By AMANDA VINCENT
Kyle Busch went undefeated in 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, claiming his fifth win in as many starts Saturday in the Credit Karma Money 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his final series race of the season and what the driver says was his final-career Xfinity race.
Busch dominated the race, starting on the pole, leading 97 laps and winning both 40-lap stages after starting on the pole. But his race-winning lead came when he made contact with then-leader and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Hemric on a lap-158 restart. The contact sent Hemric from the lead into the wall and Busch to the lead for an overtime restart that added a single lap to the scheduled 163-lap distance.
“Not quite the win we were hoping for,’’ Busch said. “A little bit of a somber win, I guess, not just for it being it the last one, but for the way it kind of happened.
“Really hate it for my teammate Daniel Hemric there on the frontstretch. Just trying to get to him, trying to push him, trying to hit him and get him moving forward. We hit that bump there on the track at the same time, and it kind of juked his car and he was across traffic, I guess. Ended up wrecked, which was not all how I foresaw that all going.
“But we were able to push our way through and get on to victory lane.”
As a result, after leading 45 laps and looking to be en route to a first-career win, Hemric wound up 30th at the checkered flag. He and Busch were the only two drivers to tally double digits in the laps-led column.
“What could have been, right, that’s all you can think about,’’ Hemric told NBCSN on pit road. “On the flipside, you can’t change it. Obviously, I know it wasn’t intentional by no means. I did spin the tires a little bit, we were on scuffed tires there.
“I thought we got rolling there the best we could, and Kyle just went to push me and help out momentum in the bottom lane,” Hemric said. “Right when he went to hook on my back bumper, there’s a swell there right before you turn into turn one. The way the car loads there, and the bumpers didn’t align, and it shot me right there. I know it wasn’t intentional, but at the end of the day, I’m talking to you guys with a torn-up race car. This sucks.
“I don’t know if I should have been expecting something different than what happened, but as soon as he touched me, I never had a chance. That’s a product of taking off in a restart zone on older tires, and we’re all doing all we can. Just unfortunate, but congrats to those guys they’ve been on top of it and our day will come.”
Jeb Burton finished second. Noah Gragson finished third after an unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire on a lap-102 restart. Gragson was the race leader before the stop after being one of a handful of drivers who stayed out during the caution.
Justin Haley and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Brett Moffitt, Justin Allgaier, Jeremy Clements, Sam Mayer and Austin Cindric.