Kyle Busch takes Xfinity race at Atlanta for 77th career win
HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) Check another one off the list for Kyle Busch.
Less than 24 hours after losing the Sprint Cup pole, Busch claimed his first Xfinity Series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Busch and Kyle Larson pulled away from the field after the final yellow flag. Larson closed the gap to about a half-second in the closing laps, but the rally ended when he got caught up briefly behind the lapped car of Ryan Preece.
Busch crossed the line 0.466 seconds ahead of Larson, then did his customary burnout and bow in front of the main grandstand, holding the checkered flag. No one else was within 10 seconds of the first two cars.
The winner has plenty of experience celebrating in the second-tier series, claiming his career-best 77th victory, though Atlanta was one of three active tracks where he'd never won an Xfinity race.
''This is a pretty neat deal,'' Busch said. ''I'm glad get it out of the way. I checked another off the list.''
The victory was especially sweet coming less than 24 hours after Busch surrendered the pole for Sunday's Cup race when his car failed inspection.
He won the pole for the Xfinity race in the morning and then dominated on a sunny afternoon, leading 119 of 163 laps.
Of course, that didn't lessen the disappointment of having to start from the back of the field Sunday.
''This is Xfinity, that's Cup,'' Busch said. ''But it is what it is. It's not that big a deal.''
Busch was thrilled to add another track to his victory list, especially since he had had five runner-up finishes in Atlanta. Watkins Glen and Las Vegas - site of next week's event - are the only other active Xfinity tracks where he hasn't won.
He's looking forward to checking another off the list at his hometown track.
''I've not won at Vegas,'' Busch said. ''That seems kind of odd.''
SLOW DOWN: Starting from the outside of the front row, Erik Jones nudged ahead of Busch when the green flag waved - a rules violation that earned Jones a drive-through penalty.
Busch said it was his fault. He got bumped from behind by Daniel Suarez and spun his wires. Jones tried to check up but slipped ahead of Busch as they crossed the line.
Jones had to pay the price, though he did bounce back for a third-place finish. The pole-sitter can't be passed before the line at the beginning of the race, though that's not the case when restarting after a yellow flag.
''I forgot about that rule, honestly,'' Jones said. ''But it was a nice test for the team and a nice comeback.''
KESELOWSKI RETURNS: Brad Keselowski competed in his first Xfinity race at Atlanta since 2012. He led 28 laps on Saturday before fading to a sixth-place finish.
NO ELLIOTT: The winner of the Xfinity opener at Daytona sat out the second race of the season. Even though Atlanta is his home track, Chase Elliott turned over the No. 88 to Cup star Kevin Harvick, who finished 12th - a lap down - after making a couple of unscheduled pit stops when the car overheated.
BIG BOYS RULE: Sprint Cup drivers have won the last seven races in the Xfinity series. Regan Smith was the last Xfinity regular to take a victory in the second-tier series, winning at Dover on Oct. 3, 2015. Xfinity regulars won 10 of 33 races last season.
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