William Byron steals win at Texas, becomes first driver to advance to Round of 8
FiredUp Network Sports Writer
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Photo Credit: Motorsport.com
When William Byron first entered the NASCAR Cup Series back in 2018, he wasn't even 20 years old.
Due to his meteoric rise from being an iRacing sensation, to driving the famed Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 car in under a five year period, expectations were sky high.
While there were certainly growing pains and low points, it was inevitable that he would eventually break through. In 2023, he has done just that.
With a Cup Series-high five wins this year, Byron had asserted himself as a title contender come the start of the NASCAR Playoffs. But, after the Round of 12 opener at Texas, there is no denying it.
Following late race Cautions for leader Kyle Larson's tangle with Bubba Wallace, and then a pileup soon after, Byron made a three-wide pass on the final restart for the lead into Turn 3 on Wallace and Chase Briscoe to steal the victory.
Byron's sixth win of the season was the tenth of his career, and punched his ticket to be the only driver guaranteed a spot in the Round of 8.
The win was also Hendrick Motorsports' 300th in the Cup Series, making them the first and, by a wide margin, only team in the sport's history to reach that mark. While it looked like the milestone slipped out of their grasp with Larson's crash, it all worked out in the end.
Finishing second was Ross Chastain, who scored just his second top five in 13 races, followed by Bubba Wallace in third. Wallace started from the pole, led 89 laps, and looked set to win before being bested by Byron and Chastain on the final restart.
He and Larson duked it out on the third-last restart, before the two of them ran each other hard into Turn 1, with Larson spinning from the inside and into the wall. Had that not happened, Wallace likely would've advanced to the next round in what is his first playoff appearance.
Fourth was Christopher Bell, ahead of Wallace's owner Denny Hamlin in fifth after he pitted for new tires and ran out of time to gain ground. Round of 16 eliminee Kevin Harvick finished in sixth, Brad Keselowski in seventh, and Daniel Suarez in eighth.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished in ninth, while Chase Briscoe, who was side by side for the lead with Wallace on the last restart, fell to tenth.
As for the rest of the playoff field, Chris Buescher finished 14th, Martin Truex Jr. 17th, and Tyler Reddick in 25th after hitting the Turn 4 wall on the penultimate restart. Ryan Blaney ended 28th, Larson DNF'd after a dominant effort to finish 31st, and Kyle Busch crashed with a mechanical issue to finish 37th.
Next weekend, the NASCAR Playoffs head to Talladega Super Speedway, where the annual "Big One" late race pileup will surely shake up the playoff field before heading to the always chaotic Charlotte Roval.
1) William Byron (advanced)
2) Denny Hamlin (+37)
3) Chris Buescher (+22)
4) Christopher Bell (+20)
5) Martin Truex Jr. (+19)
6) Ross Chastain (+12)
7) Brad Keselowski (+8)
8) Kyle Larson (+2)
9) Bubba Wallace (-2)
10) Tyler Reddick (-3)
11) Ryan Blaney (-11)
12) Kyle Busch (-17)