but his troubles didn’t become terminal until the third stage, when his engine blew to cause the fifth caution of the afternoon. 

“Yeah, obviously we broke a motor there later on,” Elliott said. “We got some damage there on that restart. Kyle (Busch) kind of spun his tires and then I was pushing him, and Kurt (Busch) was pushing me. We all just really jammed together hard and ended up hurting the nose some. I don’t know if that had something to do with breaking the engine or not.”

Early tire troubles ruined the afternoon for defending race winner Harvick, who pitted with a flat left rear as the rest of the field restarted on Lap 32 after a competition caution. Larson lapped Harvick later in the first stage, and the 2014 series champion didn’t get the lap back until he took a wave-around under the fifth caution, for Elliott’s blown engine.

Harvick battled back to finish 10th but could advance no further.


NASCAR Cup Series Race – 63rd Annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Hampton, Georgia

Sunday, March 21, 2021

               1. (10)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 325.

               2. (6)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325.

               3. (14)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 325.

               4. (1)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325.

               5. (19)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325.

               6. (13)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 325.

               7. (17)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 325.

               8. (9)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 325.

               9. (2)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 325.

               10. (7)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325.

               11. (20)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 325.

               12. (12)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 325.

               13. (28)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 325.

               14. (21)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 325.

               15. (3)  Joey Logano, Ford, 324.

               16. (15)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 324.

               17. (25)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 324.

               18. (27)  Cole Custer, Ford, 324.

               19. (18)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 324.

               20. (16)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 324.

               21. (8)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 323.

               22. (39)  Austin Cindric(i), Ford, 323.

               23. (24)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 323.

               24. (22)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 323.

               25. (23)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 323.

               26. (29)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 323.

               27. (32)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 322.

               28. (4)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 321.

               29. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 319.

               30. (26)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 319.

               31. (33)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 316.

               32. (34)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 316.

               33. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 314.

               34. (31)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 313.

               35. (36)  Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 308.

               36. (38)  Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 305.

               37. (37)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 285.

               38. (5)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Engine, 220.

               39. (11)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 113.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  144.595 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 41 Secs. Margin of Victory:  2.083 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 25 laps.

Lead Changes:  11 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin 1-27;K. Larson 28-63;K. Busch 64;W. Byron 65-66;K. Larson 67-118;R. Blaney 119;K. Larson 120-160;D. Suarez 161;K. Larson 162-221;R. Blaney 222-236;K. Larson 237-316;R. Blaney 317-325.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 5 times for 269 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 27 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 25 laps; William Byron 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,18,12,1,11,48,19,9,17,24

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,12,48,18,24,21,3,17,11,99


  1. Viva Race Fan says

    Kyle ran the tires off his 5 car.
    He will learn fast is good but still have to save them tires.
    Long run cost him.
    Kids a beast .
    Ryan has done this before they have a good game plan to finish races .

  2. Stenhouse 17th in points and Preece 18th. That’s not bad. Last 4 races not really good tracks for Ryan but he got a 15th at Las Vegas and more importantly finished all the races. Would be nice to hear news of more sponsorship but so far the team has done nothing to work against getting it.
    Oh boy look what’s next. Dirt. Can you feel the tension for the dirt discussion in the forum building. Should be a good one. We’ll see just how good a racer Preece is adapting to this crazy twist.
    After dirt three tracks with better potential for good finishes at Martinsville, Richmond and Talladega.

  3. Preece has a lot more sponsorship than Larson who has next to none. Can’t imagine that changing soon for Kyle. If ever.

  4. Viva Race Fan says

    He doesn’t need anyone but Mr. Hendricks.

    Time will change that. Sponsors love winners and cars up front.

  5. Viva Race Fan says

    Preece needs his sponsor to be in his car come with cash or go home. I love Ryan and pull for him every week. Talked with him several times seems like a down to earth guy who loves what he does.
    But Kyle has that talent that they pay him to drive for a big team. Now he’s in good equipment and it shows what a switch to a top tier does for talent. Can’t wait for the dirt race hope he keeps the fenders on the 5 and avoids what l think could be alot of yellow flags.

  6. I don’t think it’s overstatement to assume that the people most likely to look past Larson’s N word indiscretion are the most likely to consider it not that big a deal in the first place.
    He can drive for sure. On dirt he’ll have to adjust to the car but he knows dirt as much as anyone. All things being equal he has to be considered one of the heavy favorites.
    Being a good driver is not enough. Being in a car where the owner is carrying the entire load can only work in the short run. A bridge to the future with full sponsorship.
    Larson should get a break over time in my view depending on what he does. He’s a Japanese American. Right now Asian Americans are under assault being blamed for a pandemic they had nothing to do with
    Larsen did a bunch of outreach post N word blunder. The Hendrick site that touts Larson as ” one of the most talented race car drivers in America today” and “a living legend in dirt-track racing” also contains mentions of his outreach to disadvantaged groups. A good start but appears to be trending in the boiler plate category at this stage not keeping up with current events.
    . My Google machine is not producing any comments or words from him regarding the current Asian American epidemic of sucker punches and attacks. If accurate it’s a huge missed opportunity in my view.
    Redemption doesn’t come from checking boxes and moving on. It would surely help if he and his team owner would get out if front of this issue with some jaw boning with the bright lights of NASCAR turned on high.
    So you say what’s that got to do with talent and winning races? Everything because openly displayed, heart felt contrition and redemption by embracing a current injustice is the key to balancing the scales in the future and signing big time sponsors. Plus it’s the right thing to do and especially for a guy with such a blindingly obvious personal interest.

  7. Doug, Larson and Hendrick are doing this just fine. If they do as you say, they look like an idiot, like Trump. The last thing Larson wants to do is bring attention to his issue, and overplay this situation. He’s just gonna shut up and let his driving do the talking. For example, Trump constantly saying he is “the least racist person” was absurd, even more absurd since he was doing everything to be racist and discriminatory. Actions spoke far louder than his words. Trump would have been better by shutting up and not doing all the stupid idiotic moronic racist stuff he did.

    And that Trump has turned his dogs on Asian human beings, given that Larson has Japanese heritage, it’s not a good idea to get much publicity about his situation at all. Sadly, the ramped up baseless hate against Asians, brought about by Trump and sustained by his minions like Blewett et al., will be around for a very long time.

    If you can, think 🤔 about this… Trump frequently said he was the least racist person. Least or otherwise, he is racist. Being the least racist is not okay. Racism is like being dead, you are or you aren’t.

    Hendrick had to do something. Byron and Bowman are simply not living up to the reputation of the 24 and 48, not even close, and doesn’t look like they will ever come close. Elliott needs to step it up quite a bit, he’s not living up to his name. With Larson on the team, it shows the others that they had better step it up, no excuses. Mr. Hendrick is a very smart fella. It could be a win-win-win-win-winp-win… all the way around for Mr. Hendrick, and Larson gets remade.

  8. 🌈🦄2020 says

    With all Dafella’s talk about Trump and white supremacy lately it’s hard to believe a Muslim just committed a mass murder again.

  9. They have the dirt on Bristol and they’ve been racing there already. From what I can see the Cup boys are really gonna be earning their pay for this one. Bristol is hard enough as it is but 250 laps slipping and sliding, dusty and dirty is going to be a shock I’d bet for a few.

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