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NASCAR Cup Series

William Byron Tallies Late Race Texas Victory

William Byron earned a late race conquest of Texas. (Photo: John Arndt | The Podium Finish)

FORT WORTH, Texas — It was more than an automatic berth into the Round of 8 for William Byron and his No. 24 team.

Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway was the latest chance to score Hendrick Motorsports’ 300th NASCAR Cup Series win.

The storied stock car powerhouse team had two solid chances to win its tricentennial victory with Byron and Kyle Larson prime as can be in the 267-lap race. Early on, however, it was all about patience and survival in an action filled Stage 1.

Pole sitter Bubba Wallace led the opening 39 laps before the first round of green flag pit stops ensued. Once the cycle was completed, Austin Dillon lost his right rear wheel in Turn 3, slamming into the wall to bring out the caution on Lap 43.

Not long after, Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola tangled in Turn 2 to prompt another caution on Lap 50. A subsequent caution followed on Lap 55 when Todd Gilliland’s wheel came off on the backstretch.

Stage 1 offered more dramatics when Kyle Busch backed hard into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 75. Despite driving his battered car backwards to pit road, the damage was too much to overcome, resulting in a shocking early exit.

After the eventful incidents, Tyler Reddick, thanks to pit strategy, tallied a Stage 1 win with Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, William Byron and Michael McDowell rounding out the top five.

Save for Corey LaJoie’s Turn 2 accident on Lap 112, Stage 2 was the cleanest point of the race with Larson emerging as a dominant contender. Charging from the top 10 to the lead by Lap 143, Larson quickly asserted himself as a bonafide contender.

Kyle Larson tallied a Stage 2 win at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Larson tallied the Stage 2 win with Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Buescher tallying top five results. In fact, Larson would be assured to keep his pace at steady but meaningful pace by crew chief Cliff Daniels as Stage 3 kicked off.

For the balance of the race from Stage 2 to most of Stage 3, Larson looked like the man who would get the job done. However, the bottom dropped out for the 2021 Cup champion with 19 laps to go.

In the midst of a late race restart, Larson dueled with Wallace as he had in Stage 2. On this occasion, Larson got aero loose and slammed rear first into the Turn 1 wall, severely damaging the race’s dominant car.

Although Larson’s crew worked ardently to get the savagely damaged car back on track, the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP) clock time elapsed, relegating the Elk Grove, California native to a 31st place DNF.

“I think if I could just replay it again, I would just give more space into (Turn) 1 and race it out off the (Turn) 2 and eventually the bottom would have worn out,” Larson said. “So I was just trying to get it all too quickly and should’ve just worked for another corner.”

Before the plot resolved itself at Texas, more trouble latched itself onto Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, Zane Smith, AJ Allmendinger, Tyler Reddick and Carson Hocevar on Lap 257. This multi-car accident did not have Allmendinger mincing words.

“I just saw the 12 spun in front of me and I was probably going to hit him,” Allmendinger said. “But mind you, when we get it mowed down where I just kind of bounced off him and kept going, but I got hit from behind and that turned me straight up into the wall.

“That happens, especially the further you get back at a place like this… the tougher it gets. So just part of it.”

After the madness settled down, Wallace led the final restart on Lap 261 as he looked to lock himself into the Round of 8.

By all means, William Byron would not be denied at Texas. (Photo: John Arndt | The Podium Finish)

On this occasion, Byron decided to apply the spurs to his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL. Drawing even with Wallace, Byron made the decisive pass with a confident inside maneuver in Turn 3.

From that point onward, Byron delivered a victory that meant more than locking into the Round of 8. It was a victory for the ages for the No. 24 team and their teammates at the Concord, North Carolina campus.

Still, that does not diminish the fact that Byron does not have to fret over the Round of 12 any longer.

“Yeah, first off, just making the Round of 8 is an accomplishment in itself,” Byron said. “I think for us and where we are with our team, the Round of 16 is definitely would be a big disappointment not to make it through, but the Round of 12 is tough.

“You don’t really control your destiny at Talladega, and then the other two could go either way. You can have a good car, you can have a bad day and crash or whatever. That makes it nerve-racking in this round, so it’s always an accomplishment to get to the Round of 8. So excited about that.”

Those sentiments were echoed by crew chief Rudy Fugle, an instrumental catalyst in Byron’s stock car successes. From the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to today’s efforts in Cup, Fugle and Byron are a formidable pairing.

Fugle cleared the air for critics who pondered about the pace of the No. 24 since the start of the Playoffs.

“I just believe in this team no matter what,” Fugle said. “I don’t do social media. I don’t really read or watch any of that stuff. I don’t watch anything NASCAR really during the week, especially during the Playoffs. I’m busy enough as it is. I didn’t know anybody was saying that about us.

“I thought we had a decent round. Nobody had to talk about us good or bad and nobody talked about us on the cutline. That was our goal for the first round.”

Additionally, Fugle parlayed experiences to further fuel the No. 24 team’s seventh win of the 2023 season.

“I’ve been through a ton of different types of Playoff situations and rounds, one point and five points, in the trucks and won tons of championships every which way,” he said. “I have a way I want the team to do things, and we’re doing that, so that’s the main thing.

“William and I just always had a great relationship, and we can trust each other. We have each other’s back, and that just breeds into the whole team. That’s the key.”

About the second happiest individual leaving Texas was Ross Chastain. Following a somewhat quiet Round of 16, the Trackhouse Racing driver kicked off his Round of 12 efforts with a runner-up.

By all means, Ross Chastain was smooth and steady at Texas. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

“We have the speed,” Chastain said. “So to go and start the race as good as we did and then kind of work our way back, and then the two tire call, get the throttle issue figured out enough where I could really get after it, I felt like that we did everything right today when it mattered most. And that’s what matters.”

As for the winning team owner, Rick Hendrick considered the most important intangible for success.

“Well, you know, I’m in the automobile business and I started that exactly like the racing,” Hendrick said. “I had five or six employees of a little deal that was busted, and today we’ve got 11,000 employees and 100 dealerships. I don’t know how that happened, either, other than it’s people.

“The secret to any business you’re in is people. If you surround yourself with good people and take care of them, my top six guys in the automobile side have been with me a minimum of 25 years, and when I look at guys like Jeff Andrews and Randy Dorton — Randy Dorton had so much to do with building this organization because he was more than an engine builder.”

Hendrick expanded upon this by describing the familial atmosphere on and off campus.

“We attract good people, and we try to hire people and — we like to promote from within,” he said. “Chad (Knaus) started on the (No.) 24 car as a tire changer. Alan (Gustafson) has been with me, that’s the crew chief on the 9, he was an engineer with Gary DeHart. So our guys have kind of grown up in the company, and we’ve kind of got a character and a way they work together.

“It’s not easy to have four cars race each other, and tonight when I went out on the pavement to take a picture with all the teams, I felt for the other three guys because they wanted to win, but only one guy, and then I reminded them, all of you guys have contributed to 300. I mean, you’ve all — we wouldn’t have it without you.”

Similarly, Hendrick offered his thoughts on how he knows how to recruit the right personnel to further the growth of his 39-year-old stock car operation.

“I think any business that you’re in, it’s about people,” he said. “We take care of our people, and we treat everybody like a family. I grew up on a farm, and that’s one thing my dad taught me is you have to depend on your neighbors. I’ve had that philosophy all of my adult working life.

Byron echoed those sentiments in terms of the most memorable, impactful advice from Hendrick and how it has fueled his dream season.

It was a seventh victory for William Byron, NASCAR’s newest cowboy at Texas. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

“Win (No.) 300 and everything that Mr. H has meant to me in my career so far,” Byron said. “I don’t know if it’s one quote, but just how he values people and just how people make things go, and I think that I’ve always valued that because he’s taught us and instilled that in us.

“I think getting a good crew chief like Rudy and just getting people around me that believe in each other just makes all the difference.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Tyler Reddick
  2. Chris Buescher
  3. Christopher Bell
  4. William Byron
  5. Michael McDowell
  6. Chase Elliott
  7. Ryan Blaney
  8. Chase Briscoe
  9. Denny Hamlin
  10. Bubba Wallace
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Erik Jones
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Chris Buescher
  6. Chase Elliott
  7. Brad Keselowski
  8. Ross Chastain
  9. Bubba Wallace
  10. Daniel Suárez
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 18 24 William Byron Liberty University Chevrolet Running
2 5 1 Ross Chastain Worldwide Express Chevrolet Running
3 1 23 Bubba Wallace McDonald’s Toyota Running
4 9 20 Christopher Bell Interstate Batteries Toyota Running
5 10 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Toyota Running
6 22 4 Kevin Harvick Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Running
7 3 6 Brad Keselowski Ford Running
8 8 99 Daniel Suárez Kubota Chevrolet Running
9 24 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kroger/NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet Running
10 31 14 Chase Briscoe Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Running
11 29 9 Chase Elliott Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet Running
12 14 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet Running
13 28 31 Justin Haley LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Running
14 2 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford Running
15 17 34 Michael McDowell Love’s/Delo Ford Running
16 19 42 Carson Hocevar Sunseeker Resorts Chevrolet Running
17 16 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota Running
18 21 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford Running
19 26 77 Ty Dillon Shelton Companies Chevrolet Running
20 30 21 Harrison Burton DEX Imaging Ford Running
21 20 22 Joey Logano AAA Insurance Ford Running
22 34 78 BJ McLeod (i) Gunk Chevrolet Running
23 25 41 Ryan Preece Autodesk Ford Running
24 33 38 Zane Smith (i) Ambetter Health Ford Running
25 15 45 Tyler Reddick Jordan Brand Toyota Running
26 27 7 Corey LaJoie Gainbridge Chevrolet Running
27 32 2 Austin Cindric Discount Tire Ford Accident
28 23 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Accident
29 6 16 AJ Allmendinger Action Industries Chevrolet Accident
30 12 43 Erik Jones Chevrolet Accident
31 11 5 Kyle Larson Chevrolet DVP
32 35 15 JJ Yeley (i) Patriot Mobile/Folds of Honor Ford Accident
33 4 54 Ty Gibbs (R) Interstate Batteries Toyota Accident
34 7 8 Kyle Busch 3CHI Chevrolet DVP
35 36 51 Todd Gilliland Biohaven/Jacob Co. Ford Accident
36 13 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Accident
NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 Playoffs Standings
Position Driver Points Points Behind Points Next
1 William Byron 3083
2 Denny Hamlin 3074 -9 -9
3 Chris Buescher 3059 -24 -15
4 Christopher Bell 3057 -26 -2
5 Martin Truex Jr. 3056 -27 -1
6 Ross Chastain 3049 -34 -7
7 Brad Keselowski 3045 -38 -4
8 Kyle Larson 3039 -44 -6
9 Bubba Wallace 3037 -46 -2
10 Tyler Reddick 3036 -23 -1
11 Ryan Blaney 3028 -55 -8
12 Kyle Busch 3022 -17 -6

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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