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NASCAR Xfinity at Atlanta: Kyle Busch punts his teammate aside for the win; his final race in Xfinity Series

Atlanta, GA, July 10/21 (by John Davison): Except for a push to help his teammate Daniel Hemric, that went bad, Kyle Busch would not have a perfect five-for-five season in NASCAR's Xfinity series for 2021 and an amazing 102 series victories in his career. Instead, an overtime restart with Hemric leading shoved the No. 18 Toyota slightly sideways, bumping into AJ Allmendinger's car and into the wall, ending his chances for a first career series win. "That wasn't supposed to happen," Busch was reported to say on the team radio.

He went on to score his fifth – and final win, as NASCAR rules prevent him from running any additional Xfinity races this season. Earlier in the day, Busch tweeted that the race would mark the end of his Xfinity career and in post-race interviews, he seemed to confirm that.

Before the race started, the driver of the No. 1 Camaro. Michael Annett, was withdrawn from the race, citing ongoing effects of a leg injury and the team scrambled to find a driver. Austin Dillon got the call and, wearing Annett's fire suit, started the race. The call was made on such short notice that he asked who his spotter and crew chief were. He went on to finish eleventh after having to start last due to the driver substitution. Annett had also sat out the Truck Series at Knoxville the night before.

After starting on the pole, Busch went on to win both Stages on the slick track after leading 97 laps, with only Hemric close at 45 laps led.

"I wanted to push him," said Busch. "I wanted to hit him, Obviously I wanted to hit him forward and straight…. Trying to help a teammate there.

"I'm sorry to Daniel and all that transpired," he added. "I wish it was in better circumstances."

Asked about the final Xfinity series race, he commented, "Never say never, but yeah, this is it."

Kaulig Racing’s Jeb Burton finished second to Busch by 0.550 seconds, followed by JR Motorsports driver Noah Gragson, who was leading the field to green after a caution period in the middle of the race only to have to drop into the pits to repair a punctured tire just before a restart. He was 31st at the time and rallied all the way to third. It was his best showing since a runner-up finish at Martinsville in early April – 12 races ago.

Burton’s Kaulig teammate Justin Haley finished fourth and Ty Dillon earned his best showing of the season with a fifth-place run.

Series points leader Austin Cindric had an unusual race, dropping well back in the field and needing major adjustments on the car but recovered to finish in tenth place, commenting: "Between being the last one on old tires and everything we went through for today -- not even close in our Mustang. Unfortunately, that was the position we were in last time we were here and came with a new setup and tried to make things work today and we found ourselves in about the same position or maybe worse. I know there's a lot we'll learn from today and definitely do a lot of self-reflecting to make sure I can create a better environment affect like this, but just really unfortunate. Like I said, I think we minimized damage there at the end. Probably the highlight of my day was the middle of five on the restart by my doing and gaining spots from it, so we'll move on.

"I think we were only going to go forward from where we started in the race, so I appreciate Brian and the guys sticking with me. I did the same for them and probably got a maximized result out of it."

The next Xfinity race will be held next Saturday, July 17 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway near Loudon, NH.

• Click HERE for the Race Results


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