Saturday, July 20, 2024

William Byron overcomes spin, scores rain-shortened Atlanta victory

William Byron seems to have a penchant for winning after coming out of nowhere. While his first three victories of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season came after surviving overtime despite not being the top driver in any of them, he was in the right place at the right time at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Despite a spin through the infield on lap 85 after wrecking with Corey LaJoie, pit strategy placed Byron at the front by Stage #3. He took the lead from A.J. Allmendinger on lap 167 and led for twenty laps before rain arrived. With the race having crossed the halfway point by completing 185 of a scheduled 260 laps, NASCAR elected to declare it over after a short red flag.

“We went through so much throughout the night, spinning through the infield, destroyed the bottom of the car dragging it around the apron trying to stay on the lead lap. At that point you just don’t have the grip, so I was real edgy back in traffic,” said Byron. Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) made a good call to pit there and then stay out, and once we got towards the front it was okay. We could honestly make the right decisions, block okay, and got the lead from A.J. and just was able to manage the run.”

Fords dominated the race before concerns about weather led to alternative pit calls as Stage #2 drew to an end. Brad Keselowski and RFK Racing colleague Chris Buecher finished the segment first and third with Team Penske allies Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric in second and fourth, and Blaney had also won Stage #1. With the rain approaching, drivers like Michael McDowell and Byron elected to stay out instead of pit between stages, placing them towards the front with the hope of being the leader by the time the race is delayed.

However, this strategy also backfired in the faces of those like 23XI Racing, where Bubba Wallace pitted for two tyres and was the first off pit road only to be collected in a crash with Ryan Preece and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Buescher fell out of the top ten, as did pole winner and fellow Ford Aric Almirola.

“We had twelve to fourteen laps left of fuel and that was not enough and we ended up running fifteen laps or so. I think we made the right call, we just needed the rain to be ten minutes earlier or ten minutes later,” commented Keselowski, who finished sixth. “It’s just part of the deal. You win races you shouldn’t and you lose ones you probably should win and you have to take the punches as they come.”

J.J. Yeley placed seventh for his first top ten since the 2013 Daytona 500.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 18 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 185 Running
2 26 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 185 Running
3 19 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 185 Running
4 20 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 185 Running
5 22 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 185 Running
6 11 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 185 Running
7 24 15 J.J. Yeley* Rick Ware Racing Ford 185 Running
8 17 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 185 Running
9 2 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 185 Running
10 29 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 185 Running
11 25 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 185 Running
12 10 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 185 Running
13 23 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 185 Running
14 14 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 185 Running
15 15 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 185 Running
16 9 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 185 Running
17 4 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 185 Running
18 1 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 185 Running
19 27 77 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 185 Running
20 35 78 B.J. McLeod Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet 185 Running
21 33 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 185 Running
22 3 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 185 Running
23 34 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 185 Running
24 13 41 Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 185 Running
25 37 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 185 Running
26 36 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 185 Running
27 12 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 185 Running
28 5 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 184 Running
29 16 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 184 Running
30 6 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 181 Running
31 28 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 179 Running
32 21 51 Cole Custer* Rick Ware Racing Ford 178 Running
33 31 42 Noah Gragson Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 174 Running
34 7 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 150 Running
35 30 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 124 DVP
36 8 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 111 Accident
37 32 62 Austin HIll* Beard Motorsports Chevrolet 92 DVP
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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