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Everything That Happened In The Cup Race At Atlanta

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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What’s Happening?

When NASCAR first released the 2024 Cup Series schedule, it raised some eyebrows that two superspeedway races were slated to start off the year. After a miserably long Daytona 500 weekend, the cars took to the high banks and significantly tighter corners of Atlanta Motor Speedway. How did your favorite driver do in the second of six superspeedway races of 2024? Let’s break it down. Here is everything that happened in the 2024 spring Atlanta Cup race.

You Need To Know:

  • After two races yesterday that were fairly uneventful, many were wondering how the Cup race would go. Would it be more of the same with a train running the top and no one being able to make a move or would it be a complete wreck fest? Well, it didn’t take long to get the answer with a massive wreck (the largest in Atlanta History) occurring on Lap 2. For the most part, things quieted down for the remainder of the first stage, save for a couple of single-car spins.
  • The second stage was significantly tamer with the only incident causing a caution happening on the final lap of the stage. The stage officially ended under caution.
  • After two long weekends of superspeedway racing, fans are looking forward to a return to normalcy heading into Vegas next week. Superspeedway racing is and can be fun but starting the year off with two back-to-back gives fans a feeling of oversaturation.

Logano To The Rear

The driver of the No. 22 PENSKE Ford, Joey Logano, received a penalty following qualifying on Saturday. The reason for this was a webbing in his driver’s glove, making it almost like a baseball mitt. NASCAR deemed this to be an illegal modification and hit Logano with a penalty. The penalty handed out was that Joey Logano had to forfeit his starting position, moving him to the rear, and, once the green flag flew, he was to serve a pass-through penalty.

Luckily for Logano, a massive crash transpired on Lap 2 as he was serving his pass-through. He did not lose a lap.

Early Big One Collects Dillon, Bowman, Gragson, and More

All heck broke loose on the second lap of the race. It started up front with Todd Gilliland in the No. 38 checking up to let his Front Row Racing teammate, Michael McDowell, in line. This caused a massive stack-up in the top lane and, as the cars headed into turn 1, Austin Dillon in the No. 3 got turned by Martin Truex Jr. As Dillon slid down the track into on-coming traffic, other cars checked up to avoid him including Bubba Wallace who also got tagged from behind. From there, calamity ensued. Involved in the carnage were the aforementioned drivers as well as Noah Gragson, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Josh Williams, Tyler Reddick, Chase Elliott, and Carson Hocevar, among others.

The only driver who retired from this incident was the No. 16 of Josh Williams. Christopher Bell was put on the damaged vehicle clock and, after meeting minimum speed, was allowed to go to the garage to make repairs.

Dustin Albino reported that Dillon came on the radio to lament about his bad luck bleeding into 2024.

Gragson came down pit road to make repairs but still had some work to do.

As Dustin Albino reports, this is the largest wreck in the history of Atlanta Motor Speedway with a total of 16 cars collected in the incident.

Chris Buescher Goes Around

With just over 30 laps to go in the first stage, a single-car incident occurred as driver of the No. 17 RFK Ford, Chris Buescher got loose and went around all on his own. It was amazing that he didn’t get hit. After he spun, he pitted, committing a commitment line violation. He was forced to restart at the tail end of the longest line on the next restart.

In the clip below, provided by NASCAR on FOX, you can see how William Byron somehow missed a spinning Chris Buescher.

Denny Hamlin Goes Around

The third caution of the day came out just as the field crossed the start/finish line to take 10 to go in stage 1. Denny Hamlin, who was on the outside in the corner came down the track, sliding across the nose of Kyle Busch in the No. 8. This sent Hamlin around, sliding through the infield grass. Fortunately for the No. 11 team, there was no damage to the FedEx Toyota save for some flat-spotted tires.

Here’s a replay of the contact made which sent the No. 11 around.

After Scoring His First Career Pole, Michael McDowell Wins Stage 1

After a series of comers and goers up front early, Michael McDowell restarted his No. 34 Ford in first with two laps to go in the stage. He was able to hold off the field to win the first stage in Atlanta. This stage win comes on the heels of McDowell scoring the first pole win of his career. He also managed to qualify his Front Row Motorsports machine on the front row of the 2024 running of the Daytona 500 last week.

In the offseason, Front Row Motorsports switched their alliance from RFK Racing to Team Penske. This new partnership seems to be very fruitful for FRM thus far.

Byron, McDowell Tangle During Green Flag Pit Stops

Green flag pit stops at Atlanta Motor Speedway are designed to be hairy. Teams are to enter pit road on the backstretch at 90 miles-per-hour and then drop down to 45 when filling onto pit road proper on the frontstretch. With drivers slowing down at different rates it means that contact is bound to happen. That was exactly what happened when it came to the 24 of Daytona 500 Champion William Byron and the 34 of Michael McDowell. The two made contact, sending McDowell into the inside wall.

Here is a video of the incident. No caution flag was displayed, making for a very long amount of time spent on pit road for these two drivers which is devastating at Atlanta.

Joey Logano Crashes As Penske Teammate Cindric Takes The Stage

After a clean cycle of green flag pit stops, Austin Cindric, who was low on fuel, led with one lap to go in Stage 2. As the pack swarmed down the backstretch, the No. 17 of Chris Buescher received a huge push from Denny Hamlin. As Logano moved up the track to block, the hole had closed and Buescher was there. Logano turned nose-first into the wall, cramming the No. 17 up against the SAFER barrier as well. As Hamlin checked up, he also spun and the caution was waived. Officially, Stage 2 ends under caution.

Logano was toed back to his pit stall and placed on the damaged vehicle repair clock. Hamlin was able to continue on as was Chris Buescher.

The winner of Stage 2 is Austin Cindric. Cindric was fast last weekend at Daytona and he showed today that he can still find his way to the front at these superspeedway-style tracks. The 2022 Daytona 500 champ is hoping to bounce back in a big way in 2024 after an abysmal sophomore slump in ’23.

Trouble for Kaz Grala

Early on in the third and final stage, Kaz Grala, after a 1-week attempt with Front Row Motorsports, went for a spin after clashing with Kyle Busch in the No. 8. Busch was a lap down and was racing aggressively to be the first car on the lead lap. He drove hard into the corner, squeezing Grala up which caused the No. 15 Rick Ware car to get loose. He lost control and went spinning. Somehow, a bigger pileup didn’t happen as Grala was the only car involved in the incident.

Elliott Gets Chastained

Adding to an eventful race, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott, got tagged by Ross Chastain in turn 2 with just over 60 laps to go. The Hooters No. 9 went around, somehow without making contact, and the caution was waived. Elliott’s battered HMS car was hard-charging towards the front, keeping his head held high after being caught up in several incidents on the day, none of which were his doing.

You can watch the No. 9 go around in the video clip below. #ThanksRoss!

Intense, 4-Wide Racing And Trouble For Larson, Keselowski, and Lajoie

Approaching 40 laps to go, there were a lot of daring moves being made, resulting in mindboggling 4-wide racing for the lead. After a couple of hairy moments and some masterful driving by the likes of Martin Truex Jr., the field went back to two-by-two racing but the tension remained.

Just behind the leader, Brad Keselowski got loose and into the wall, leaving Kyle Larson and Corey LaJoie nowhere to go. They stacked up against the wall, Larson receiving heavy damage on the right front of his No. 5 HendrickCars.com. LaJoie was able to continue relatively unscathed but both Larson and Keselowski pitted, going several laps down.

Briscoe Suffers Hard Hit With 20 to Go; Collects Hamlin

As the laps wound down to 20 to go, four-wide racing sent Chase Briscoe’s No. 14 SHR car around. As he turned down into traffic, he got tagged by Denny Hamlin, who also suffered heavy damage, and went straight up dead-first into the outside SAFER barrier, effectively ending his race. Narrowly avoiding this incident was Briscoe’s teammate, Josh Berry, who somehow had come back from two pit road speeding penalties under green to race inside the top 10.

Due to debris on the track from Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota Camry, the race was put under the red flag with 19 laps remaining. You can watch the incident here:

Our very own Paige Martin was at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend and she snapped this awesome photograph of Denny Hamlin’s mangled car.

Fan Favs Berry and Elliott Have Trouble Late

With under 20 laps to go, Josh Berry and Chase Elliott got caught up in an incident when the No. 23 of Bubba Wallace checked up in the high line. This caused Berry to get off the throttle when the air sucked him around. He body-slammed hard into Carson Hocevar, causing the No. 77 to leap up into the air and breaking a toe link in Berry’s No. 4. Chase Elliott drove deep down onto the apron to avoid the crash and ended up going around in the process. There was no major damage to Elliott’s Hooters No. 9 but Berry’s broken toe link took him out of the race.

You can watch the whole ordeal unfold here:

And Your Winner In Hotlanta Is…

With 5 laps to go, the race restarted and Blaney shot to the lead. As the laps ticked down it would appear that the No. 12 had it in the bag as he was able to hold them all at bay, blocking both lines. However, on the last lap with a huge run for Kyle Busch and the No. 99 of Daniel Suarez, the race ended in a photo finish of what was likely the closest finish in Atlanta Motor Speedway history. Initially, we didn’t know for certain who the winner was but it came down between Blaney and Daniel Suarez. The finish then went under review and moments later, NASCAR made the call that the No. 99 Trackhouse Chevy for Daniel Suarez was the 2024 spring Atlanta race winner!

Watch this amazing, barn burner of a finish here:

In The Stands

Ryan Grogan dogs on Todd Gilliland for causing that incident. Well, if he hadn’t checked up, it wouldn’t have happened but come on, he’s a rookie.

Lenny D. comments on this frustrating weekend, questioning if this is the new norm NASCAR has been striving for.

Jacob begged for a red flag to be thrown so they wouldn’t have to ride under the green flag for so long, burning laps.

On a post on NASCAR on FOX’s X page reporting Michael McDowell had won the first stage, FlatTire comments that we’ll probably never know who winds the second or third because FOX will be having a full-screen commercial break. This criticism comes after Denny Hamlin spun during a break, prompting a caution.

NASCAR on FOX posted this clip of a fan’s reaction to the Logano incident which ended Stage 2. This was the worst thing that could have happened to Logano’s legion of fans.

Me neither, Francisco. Me neither.

The Steve Phelps parody account comments that this will overshadow Harvick’s Atlanta highlight. Probably and it should! It’s pretty cool that Kevin Harvick himself got to call this historic moment!

It was SUPER close! 0.003 seconds!

Brendon Luce says that he’s going to tell his kids that this was the movie Cars. What a great idea!

Reminiscent of another impossible finish…

On Your Screen

Our friends from the NASCAR Weekly Podcast took to X to comment on this HISTORIC and great race finish!

Out of the Groove’s Eric Estepp exclaims that it’s A TIE!!!!

DannyB claims that this was the great finish EVER!!!

Darian Gilliam of Black Flags Matter agrees, saying that this was the GREATEST finish in NASCAR history!

From The Pressbox

Dogleg Media host and The Daily Downforce’s very own, Matt Smith, took to X (formally Twitter) to comment on the ridiculous green flag pit cycle occurring in Stage 2.

As reported by Trey Ryan, this was the 3rd closest finish in NASCAR history!

Weekend Recap

With the second regular season race weekend officially in the books, catch up on everything that went down this weekend. You can read everything that happened in Saturday night’s Xfinity Series race here:

And you can read about what went down in Saturday’s Truck race here:

Conclusion

The second race weekend of 2024 is officially in the books! Daily Downforce readers, how do you think this weekend went as a whole? What about this race? What do you make of that barnburner of a finish!? Let us know on all of our social media platforms! A BIG congratulations to Daniel Suarez for winning this awesome race! The No. 99 is in the playoffs, baby!!!

Be sure to keep it right here at DailyDownforce.com throughout the week for all the storylines heading into Vegas and the fallout from Hotlanta!

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts