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NASCAR at Atlanta: Winners are Harvick (Cup), Allmendinger (Xfinity), and Enfinger (trucks)

NASCAR at Atlanta: Winners are Harvick (Cup), Allmendinger (Xfinity), and Enfinger (trucks)

NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Harvick wins again at Atlanta

Atlanta, GA, June 7/20 (GRW): Kevin Harvick won his first Cup race only weeks after replacing Dale Earnhardt as the lead driver for the Richard Childress team. With his dominant win here today, he now has three wins at this track. He led for 151 of the race’s 325 laps to take the win over Joe Gibbs’ drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex.

"My first win came for me here in Atlanta and this is just a racetrack that I've taken a liking to," Harvick said after the race. "You always come back and have those memories, and now you want to celebrate everything Dale Earnhardt did for this sport. To come here and be able to do that with wins and go to victory lane, it's pretty special.

"We had a great pit stop, got to restart on the bottom and got my car to take off and I was able to get track position. Once I could get through those first 10 laps and my car was freed up enough I could get in a rhythm and really hit my marks, then with about 25 laps I could just drive away.’’

PHOTO NCS AMS Harvick 060720Kevin Harvick drives during the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Chase Elliot started from the pole and he led the first 26 laps into the now-familiar competition caution. Given the lack of practice sessions before the race, each race now has such a pre-scheduled caution to allow everyone a chance to make any necessary adjustments to their cars. Joey Logano beat everyone out of the pits and took over the lead until Harvick, who had come out in third place, drove him down and took over as the front-runner for the next 29 laps until Martin Truex passed him for the lead.

Truex was still the race leader, ahead of Kyle Busch, when the flag flew to mark the end of the first Stage. Surprisingly, Clint Bowyer, who had been in fourth place emerged from these Stage-end pit stops in the lead – and he continued to lead until lap 146 when he came into the pits under green with a failed right-rear tire. This was to become a recurring problem and one which, in the end, saw him fall a lap down when he had to pit one more time on lap 310 – almost within sight of the checker.

A round of green-flag pit stops followed soon after Bowyer’s early pit stop and he cycled back into the lead on lap 164 – and he continued to lead until Truex ran him down and passed him 20 laps later.

As the end of the second Stage was approaching, Michael McDowell spun with a little help from his teammate John Hunter Nemechek bringing out the caution about nine laps before the end of the Stage. Given the track’s propensity to wear tires down rapidly, everyone on the lead lap pitted for fresh tires. This caution ended just four laps before the end of the Stage but the cars piled back in again for yet another set of new tires.

Kevin Harvick came out of this Stage-end caution in the lead. This final caution was 115 laps long and Harvick was in command as it ran the rest of the way to the checker without any more yellows. There was a round of green-flag pit stops mid-way through the Stage and Harvick gave up the lead for three laps before it cycled back around to him as the others pitted.

Now he just had to maintain his winning pace to the end. At the start of this final green-flag run, Truex was about two seconds back and, try as he might, he could not close that gap. When the checker was shown, Truex was still there in second place, 3.527 seconds adrift.

Historically, there used to be two races each year at this track, one soon after the Daytona 500 and the other at the end of the season – making for cooler weather both times. With this race being run near the start of the summer season, the temperatures here were pretty hot – about 30 degrees C. After the race, Darrell Wallace and Ryan Newman – and probably others – were light-headed from the heat.

Click HERE for the results of the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

The next NASCAR Cup Series race will be held as a stand-alone event, this coming Wednesday, May 10, three days from now, at Martinsville Speedway. Next weekend, all three national series will be running at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

PHOTO NXS AMS Trophy 060620A.J. Allmendinger celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the EchoPark 250 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images) 

NASCAR Xfinity Series Echo Park 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Allmendinger wins his first ever oval-track race.

Atlanta, GA, June 6/ 20 (GRW): Austin Cindric and then Chase Briscoe led this race for most of the distance but, in the closing laps, A.J. Allmendinger lucked into the lead and held on to take the win. Allmendinger had won many major races before but al those wins had been on road courses. Noah Gragson finished second ahead of Justin Haley, Daniel Hemric and Harrison Burton.

“I just wanted to win on an oval,” Allmendinger said. “There were definitely several opportunities in the Cup car to win on an oval, but it never worked out. I wanted to win on an oval that we really had to drive and get after it.”

Given that the starting lineup was determined by draw, it was not a good predictor of who would run well in the race. Gragson had won the draw but he led only five laps before Cindric, who started in eighth place took over the lead.

Cindric lost the lead briefly during the competition caution which began on lap 18 of the 163-lap race but he went on the win the first Stage at lap 40. After the restart, he continued to lead the race until the end of the second Stage. This time, Briscoe beat him out of the pits and he continued in charge until the fifth caution flew on lap 99. Michael Annett took the lead by not pitting this time – but Briscoe cycled back into the lead when the track went green again, leading another 24 laps.

It looked like one of Briscoe or Cindric was destined to win this race but then calamity struck when the sixth and final caution came on lap 126. Front-runners Briscoe, Cindric and Justin Allgaier were all hit with a penalty for speeding entering the pit lane and sent to the rear of the lead-lap line of cars – back in 24th, 25th and 26th places.

When the track went green again on lap 129, they soon made up a lot of positions with Allgaier up to eighth and Briscoe in tenth by lap 143. Cindric, not so well, he could never make up the lost ground and he finished the race in 16th place.

Allmendinger who had been running in fifth place before this happened, now had the lead over Gragson. Much as there was disbelief that he could pull off the win, he held on to take the checker by a two-second margin over Gragson. Gragson did not need to cry about this; he was the highest-placed finisher eligible for the special Dash-for-Cash bonus given by Xfinity and he went home $100,000 richer.

“We had a good run today,” Gragson said. “Man, I ate AJ’s bait there at the end. He started saving his tires and thought he had burnt his tires up. Just got beat by his experience. He’s a phenomenal driver.”

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity Series Echo Park 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

The next Xfinity race is scheduled for next Saturday, June 13 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway

 PHOTO NGROTS AMS Enfinger 060620Grant Enfinger crosses the finish line to win the Vet Tix Camping World 200 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Vet Tix Camping World 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Enfinger wins in overtime

Atlanta, GA, June 6/20 (GRW): Grant Enfinger was the surprise winner of the NGROTS race which was the first half of the Saturday double-header here at Atlanta. On the final caution, which took the race into overtime, he had come out of the pits in eighth place – but, when the green flag came out, he jumped forward from the third row and he quickly passed Austin Hill for the lead. When the checker flew two laps later, he still had the lead a mere 0.215 seconds ahead of Hill but it was good enough for the race win. Enfinger had won previously this year at the season-opening race at Daytona.

"It was definitely wild that’s for sure,’’ said Enfinger, who started sixth on that final two-lap green flag run. "We didn’t lead too many laps, but we led the ones that counted. ... We didn’t have everything we needed to make a real run at those guys, Chase [Elliott] and Kyle [Busch] there for the long run, but I do think we were decent, but on the short run, I knew if it came right down to it and we could get a good restart we could make it happen. Fortunately we got a good restart.’’

The race had looked like being a rerun of the previous one at Charlotte in which Chase Elliott held off Kyle Busch for the win. The rookie Christian Eckles started from the pole based on a draw but he led for only 11 laps before Kyle Busch, who had drawn the sixth-place starting position took over. Eckes regained the lead on lap 16 of the scheduled 130-lap race after the competition caution on 16 but Busch overpowered him after a few more laps and he went on to win the first Stage which ended at lap 30.

Four trucks, including Elliott, did not pit this time and, on the restart, Busch was in second place behind Elliott – shades of Charlotte the week before. But, by lap 50, Busch had regained the race lead. Elliott had just retaken the lead when the fourth yellow came on lap and then he pitted handing the lead back to Busch. Busch had skipped this round of pit stops while Elliott had stopped and had fallen back to tenth when it went green again. This left Busch set up to win the second Stage which came six laps later – although, given that he is ineligible for points or the championship in this series, winning a Stage is of no real value to him.

Ross Chastain had the lead coming off this end-of-Stage round of pit stops and he led for 17 laps before Busch reasserted himself back into the lead. He continued to lead until he pitted on lap 97 during a round of green-flag pit stops, handing the lead over to Elliott until he too pitted a lap later. But now, as Busch was trying to work his way through lapped traffic back into the lead, he swung high to pass another truck but the gap closed and he hit the wall. He had to pit to have his damaged truck repaired and he went down a couple laps – and out of contention for the win as the laps counted down.

This left Austin Hill in the lead battling with Chastain and Elliott. Now Elliott spun, on lap 127; he fell a lap down and out of contention. The resulting caution set up the overtime restart – which saw Enfinger beat Hill to the checker.

Raphael Lessard, the young Quebecker, had started in 19th place and he was running in tenth place when the overtime green flew but a tire rub dropped him to 18th place at the checker.

Click HERE for the results of the NGROTS Vet Tix Camping World 200 at Atlanta

The next NGROTS race will be held on June 13 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, another double-header with the Xfinity race the same day.

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