William Byron Punches His Ticket to Round of 8

Jackson Wheeler
14 Min Read


William Byron might want to consider changing his first name to Johnny—as in Johnny on the Spot—because Byron certainly lived up to that moniker, being in the right place at the right time, taking the lead with just six laps to go to win Sunday’s Auto Trader EchoPark Automotive 400.

Byron jumped out to the lead on a restart following a multi-car crash with 12 laps to go (involved included Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, A.J. Allmendinger, Austin Cindric and Tyler Reddick, among others), which followed Kyle Larson’s solo crash with 18 laps to go that helped put Byron in contending position.

When the green flag signaled the restart with six laps to go, Byron jumped to the front and held off eventual runner-up Ross Chastain and third-place finisher Bubba Wallace to earn a series-leading sixth win of the year and punch his ticket into the Round of 8 semifinal round of the Cup playoffs.

“Man, that’s badass,” Byron said. “I finally got a good restart at the end. … Kyle (Larson) really deserved this one. Those guys were fast all day and I hated it for them at the end. We just fought through traffic all day.

“This was one of those hot days felt like when I used to play football and going through two-adays and wanting to quit. It was a grind-it-out day. I’m really proud of this one, as hot as it was and as tough as it was.”

Indeed, it was extremely hot – in fact, it was the hottest race ever held at Texas Motor Speedway. Fans sat in temperatures of 101-plus degrees in mid-afternoon, drivers endured temps that ranged as high as 124 degrees in their race cars, and the track temperature was reported to be 141 degrees when the green flag dropped.

nascar cup series autotrader echopark automotive 400

William Byron sees his name added to the Wall of Champions at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chris Graythen//Getty Images

By winning Sunday’s race and clinching his berth into the third round of the playoffs, Byron, who has never reached the Championship 4 final round in his career, doesn’t need to worry about the next two races in the Round of 12: next Sunday at Talladega and the following Sunday on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval road course.

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“We’ve been steady in the first 3-4 races, and haven’t shown any flashes, but today I thought we had a good car if we could just get to the front,” Byron said.

In taking the checkered flag for the sixth time in this season’s first 30 Cup races – meaning he’s won once an average of every five races thus far – Byron also achieved a high honor, earning the 300th Cup Series win for team owner Rick Hendrick.

“I don’t know if I could put it in words,” Byron said. “I’m just thankful for all the men and women back at Hendrick Motorsports and Mr. Hendrick’s investment in me. We’re going to enjoy this one.”

But as much as Byron and Team Hendrick enjoyed Sunday’s win, four other drivers did not, including one significant surprise.

Pole sitter Bubba Wallace finished a strong third and led 111 laps. But while all that sounds good, Wallace still finds himself outside the cutoff line to advance to the Round of 8 semifinals by two points.

“I just hate it,” Wallace said of Byron being able to pass him for the lead. “I should have just kept my line into (Turn) 3, but William (Byron) got tight and you’re still vulnerable in these cars, right?

“I’m just upset with myself. We really needed a win there. We had a good showing, but I really don’t care. I know what I did and I choked.”

nascar cup series autotrader echopark automotive 400

Kyle Larson was in the mix until sidelined by a late crash.

Sean Gardner//Getty Images

Late Crash Wipes Out Solid Effort by Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson had a strong outing in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, only to be spoiled by a crash with 18 laps to go.

Larson appeared to have the edge to win the event. With only inches apart between himself and Bubba Wallace, while there was no contact between the pair, the rear of Larson’s Chevrolet came around on him, spinning and hit the wall hard, first with the rear of his car and then spun around to hit the front end.

“These cars aren’t like the old ones, you don’t really get sucked around like that,” Larson said. “I wasn’t really expecting it and thought I would be fine. We just went in there side-by-side and I lost it really quickly and crashed. I’m pretty bummed.”

Indeed, being the last driver still to the good in the points, albeit with just a two-point margin above the cutline, Larson now finds himself perhaps not in a must-win situation in the next two races to advance to the third round, but certainly close to it.

“We’ll go to Talladega, try to have a good day and get some good fortune and have a good race,” he said with a tone of hope in his voice.

nascar cup series autotrader echopark automotive 400

Kyle Busch is below the Playoff cutline after a 34th-place finish at Texas.

Jonathan Bachman//Getty Images

Kyle Busch Find Back to the Wall

Two-time NASCAR Cup champion (2015, 2019) Kyle Busch finds himself in significant danger of not being able to advance to the Round of 8 for the third straight season.

Busch is last on the bubble after Sunday’s race at Texas, being a seemingly distant 17 points below the cutline to advance to the upcoming semifinal round.

With about 10 laps to go in the first stage, Busch complained over his team radio that his car wasn’t handling right. But crew chief Randall Burnett told Busch to stay the course and try to finish the stage before coming in to fix whatever the problem Busch perceived he was having. Busch agreed, but ultimately would wind up second-guessing himself.

Unfortunately for Busch, Burnett and Richard Childress Racing, two laps later Busch’s No. 8 spun and hit the wall, ending his day with 34th-place finish and sealing a terrible day for RCR (teammate Austin Dillon finished last in the 36-car field after wrecking earlier in the opening stage).

“I felt like I had a flat right front,” Busch said. “I was going to come to pit road and I second-guessed it and I said I don’t think so. Something was wrong, something’s not right, but it wasn’t flat.

“All on its own, it turned into the bottom of the racetrack in Turn 1, it just swapped ends on me. That’s the rear, not the front, having grip. I just don’t know. I felt like our car was for sure a top-5, top-10 car today.”

Busch then made a slightly-veiled request soliciting suggestions on how he could improve his fortune going forward.

“It seems like every time I try, something happens, I crash or whatever,” he quipped. “I don’t know what to do. If somebody wants to tell me what to do, I’m all ears.”

nascar cup series autotrader echopark automotive 400

Denny Hamlin is still firmly in the championship picture after a fifth-place finish.

Sean Gardner//Getty Images

Notes, Etc.

What teammates? Midway through the first stage, Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin were involved in an incident on pit road. Hamlin pulled out of his pit stall and promptly into Gibbs’ left fender. Gibbs’ car suffered just minor damage, while Hamlin’s car suffered significant damage on the right side, but he was able to continue in the race. Gibbs would wind up in a wreck late in the opening stage that ended his day with a 33rd-place finish, while Hamlin kept things together to finish fifth. … The NASCAR On NBC broadcast team (the race was televised on the USA Network) paid tribute to Sherry Pollex, longtime partner of Martin Truex Jr., who died nearly a week ago after fighting a lengthy and courageous battle with ovarian cancer. She was 44 years old.

Results

NASCAR Cup Series AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400

at Texas Motor Speedway

1. (18) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 267.

2. (5) Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 267.

3. (1) Bubba Wallace (P), Toyota, 267.

4. (9) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 267.

5. (10) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.

6. (22) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.

7. (3) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 267.

8. (8) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 267.

9. (24) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 267.

10. (31) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 267.

11. (29) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 267.

12. (14) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.

13. (28) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 267.

14. (2) Chris Buescher (P), Ford, 267.

15. (17) Michael McDowell, Ford, 267.

16. (19) Carson Hocevar(i), Chevrolet, 267.

17. (16) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.

18. (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267.

19. (26) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

20. (30) Harrison Burton, Ford, 267.

21. (20) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.

22. (34) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 267.

23. (25) Ryan Preece, Ford, 267.

24. (33) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 267.

25. (15) Tyler Reddick (P), Toyota, 267.

26. (27) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 262.

27. (32) Austin Cindric, Ford, Accident, 261.

28. (23) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, Accident, 258.

29. (6) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 255.

30. (12) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 255.

31. (11) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, DVP, 248.

32. (35) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, Accident, 241.

33. (4) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, Accident, 77.

34. (7) Kyle Busch (P), Chevrolet, DVP, 73.

35. (36) Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 52.

36. (13) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 40.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 123.569 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 14 Mins, 28 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.863 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 11 for 55 laps.

Lead Changes: 22 among 13 drivers.

Lap Leaders: B. Wallace (P) 1-38;A. Allmendinger 39;A. Bowman 40;T. Dillon 41-43;C. Elliott (P) 44;B. Wallace (P) 45-57;R. Chastain (P) 58;B. Wallace (P) 59-76;C. Buescher (P) 77-78;T. Reddick (P) 79-114;J. Yeley(i) 115;B. Wallace (P) 116-142;K. Larson (P) 143-167;E. Jones 168;A. Cindric 169;K. Larson (P) 170;E. Jones 171;K. Larson (P) 172-210;E. Jones 211;J. Yeley(i) 212;K. Larson (P) 213-246;B. Wallace (P) 247-261;W. Byron (P) 262-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Bubba Wallace (P) 5 times for 111 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 4 times for 99 laps; Tyler Reddick (P) 1 time for 36 laps; William Byron (P) 1 time for 6 laps; Erik Jones 3 times for 3 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 3 laps; JJ Yeley(i) 2 times for 2 laps; Chris Buescher (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Austin Cindric 1 time for 1 lap; AJ Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap; Alex Bowman 1 time for 1 lap; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Ross Chastain (P) 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 45,17,20,24,34,9,12,14,11,23

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,43,11,12,17,9,6,1,23,99

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on X (formerly Twitter) at @JerryBonkowski

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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