Hendrick Motorsports driver, Kyle Larson, led 269 laps at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday in the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500. However, Penske's Ryan Blaney would catch Larson with 8 laps left in the race to get his first win of the season. Larson had been able to pull away to a large lead virtually all day until the closing stages of the race. When asked if he was trying to save his tires for the final run Larson said no:
"I was pushing the whole time, every lap really from when I left pit road. I was trying to get out to a big gap. But I never really did. I think I extended it a little bit, but not nearly enough. Before the other green flag stops I could exit pit road, I feel like I’d gain a few seconds over the course of like 20 laps. I was hoping it was going to be like that. I thought me having to race him and pass him was what used my tires up the little run before, but after the green flag stop, he was just really good. I couldn’t get out to that gap that I could earlier in the race. Ultimately just had to run my tires too hard to try to get that gap, and I didn’t have anything there at the end."
Larson recorded his 3rd top 5 and 5th top 10 of the young season.
As for Blaney, he found himself in contention most of the day and kept pushing until the very end. After starting the race a little on the loose side, crew chief Todd Gordon was able to make the proper adjustments to get the car where Blaney wanted it. With Larson being so dominant though, Blaney said he didn't think he had a chance until the final stage.
" Honestly, I didn’t really think that until I’d say the start of the last stage. He had a huge lead there in that second stage, then he didn’t really get that far out in front of me in the start of the third stage. Then we were running him down pretty good until we pitted there.
He got a little bit ways away from me on pit road after we came out. He stretched his lead out a tiny bit. I was like, All right, it’s going to be a 50-plus-lap run, I’m going to try to save my stuff a little bit. Hopefully we’ll even out and he’ll start coming back to me. He started coming back to me really hard at the end of that first run.
Yeah, at the start and halfway through the final stage, I had confidence we made really good changes to our car. Hoping there would be a long run towards the end because that was the only shot I had to beat him. I wasn’t going to beat him in a 10-lap shootout because his car was good. Hopefully it worked out for a long run. Had a great long run car, like (Crew chief Todd Gordon) said. It was awesome."
In what was a slow start for Blaney, he's now recorded his 2nd top 5 and 3rd top 10 of the season and 5th career win.
It was a big day for Hendrick Motorsports with 3 cars in the top 10 (Larson-2nd, Alex Bowman-3rd and William Byron-8th). Georgia native, Chase Elliott, would have to start from the back after a pre-race inspection failure and would finish 38th after losing an engine on lap 220.
Denny Hamlin would come home 4th after starting on the poll and leading 27 laps. Kurt Busch would start the day as a contender, but would get turned by Hamlin on a restart to finish 39th after 113 laps.
The full results are below: