Kyle Larson dominated Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But it was Ryan Blaney who claimed the checkered flag.
Blaney closed on Larson as the laps wound down and took the lead with nine laps to go. He went on to win by more than two seconds and became the sixth different winner in as many Cup races this season.
MORE: Atlanta Cup race results
“We had a great long-run car all day,” Blaney told Fox Sports after snapping a 28-race winless streak. “It took us a little bit to get going. I was pretty free all day. We made a really good change to tighten me up where I needed it, and it looked like Kyle was getting loose.
“I’m happy it worked in our favor that there was a couple long runs at the end that let us get there and that he got stood up behind some lapped traffic.”
Larson won both stages and led a race-high 269 laps before having to settle for second.
“I think (Blaney) just got a lot better there that last stage and it kind of changed up my flow of the race a little bit,” he told Fox Sports. “I could get out to such a big lead 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 and I just wanted to maintain that gap that I had, so I had to run on the faster part of the race track and just used my stuff up. … I don’t know if we got that much worse or if he just got way better. Like I said, it just changed the flow of my race.”
Alex Bowman finished third to claim his first top five in the No. 48 Chevrolet he took over from seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
Denny Hamlin has five top-five finishes this season after placing fourth Sunday.
Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, finished fifth. It’s his third top-10 finish in the last four races.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Larson
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Dillon‘s sixth-place finish was his first top 10 since the season-opening Daytona 500 (finished third) … Like he did a few weeks ago at Miami, Chris Buescher showed well on Atlanta’s similarly low-grip track. This time, he got the result, finishing seventh in his first top-10 performance of the season.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kurt Busch‘s day ended with a crash off the Lap 113 restart. The restart began with Kyle Busch spinning his tires and stacking up the outside lane, where Kurt Busch was third in line. Entering Turn 1, Denny Hamlin pushed Kurt Busch too hard from behind and into the wall. … A mechanical failure on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet sent hometown favorite Chase Elliott out of the race at Lap 220.
NOTABLE: Kevin Harvick (finished 10th) didn’t lead a lap at Atlanta for the first time since his ninth-place finish in September 2013 for Richard Childress Racing.
NEXT: The Cup Series races next Sunday, March 28, on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX). It will be the first race on dirt for NASCAR’s premier division since 1970.