Blaney wins at Atlanta after Larson fades on old tires

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Ryan Blaney celebrates his win after a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Hampton, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

HAMPTON, Ga. – Ryan Blaney knew he had to let Kyle Larson go.

Patience was the key, especially on a day when Larson looked unbeatable.

In the end, Larson faded on an battered set of tires, and Blaney raced by him for an improbable victory Sunday.

“I was not going to be able to stick with him,” Blaney said. “I've got to save my tires ... and see what happens.”

Blaney became the sixth driver to win in six races to start NASCAR's Cup season, surging to the front with nine laps to go after Larson easily won the first two stages and led 269 of 325 laps on the 1.54-mile trioval.

Larson's tires didn't stand up to the punishing track after making his final pit stop with 56 laps to go.

Blaney stayed close enough to make his move, hugging the outside wall through the fourth turn and cutting to the inside to pass Larson as they crossed the line in front of the main grandstands.

Blaney pulled away to win by 2.083 seconds in his No. 12 Team Penske Ford, having gone just as long as Larson on the final set of tires but getting much more out of them.