Suarez wins Atlanta thriller in 3-way photo finish

Sports

HAMPTON, Ga. — Daniel Suarez edged Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch in a three-wide finish to win a crashed-filled NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Busch, who won Saturday’s Trucks race, moved to the middle between Blaney, the 2023 Cup champion, and Suarez to set up the dramatic finish. Suarez, 32, earned his second career Cup win in his Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet. Blaney was second, only 0.003 seconds behind, and Busch was third.

There were 10 cautions and an Atlanta-record 47 lead changes.

A massive pileup of at least 16 cars on the second lap was the biggest in the history of Atlanta Motor Speedway and set the pace for a procession of wrecks. The initial crash left many cars heavily taped for the remainder of the afternoon.

The intensity picked up when Austin Cindric went to the bottom of the track in his Team Penske Ford for a four-wide pass to take the lead with 50 laps remaining.

Tight racing led to the eighth caution of the day when Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski were part of a crash. Another crash with 21 laps remaining ended Chase Briscoe’s race and damaged the hopes of Denny Hamlin, who had been a top contender.

Carson Hocevar was sent spinning, and Josh Berry also crashed, leading to the 10th caution with 10 laps remaining.

Michael McDowell, who on Saturday won his first pole in his 467th start, won the first stage but collided with Daytona 500 champion William Byron while trying to slow down to enter pit row on Lap 134. McDowell suffered right front damage, and each car fell one lap behind before McDowell made his way back to the lead midway through the final stage. He finished eighth.

GILLILAND’S BEST RACE

Todd Gilliland led 58 laps, the most of his career and especially notable for a third-year driver who had led a combined 11 laps in his first two seasons. He finished 26th.

The 23-year-old Gilliland, a North Carolina native, looked at home on the Atlanta track with a “Georgia Peanuts” logo on the hood of his Front Row Motorsports Ford.

LOGANO, ELLIOTT START AT BACK

After qualifying second on Saturday, Joey Logano had to start at the back of the field and serve a pass-through penalty for a safety violation with his gloves. Chase Elliott, who qualified 28th, also was pushed to the back row, one spot ahead of Logano, following unapproved adjustments to the engine sensor on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Two Ford drivers for Stewart-Haas Racing, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece, had items from their cars confiscated for inspection on Friday. Rulings from NASCAR could come next week.

Elliott, who earned his first win at his Atlanta home track in 2022, started Stage 3 in fourth place. Elliott was eighth when he was tapped from behind by Ross Chastain’s Chevrolet and sent into a spin that ended his hopes of winning.

LAP 2 MELEE

Suarez was part of the 16-car pileup at the start of the second lap. Josh Williams’ Chevrolet was taken to the garage while expected contenders Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell and Elliott also remained in the race with damaged vehicles.

The beneficiary was Logano, who served his pass-through penalty during the caution and emerged in 20th place at the restart. Logano’s dramatic recovery continued as he was 12th at the end of Stage 1, won by McDowell.

Logano’s luck ran out on the final lap of Stage 2 when he drifted into the path of Chris Buescher’s Ford and Hamlin’s Toyota. Cindric won the stage.

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