William Byron locked in to the NASCAR Cup Round of 8

William Byron (24) takes the checkered flag to win Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

Hendrick Motorsports picks up 300th career Cup Series victory

FORT WORTH, Tx – Rick Hendrick Motorsports earned its record-extending 300th career victory in the NASCAR Cup Series as the 2023 playoffs heated up Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

While Hendrick’s driver Kyle Larson appeared headed to the victory, it was another Hendrick racer, William Byron, who won the race to the checkered flag.

William Byron celebrates his win in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

“It feels good to get to 300,” said Hendrick. “I’ve been thinking of this since we got to 269 to beat Petty’s record. I’m proud of all our drivers and all the people who contributed to each win.”

“It was a really good day, one of those days you knew it was going to be a grind from start to finish,” said Byron. “I thought it was Kylke’s day – he was lights of the best and we were right behind.

I finally got a good restart at the end. Just ooh, it was hot today. I think it’s finally hitting me. But No. 300 for Hendrick Motorsports. Kyle really deserved this one, got to say. Those guys were really fast all day, and hate it for them at the end.”

It was Byron’s sixth win on the season – a win that guarantees him a spot in the Round of 8.

Larson, who led 99 of the race’s 267 laps over the Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval, was involved in a late crash, and wound up 31st.

The Cup Series Round of 12 kicked off with the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 on a second straight day of record-setting heat.

Bubba Wallace (23) leads the field at the start of Cup Series playoff race in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by David Barks.

After Saturday’s Xfinity race set the all-time Speedway record of 99 degrees at the start of the race, Sunday’s Cup race topped that with a 100-degree temperature when the green flag flew.

Bubba Wallace was on the pole.

He was out front for most of the 85-lap Stage 1, but gave it up when the leaders went to the pits after the race’s fourth caution near the end of the 85-lap Stage 1.

Eight cars stayed out to get track position, putting Wallace in 11th place for a one-lap sprint to the end of Stage 1.

Tyler Reddick, Wallace’s 23XI Racing teammate, won the stage, with Wallace ending up 10th.

Reddick led Stage 2 until Corey LaJoie spun out, causing the day’s sixth, of 11, cautions.

After pit stops shuffled the field, Wallace, who eventually led a race-hgih111 laps, was back in front until Larson passed him on lap 143.

Larson easily raced to the win in Stage 2 and led 99 of the next 105 laps, only falling out of the top spot briefly during restarts.

After the ninth caution, Larson and Wallace restarted side-by-side and battled door-to-door for three laps until Larson got loose in Turn 1, his rear end came around, and he hit the wall coming out of Turn 2, ending his day in 31st place.

Ross Chastain (1) finishes second in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at the Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

After a six-car wreck, involving Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, Zane Smith, AJ Allmendinger, Reddick, and Carson Hocevar caused the day’s final caution, it set up a seven-lap race to the finish line.

Starting fourth, Byron and Ross Chastain got the jump on Wallace, Chase Briscoe, and Chase Elliott for his first and only lead of the day, beating Chastain to the checkered flag by 1.863=seconds, with Wallace third, followed by Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Briscoe.

“Man, it was awesome to get our car to the front,” said Byron. “I loved clean air. We just fought through traffic all day and our Liberty University Chevy was just tight back in traffic but had good pace. This was one of those hot days, it felt like I was playing football and went through two a days, just wanted to quit. It was a grind it out day and our team was there at the end. I’m really proud of this one as hot as it was and as tough as it was. We’ll take it and go on to the next round.”

“Early in the race I thought we were one of the best cars, and I wish we could have raced with those guys. We just worked our way back with taking four tires a lot, and some bad restarts on my side, but we had the speed, and we showed it all weekend,” said Chastain. “We did everything we needed to do, and at this race, if you follow the chart for running position is everything that the 1 team is about, and I love it.”

Bubba Wallace (red car) edges Christopher Bell (20) for third place in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race in Texas. Photo by David Barks.

“We’re racing for a win. I just hate it. I should have just kept my line into 3, and forced William to get tight. But we’re so vulnerable in these cars, right,” said Wallace. “But just upset with myself. Really needed a win there, and it was a good showing. I don’t know where that puts us. I don’t really care. But I know what I did and I choked.”

The Round of 12 continues next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

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