September 30, 2023

Byron nails rain bet for fourth Atlanta win of the year

Neither an early spin nor damage to his No. 24 Chevrolet could stop William Byron from winning Sunday night’s rain-shortened Quaker State 400. Available at Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

With a storm approaching the 1.54-mile track, Byron sped past AJ Allmendinger to the lead on lap 167 and held out until a turn 3 accident involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Preece and Bubba Wallace and the seventh caution caused by the evening. lap 178.

With Byron out front, the NASCAR Cup Series cars circled the track until the rain came and began to fall more heavily. NASCAR took the cars to pit road and red-flagged the race at 9:47 p.m. after completing 185 laps.

With severe weather moving into the area, the sanctioning body called the race and made Byron the first four-time winner in the series this season. The win was Byron’s second at Atlanta and eighth of his career.

Daniel Suárez was second when NASCAR called the race, with Allmendinger third. Michael McDowell and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.

Crew chief Rudy Fugle called Byron to pit on lap 125 under warning of a turn 2 pileup that killed the cars of Erik Jones, Ross Chastain, Corey LaJoie, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr. and damaged Ty Gibbs.

That allowed Byron to restart fourth on lap 165 after about half the field (cars that had not pitted since lap 95) came to pit on lap 161. Two laps later, Byron was in the lead.

Byron hardly looked like a winner after he spun through the grass on lap 80 and lost a lap on the way to pit road. But the 25-year-old from Charlotte, NC, regained the lost circuit as a beneficiary under warning for Kyle Larson’s spin on lap 92.

“It’s cool, man,” Byron said. “We went through so much all night – we spun through the infield, destroyed the underside of the car and dragged it across the apron to stay on the lead lap. At that point you just don’t have the grip so I was very tense in traffic, but Rudy made a good call to pit there and then stay out.

“Once we got to the front it was okay. We were able to make the right decisions, block OK, and I got the lead from AJ and was able to manage the run. Just a crazy night.”


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The race was a boon not only for Byron, who leads the Playoff standings, but also for winless drivers around the Playoff bubble.

First, there was no new winner in the series to reduce the number of places available on points. In addition, Suárez, Allmendinger and McDowell improved their chances with top-five finishes. Those three drivers all gained ground on Chase Elliott, who is trying to qualify for the Playoffs despite missing seven of 19 races this season.

Elliott played no part on Sunday night, taking no stage points and finishing 13th.

Despite his early struggles, Byron was pleased that the handling played such an important part in racing on the recently repaved racing surface.

“It was great – that’s all you could want in a superspeedway,” said Byron. “We want handling to matter. We want to be able to control things. I felt like the first stage was a lot of fun. I was able to make some moves on the bottom.

“And you lift every corner, so it’s different from an old style 550 (horsepower) race. It’s more packed in, but still handling business, and guys can make aggressive moves… I’m thankful to the whole team for staying in it, because we were a lap down and it could have been over.

The race started with team owner Richard Childress driving fast laps in the No. 29 Chevrolet that launched Kevin Harvick’s career with a win at Atlanta after Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001. It wasn’t Harvick’s night, though. After a late spin, he finished 30th in his final run at Atlanta. Harvick retires from cup racing at the end of the season.


Story originally appeared on Racer

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