Kyle Busch had 76 XFINITY Series to his credit entering Saturday’s Heads Up Georgia 250, but none at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Well, now he can cross that off his career checklist. Busch cruised to win No. 77 in the series, dominating the sunny day for his first XFINITY win at AMS. Kyle Larson tried to run Busch down in the closing laps, but was forced to settle for second.
"It certainly means a lot, just to accomplish some of the goals I have in the sport," Busch told FOX Sports in Victory Lane. "To come out here and do this today — to beat Kyle Larson at what must be one of his favorite tracks, where he can move all over the track and he’s really good. Just real proud of our team.
"This NOS Energy Drink Camry was really fast. It looks really good on the race track, too — and it looks even better in Victory Lane."
Larson tried desperately to close the gap toward the end of the race and closed to within .052 seconds with five laps to go before his drive to the front stalled. Larson was followed in the finishing order by Erik Jones, Paul Menard and Ty Dillon.
Busch, meanwhile, led 119 of the race’s 163 laps.
The only other drivers to lead any laps at all were Busch’s fellow Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski, who led 28 but was hurt by a 22-second pit stop at one point and ended up finishing sixth; and XFINITY regular Justin Allgaier, who led 15 laps and finished eighth.
Busch, who owns two Sprint Cup wins at the 1.5-mile Atlanta track, had finished second there in the XFINITY Series five times before winning Saturday.
"This is a pretty neat deal," Busch said. "I’m glad to get it out of the way and checked off the list."
In doing so, Busch shook off the disappointment of losing the Sprint Cup pole he thought he had won less than 24 hours earlier — only to have his Cup car fail post-qualifying inspection and the pole taken away.
Busch and Larson pulled away from the field after the final yellow flag. Larson closed the gap to about a half-second in the closing laps, but the rally ended when he got caught up briefly behind the lapped car of Ryan Preece.
Busch crossed the line 0.466 seconds ahead of Larson, then did his customary burnout and bow in front of the main grandstand.
"I actually thought that last run was going to be too long for our car, which was better for Larson’s car," Busch said. "But we made some adjustments on our car which definitely helped me on the front side of the run, maybe for the first 20 (laps of it). From there on until the end of the race, Larson was better than us and closing, closing, closing.
"But then I think he got caught in some lapped traffic and we were able to get away. They seemed to be really nice to me and maybe not so nice to him, so I really appreciate those guys."
Larson, however, said he didn’t think it would have made much difference if some of the lapped traffic that appeared to hold him up would have gotten out of the way faster.
"I definitely would have gotten closer to him, but it still would have been tough to pass him," Larson said. "He was saving his tires, I think, by running the bottom. I was running pretty hard up top. He definitely would have moved up in front of me in (Turns) 1 and 2 and it would have been difficult for me to get by him."