William Byron picks up his second NASCAR win of the season

William Byron holds off Christopher Bell for the win at NASCAR’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA

AUSTIN, TX – William Byron started on the pole. He finished in Victory Lane.

William Byron takes the lead on the first lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at COTA. Photo by David Barks.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver won NASCAR’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix Cup race at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Sunday in Austin, TX.

It was Byron’s second win of the season (he also won at Daytona) and 12th of his Cup career.

It was also the Hendrick team’s 28th win on NASCAR road courses, the most of any Cup team.

Byron, a 26-year-old Charlotte native, had the car to beat all afternoon, leading 43 of the race’s 68 laps over the 3.41-mile (231.88 total miles), 20-turn road course, but he had to hold off a final lap challenge from Christopher Bell to secure a 0.692-second win.

“I feel like I made a lot of mistakes in the last 10 laps, just micro errors and Christopher [Bell] was really fast there on the longer run,’’ said Byron. “This sport is so hard and so difficult week in and week out to show up and have fast cars. We’ve had a little bit of a rough stretch the last few weeks but put a lot of preparation in this past week and just thankful for the team I have around me and all the people back home as well.

“I never saw him make a mistake, which is what it was going to take to win today in the closing laps because Bell had the faster car with the fresher tires. Any big lockup into a corner, I think it would have been a different outcome,” said Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon. “A lot of credit to William in doing that great job. Takes the whole team, the pit crew, everybody. They’re truly on quite a run here to start this season off. Can’t wait to see where they take it next.

Christopher Bell heads to the finish line during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at COTA. Bell finished second. Photo by David Barks.

“Just super thankful to have this opportunity. It’s just a lot of fun to win races and it’s really difficult too.’’

“Obviously once I got to him, it was going to be tough to pass him, I just needed a couple mistakes, but William has been really good on the road courses and he was flawless today,’’ said Bell.

The race had 12 lead changes among seven drivers.

While Bell led far more laps than any other racer (Ross Chastain led 10 laps and Bell nine), he was hounded by Bell and Bell’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ty Gibbs all afternoon.

Bell led the first 13 laps before heading to the pits before the end of Stage 1.

Gibbs and Bell were second and third, respectively the entire time.

Bell stayed out to grab an easy Stage 1 win, with Daniel Suarez second a whopping 19 seconds back.

Also getting Stage 1 points, finishing third through 10th, were Michael McDowell, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Byron, Gibbs, Tyler Reddick, and Chastain.

Ty Gibbs heads to the finish line during Sunday’s Cup race at COTA. Gibbs finished third. Photo by David Barks.

At the beginning of Stage 2, Byron passed Bell for the lead two laps after the restart and was hounded by Gibbs, Reddick, Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman, and Bell.

Bell dropped back to 34th when he finally hit pit road on Lap 26, and when Byron hit the pits just before Stage 2 ended, it opened the door for Denny Hamlin to grab the stage win, followed by Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Todd Gilliland, Ryan Preece, Brad Keselowski, John Hunter Nemechek, Byron, Daniel Hemric, and Josh Berry.

After pit stops during the stage break, Byron, who stayed out on the track, was back in first for the restart.

The battle for first got intense as Chastain moved up front, Byron won it back, then Gibbs got by to lead for one lap, and then Bell and Truex took short turns up front before Byron reasserted his dominance to lead the final 18 laps.

Bell’s team had him pit later than everyone else and that gave him fresher tires at the end.

After falling back to 10th place when he pitted on Lap 49, Bell moved up five spots on his first lap back on the track.

He was in fourth place with 10 laps to go, moved up to third with seven to go, and got past Gibbs for second place for the final two laps.

He cut Byron’s lead from 1.718 seconds down to almost nothing on the final lap but ran out of real estate before he could catch Byron for an upset victory.

“Christopher is really good. It seems like when he gets a taste of the win, at the end he turns it up. I knew that last lap he was going to be pushing hard,” said Byron. “(Crew chief) Rudy (Fugle) gave me an idea of how much gap I had. I kind of did the math in my head coming off of turn one. If I don’t mess up, I think I’m going to be fine. But yeah, he was pushing hard.”

Gibbs finished third – his fifth Top 10 finish in the year’s first six races – followed by Alex Bowman, last year’s COTA winner Reddick, AJ Allmendinger, Chastain, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, and Truex.

The race featured a lot of door banging and several spin-outs but no cautions for on-track incidents. The two Cautions called at the end of Stages 1 and 2 were the only times the yellow flags flew.

Next on the NASCAR schedule is the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on Sunday night.

NASCAR Cup Series Race – EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix
Circuit of The Americas
Austin, Texas
Sunday, March 24, 2024

Statistics provided by NASCAR

1. William Byron, Chevrolet, 68 laps completed.
2. Christopher Bell, Toyota, 68.
3. Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 68.
4. Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 68.
5. Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 68.
6. AJ Allmendinger (i), Chevrolet, 68.
7. Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 68.
8. Chris Buescher, Ford, 68.
9.  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 68.
10. Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 68.
11. Joey Logano, Ford, 68.
12. Ryan Blaney, Ford, 68.
13. Chase Briscoe, Ford, 68.
14. Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 68.
15. Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 68.
16. Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 68.
17. Justin Haley, Ford, 68.
18. Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 68.
19. Austin Cindric, Ford, 68.
20. Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 68.
21. Shane Van Gisbergen (i), Chevrolet, 68.
22. John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 68.
23. Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 68.
24. Ryan Preece, Ford, 68.
25. Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 68.
26. Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 68.
27. Todd Gilliland, Ford, 68.
28. Kaz Grala #, Ford, 68.
29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 68.
30. Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota, 68.
31. Harrison Burton, Ford, 68.
32. Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 68.
33. Erik Jones, Toyota, 68.
34. Brad Keselowski, Ford, 68.
35. Noah Gragson, Ford, 67.
36. Josh Berry #, Ford, 67.
37. Timmy Hill (i), Ford, 66.
38. Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 66.
39. Michael McDowell, Ford, Steering, 51.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 85.224 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 43 Mins, 15 Secs.

Margin of Victory: 0.692 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 2 for 4 laps.
Lead Changes: 11 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: W. Byron 1-12;C. Bell 13-19;W. Byron 20-28;D. Hamlin 29-31;W. Byron 32-33;R. Chastain 34-43;W. Byron 44;T. Gibbs 45;T. Reddick 46;C. Bell 47-48;M. Truex Jr. 49-50;W. Byron 51-68.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): William Byron 5 times for 42 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 10 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 9 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 3 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 2 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 1 lap; Ty Gibbs 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 20,99,34,2,3,47,24,54,45,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,12,19,38,41,6,42,24,31,4

Like our stories? Share them online.