William Byron Wins Wild NASCAR Cup Race at Revamped Atlanta Motor Speedway

HAMPTON, Georgia — William Byron had a freight train in his rearview mirror. He was a sitting duck, it seemed. Luckily for him, all those challengers started competing against each other instead of teaming up to take down the leader.

As Byron drove to the checkered flag for the third win of his NASCAR Cup career, a final crash occurred behind him on Sunday in a fitting finish to a chaotic, thrilling race at the revamped Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Pretty wild,” said 24-year-old Byron. ‘I’m out of breath. It was crazy.’

The reconfigured track – with new pavement and steeper slopes – lived up to predictions of frenzied pack racing at blistering speeds approaching those of Talladega and Daytona.

It was like a short track race on a super speedway.

There were 46 head changes under an Atlanta-record 20 drivers, a line of tightly packed cars that never got too far apart during a four-hour race, nine wrecks that took out several top contenders, and a bunch of wrecked race cars to get to. to look at home.

“It’s hard, it’s stressful, it’s a different kind of racing,” said Rudy Fugle, the winner’s crew chief.

Bryon led the final restart with 13 laps to go. Bubba Wallace briefly took first place, but immediately let the No. 24 Rick Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet pass him again.

Wallace went for his second career win and still seemed to be in the most enviable position, especially if he could get a useful push for a slingshot on the last lap. But everyone behind Byron started to duel for position, they all wanted to put themselves in position to make the winning move.

That worked out perfectly for Byron, who pulled away to beat Ross Chastain by 0.145s, while the final wreck of the day sent four cars – including Wallace – over the line.

“It’s hard to be the leader,” Fugle said. “We just had a lot of things right in front of us.”

Wallace finished 13th. The rest of the top five was Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez and Corey LaJoie in his career best.

In a final corner, Christopher Bell crossed the line in second, but NASCAR penalized him for ducking under the double white line in the last lap backstretch to get past Chastain. Bell was dropped to 23rd.

Chastain made quite a comeback after blowing up a tire early in the race while in the lead. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also blew a tire as he ran up front. Reigning series champion Kyle Larson, the tape patched up front of his Chevrolet No. 5, had just surrendered first place when Denny Hamlin nudged him from behind, trying to give him a helpful nudge, only to send him into a to send spider that knocked. them both out of the race.

“Everyone is kind of stuck for life,” Ryan Blaney said during a caution period.

That summed things up perfectly.

BASH BROTHERS

At the restart after Chastain’s early crash, another wreck cost both Dillon brothers.

Kyle Busch gave Austin Dillon a light punch from behind as he entered the quad oval, sending Dillon into the wall. Ty Dillon and Chase Briscoe turned behind them, damaging the younger Dillon as well.

The brothers were forced to retire, leaving Austin in 35th place and Ty in 36th place.

“I was completely on the throttle and the 18 (Busch) pushed us and got me free,” said Austin Dillon. “I don’t want to say worse. My feelings are hurt. That’s the second week in a row that I’ve been eliminated.”

In Phoenix, Suárez connected with Dillon on the last lap and sent the number 3 into the wall, costing him a top-10 finish.

SHORT DAY

Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson, who made his debut in a Cup race, was the first man to lose control when he came through Turn 1 and crashed into the outer wall.

“Sorry, guys,” Gragson said over the radio before stepping out of his battered Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Gragson, a six-time winner in the second-rate Xfinity series, attempted to make the field at the season-opening Daytona 500. A crash in one of the qualifying races prevented the Las Vegas-born driver from taking to the track on race day.

That wasn’t a problem in Atlanta, but a crash on the 24th lap made it a short day for 23-year-old Gragson.

ODDS AND END

Byron took the Stage 1 win under yellow. Blaney did the same in stage 2. …Byron was the fifth different winner in five races this season. Three of Hendrick’s four drivers were among those winners, with Byron joined by Larson and Alex Bowman. … Bell punched his jack man in the right leg during a pit stop. The crew member was able to complete the change before being taken to the care center for treatment. His condition was not immediately available and another crew member intervened for Bell’s remaining stops. … Brad Keselowski and Harrison Burton had to start from the back of the field. Keselowski was penalized for making changes to his car after inspection, while Burton’s machine failed the inspection. … There were only 37 entries — three shy of a full field. … After struggling for years with attendance, a promising crowd showed up on a sunny Atlanta day with temperatures soaring to nearly 70 degrees. The infield was packed, while the huge stands were strewn with a few empty seats. …NASCAR returns to Atlanta on July 11.

NEXT ONE

The Cup series heads to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, for the first of six road races this season. Chase Elliott won the inaugural COTA race a year ago.

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