Let’s run down the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway…
Chase Elliott – Georgia peaches for everybody. Elliott, a native of Dawsonville, Georgia, finally notched his first Cup Series win at his home track. He and his father, Bill Elliott, are now the third father-son duo to win at Atlanta, joining the Earnhardts (Dale Sr. and Jr.) and the Jarretts (Ned and Dale).
Ross Chastain – Once again, Chastain left his mark on several other drivers on the way to a second-place finish Sunday. His transgressions in the regular season could be his undoing come playoff time. But right now, there’s no doubt he’s on a hot streak with three consecutive top-five finishes and no finishes worse than eighth in his last five outings.
Corey LaJoie – LaJoie and the No. 7 Spire Motorsports team came close to scoring a massive upset. While LaJoie’s bid to take the win from Elliott on the final lap ended in the wall, he still had the strongest performance of his Cup career. Even Elliott’s boss, Rick Hendrick, gave LaJoie props, saying: “If we couldn’t win, I wanted them to win. He drove a heck of a race. He looked as good as anybody in this field.”
Austin Cindric – An ill-handling race car sent Cindric dropping like a rock early, but after his No. 2 Team Penske crew made the right adjustments, the Daytona 500 winner climbed back toward the front and finished third. Cindric has earned four straight top-10 finishes (fifth at Sonoma, seventh at Nashville and Road America).
Cole Custer – It took 19 races, but Custer finally has a top 10 on the board in 2022 after finishing ninth Sunday.
Harrison Burton – The rookie’s 10th-place finish is his first top 10 in the Cup Series. He earned it in his 20th Cup start.
Denny Hamlin – For the second time in a little over a month, Hamlin clashed with Chastain on the track. In Sunday’s case, an ill-placed nudge from Chastain sent Hamlin spinning out of a likely top-five finish. After the race, Hamlin declared he had “reached [his] peak” with Chastain. He discussed things further with NBC Sports’ Dave Burns (see below).
Austin Dillon – Dillon took the hardest shot among the nine drivers involved in Sunday’s first big wreck at Lap 91 (touched off by contact between Chastain and Martin Truex Jr.). A sliding Michael McDowell clipped Dillon, which sent him straight into the SAFER Barrier with major impact. Dillon escaped injury and later dubbed himself “a casualty of Ross Chastain once again.”
Tyler Reddick – Reddick was among Sunday’s top contenders, but things went awry after he finished second in Stage 2. During the subsequent caution, he overshot his pit box and came off pit road 19th. Shortly after the final stage went green, Reddick was eliminated in a nine-car wreck set off by contact between Garrett Smithley and Ty Dillon. Said Reddick: “We had nowhere to go, but that is the situation I put us in.”
Chris Buescher – Sunday’s race is one the Texan will likely want to forget. Early in Stage 2, B.J. McLeod broke loose and spun in front of him, leading to Buescher spinning himself. He kept going without serious damage, but on Lap 107, he blew a right front tire and hit the SAFER Barrier to end his day.