Kurt Busch out-duels Kyle at Atlanta

What a great send-off to a fantastic racing surface.

And I don’t just mean the piece Kurt Busch got from the track.

The elder statesman of the NASCAR Cup Series locked himself into the playoffs with his fourth career victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It’s his 33rd career Cup Series victory. Which moves him into a tie with Fireball Roberts for 25th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.

Moreover, it was the first time since Richmond in 2015 that he won a race in which he led the most laps (he led 144 of 260 laps).

Kurt Busch out-duels Kyle at Atlanta

And it wasn’t thanks to a lucky caution in the closing laps, like helped him at Kentucky Speedway in 2019, he chased down brother Kyle Busch, who exited pit road ahead of him with under 50 laps to go, with a strong car on the bottom.

And some help from Ross Chastain.

“Shake and bake! Shake and bake! Yeah, and the 42, he did his job as a teammate,” Kurt Busch said. “Ross is going to get a little flak for it, but that’s what it takes to be a good teammate at the right moment, so I couldn’t be more proud of Ross Chastain.

Kyle Busch stalled out behind Chastain in Turn 3 with 25 laps to go. Kurt Busch reeled him in and edged him at the line to retake the lead. Then he completed the overtake down the backstretch.

“I had everything I had early in the run and then just smoked it behind the 42 (Ross Chastain), obviously,” Kyle Busch said. “It shows you what kind of driver he is.”

Thus, for the next 15 laps, it was a duel between two of the best wheelmen in NASCAR. Kurt Busch hugged the bottom, while Kyle Busch hugged the wall. While the latter kept it within a second for many laps, he couldn’t overcome the disadvantage of dirty air and finished 1.237 seconds behind brother Kurt.

“Just tried to fight hard after that when I got passed and had one valiant effort off of (turn) two,” he said, “but didn’t have enough momentum to drag him down and make him go high in (turns) three and four, and after that the tires were smoked.”

“The No. 1 (Kurt Busch) was definitely better than us today. I just thought I had him. And we did. But racing just didn’t play out that way for us.”

Combined with Kyle Busch’s 91 laps, the Busch brothers led a combined 235 of the 260 laps.

The younger Busch leaves Atlanta third in points, just 97 behind teammate Denny Hamlin. The elder Busch leaves 14th in points.

TOP IMAGE: Sean Gardner/Getty Images