Kyle Busch won Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway in dominant fashion, leading 102 of the race’s 130 laps and finishing over four seconds ahead of second-place finisher Austin Hill.
Busch finished second in both stages to teammate John Hunter Nemechek, but couldn’t be touched by the competition during the final stint of the race as he cruised to his 60th win in the series.
After winning both stages, Nemechek finished third behind Busch and Hill. With his performance, Nemechek now has won five stage wins and has scored points in seven of the eight stages that the series has had so far in 2021.
Bill Lester, a former Camping World Truck Series driver who was making his first start since 2007, started 31st and finished 36th, seven laps down.
The race had eight lead changes between four drivers and was run under caution three times for a total of 16 laps.
Bristol Motor Speedway will host the next NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race for the first of two dirt races for the division. The race will air live on FS1 and MRN on Saturday, March 27 at 8 p.m. ET.
Stage 1 – 30 laps
John Hunter Nemechek led the field to the green flag with teammate and car owner Kyle Busch alongside, but Matt Crafton took the lead and led the race’s opening lap ahead of the two Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks. Crafton was passed for the lead on lap 4 by Busch for the lead, then quickly fell to fourth behind Nemechek and Austin Hill.
As Busch established his lead and began lapping trucks, two competitors were slicing their way through the field. Ross Chastain in the no. 44 and Brett Moffitt in the no. 45 started at the rear of the field and worked their way up to 16th and 17th, respectively, by the time the competition caution came out on lap 15.
Ben Rhodes came down pit road for tires, but there weren’t many other takers before the restart on lap 20.
Rhodes’ experiment to make up ground on fresh tires didn’t work as he never reached the top 10. At the front, Nemechek passed Busch for the lead with two laps to go and sailed away to win the stage.
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Nemechek, Busch, Hill, Stewart Friesen, Chastain, Derek Kraus, Crafton, Zane Smith, Sheldon Creed and Johnny Sauter.
Stage 2 – 30 laps
Unlike the previous caution, the stage-end yellow brought most of the field down pit road. Nemechek was first off pit road. Jordan Anderson didn’t take any tires and jumped up to second.
Nemechek led the field back to green as Anderson slid back through the field quickly on his old tires.
When the stage reached its halfway point, Busch took the lead back from Nemechek using the inside line in turns 3 and 4 and once again began to pull away from the field.
On the stage’s final lap, Busch and Nemechek again battled for the stage win. In turn 3, Nemechek was able to pass Busch and a lapped car to take his second stage win of the day.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Nemechek, Busch, Friesen, Hill, Chastain, Creed, Smith, Moffitt, Crafton and Kraus.
Race to the finish – 70 laps
Under the yellow to start the stage, the leaders came down pit road again. Busch took the lead back coming off pit road with Nemechek in second.
Busch led the restart on lap 68 with Nemechek and Hill’s Toyotas behind him. Another Toyota, that of Johnny Sauter, was rallying toward the front after the restart, moving to a race-high running position of fifth by lap 79.
The race was fairly calm as the green-flag run continued into the final stage’s halfway point. Busch now had a 2.5-second lead over Nemechek, who was being run down by Hill in third.
With just over 30 laps to go, drivers began to head to pit road for their final green-flag pit stops of the day. Second place changed hands during the cycle of stops as Hill was now running second to Busch, just over three seconds back of the no. 51.
Hill was unable to close the gap to Busch, who never faced a challenge by the field behind him in the final stage. Busch sailed smoothly to the race win, his first in the Truck Series of 2021.
Featured photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images