FORT WORTH, Texas – William Byron and Kyle Larson each scored top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 12 opener at Texas Motor Speedway.
Byron finished seventh in the 334-lap race, while Larson scored a ninth-place result. The driver of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is one of two drivers to score top 10s in all four playoff races – Denny Hamlin is the other.
Byron and Hamlin had several run ins during the final stage with the 24-year-old making contact with the wall on lap 262 off turn two in the final stage. Under caution several laps later, Byron expressed his displeasure with his competitor.
"He ran me out of room and bent the toe link," Byron explained. "We are lucky we finished. It was really hard contact ... it wasn’t like a light contact or something like that.
"I mean we are running second and third and had a shot to win, and it hurt our car for sure. That was a bummer."
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Larson scored a stage one win for his fourth stage win of the season and the top-10 finish was his 16th of the season.
"We had a really good car that we brought here to Texas," Larson said. "We had the best car and the weather delay hurt for sure. We had the best car on the track when it was hot and when it got cooler, I got loose and everybody seemed to get faster."
Alex Bowman hit the wall off of turn four on lap 98 while running in the top 10. While the damage did not end his day, he grinded through to finish 29th. Regular-season champion Chase Elliott was involved in a single-car incident while leading on lap 184 that ended his day with a 32nd-place finish. The driver of the No. 9 hit the wall in turn four and indicate that he had a tire going down that led to the incident.
Byron is third in the standings (+17), Larson is fourth (+16) and Elliott is eighth (+4). Those three drivers are above the cutoff line coming out of Texas. Bowman is 12th in the standings and below the cutoff line (-30) with two races left in the round.
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"It’s not a great position to be in for sure, but it is what it is now," Elliott said. "I hate it for our No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team. We’ll go to Talladega (Superspeedway) try to get a win and go on down the road."
Tyler Reddick won the race at the 1.5-mile track. Since he is a non-playoff driver, all eight spots for the Round of 8 remain up for grabs.
On the day, Hendrick Motorsports led 105 laps on the day. Elliott paced the field for 44 laps, while Byron led 42 laps and Larson controlled the point position for 19 circuits.
The Round of 12 continues on Sunday, Oct. 2, at Talladega Superspeedway at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
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William Byron, No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Seventh
Stage one: Byron took the green flag from third and settled in there at the start. Crew chief Rudy Fugle told his driver to “use your tools and manage your stuff here.” In the early going, Byron was happy with how the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevy was handling. Byron passed polesitter Brad Keselowski for second on lap 33 as he was running some of the fastest laps on the track. When the first caution came out on lap 41, the 24-year-old was scored in second. Fugle brought his driver down pit road for four tires and fuel. The No. 24 pit crew’s stop of 10.51 seconds helped get Byron the lead off pit road from Joey Logano. For the lap 45 restart, he chose the inside lane and battled Logano for the lead before building a nice working margin prior to the lap 50 caution. Byron stayed out to lead the field for the lap 55 restart and was still the leader when the third caution of the race came two laps later. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native held the point position for the lap 61 restart and pulled out to a lead on Denny Hamlin. He led the next 19 laps before the caution on lap 79 for Christopher Bell. Again, staying out, Byron maintained his track position to lead the field for the lap 84 restart. He got loose on lap 86 in between turns one and two but was able to catch it as he got out of the gas. However, he lost three positions as a result and fell to fourth. When the fifth caution came on lap 98, Byron stayed out to restart third with three laps to go in the stage. Despite losing some momentum on the restart, he was able to finish the stage in sixth to score five stage points.
Stage two: Byron pitted from sixth under the stage break for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a chassis adjustment since the No. 24 will be further back in dirty air to start this stage. He restarted 27th on lap 112 and over the next eight laps had worked his way into the top 15. While in traffic, the driver reported to his team that the adjustments were “good for three laps but the rear tires feel slimy again.” When the seventh caution came out on lap 138, Byron was running 12th and came down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. He restarted 11th on lap 142 and was up in the top 10 by lap 149. Byron worked around Hamlin for ninth on lap 160 and was scored there at the lap 169 caution. Fugle had his driver pit for four tires and fuel and saw Byron restart 14th on lap 178. The two-time winner this season was flying on this run as he was up to seventh within four laps. Byron stayed out under the ninth caution of the race to restart fourth on lap 192 and within four laps was all over Ryan Blaney for the lead before the caution came out on lap 198 for a spin involving Chris Buescher. He stayed out to battle Blaney for the stage win on the lap 202 restart. He lost second to Ross Chastain and finished the stage in third.
Final stage: Byron pitted under the stage break for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment. After a red flag for weather, he restarted 17th on lap 224. Two laps later, Byron rejoined the top 10 and told the team that he “really likes this balance.” He continued his march up through the field as he moved around Keselowski and Chase Briscoe to get to eighth on lap 229. After battling Harrison Burton for sixth, he radioed that the car was “super loose in less traffic.” When the 12th caution of the race came on lap 243, Byron was scored in seventh. Fugle kept his driver out as they weren’t quite in their fuel window to restart third on lap 248. Byron was the highest-running playoff driver in third as he pursued Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. for the top-two positions. Trouble for Harvick while leading on lap 254 saw Byron move to second as the caution came out. The driver of the No. 24 let the team know that he needs to be tightened up when he does pit but it was not going to be under this caution. Byron stayed out to restart on the front row in second on lap 259 and was on Truex Jr. for the lead. On lap 262, Byron made contact with the wall battling Hamlin for second. The loss of momentum saw Byron fall back to fourth over the next lap. Byron was scored in second at the time of the next caution on lap 269. While under yellow, he and Hamlin made contact. The No. 24 came down pit road under yellow for four tires and fuel – the first car in the running order on four new tires off that set of stops - to restart 10th on lap 277. He would fall out of the top 10 on lap 284 and was back in the top 10 by lap 297. Under the lap 301 caution, Byron was scored in seventh and stayed out to restart from that position on lap 306 with 29 laps to go. He was still scored in seventh when a caution came out a lap later and he restarted from that position with 24 laps to go on lap 311. Just after the restart, Byron lost a spot to teammate Kyle Larson but the two moved by Michael McDowell for position. He held down seventh at that point and the fifth-year Cup Series driver finished in that spot.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Ninth
Stage one: Larson qualified in the top 10 and started ninth. He lost a spot off the start and settled into 10th before passing Austin Dillon to retake ninth on lap 23. After 25 laps, Larson was running some of the fastest lap times on the track. On lap 31, he had moved to seventh with passes on the top side of Daniel Suarez and teammate Chase Elliott. When the first caution came on lap 41, Larson was scored in seventh. He came to pit road for four tires and fuel and noted he was “pretty neutral in the resin.” Larson restarted sixth on lap 45 and moved up to fifth over the next two laps with a pass on Elliott. At the time of the race’s second caution on lap 50, the reigning champion was running fourth and stayed out to restart from the position on lap 55. He kept that spot as the third caution came out on lap 57. Once again, crew chief Cliff Daniels kept his driver out for the lap 61 restart. Larson lost a little bit of momentum trying to hold onto the third position against Joey Logano and that saw him slip back to fifth. He used the bottom to pick off fourth from Logano on lap 70 and was running there when the lap 79 caution came out. Larson stayed out to restart fourth on lap 84. Taking to the outside lane, the 30-year-old picked off Denny Hamlin and Tyler Reddick to take the lead on lap 89. He maintained the lead when the fifth caution came out with eight laps to go in the stage. The driver of the No. 5 stayed out to try and score the stage win with a three-lap sprint to finish the stage. Despite some contact on the last lap with Hamlin, Larson held on for the stage win – his fourth of the season.
Stage two: Larson pitted under the stage break from the lead for four tires and fuel before restarting 24th on lap 112. By lap 127, Larson had worked his way back into the top 10 and was coming on strong. At the time of the seventh caution of the race on lap 138, he was running ninth. Daniels brought Larson down pit road for four tires and fuel and he would restart ninth on lap 142. He would march his way forward as he moved to seventh around Dillon on lap 149. Ten laps later, he passed Martin Truex Jr. for a spot in the top five. On lap 161, he took fourth from Erik Jones and was running laps that were at faster than the top three. Larson was fourth at the time of the eighth caution on lap 169. The Elk Grove, California, native pitted for two right-side tires and fuel. He had to come back down to check the right front and the team then went ahead to add left-side tires. He restarted 29th on lap 178 and was up into top 20 following an incident involving Elliott. The defending race winner restarted 18th on lap 192 and got to 14th before the 10th caution came out six laps later. In an effort to set themselves up for the final stage, Larson pitted under yellow for four tires and fuel to restart 20th on lap 202. He worked up to 13th at the end of the stage.
Final stage: The No. 5 team pitted under the stage break for fuel only – since they had pitted late in stage two. Following a red flag for weather, Larson restarted 14th on lap 224. He lost a few spots on the restart and it took a little bit for him to move his way forward in the final stage. At the time of the race’s 12th caution on lap 243, Larson was scored in 15th. Daniels had his driver pit for two right-side tires as there was a split in strategy by the field under this yellow with 11 cars staying out. Larson restarted 12th on lap 248 and got up to eighth before the caution came out six laps later. The driver of the No. 5 stayed out under caution to restart sixth on lap 259. Working to the inside of Ryan Blaney, Larson took fifth away from him. He moved up to fourth following a caution for Truex Jr. on lap 269. Under caution, Larson pitted for four tires and fuel but there was an issue on the stop and that set him back to restart 19th on lap 277. He picked up six spots over the next 11 laps to jump into the top 13 and was scored in ninth at the time of the lap 301 caution. Larson stayed out under yellow to restart from eighth on lap 306 – 29 laps to go. He was scored in ninth when the caution came out a lap later and he restarted from there with 24 laps to go on lap 311. A strong move just after the restart helped Larson pick up two spots, including one from his teammate William Byron. He continued to move forward - taking sixth from Michael McDowell on lap 314. Larson got loose in between turns three and four on lap 323, lost three spots and had to chase his car up the track before settling back in ninth. He finished the race in that position.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 29th
Stage one: Bowman took to the grid from the 17th starting position but was unable to make up any ground in the first run of the race. The driver radioed into crew chief Greg Ives that he felt “like the balance is really good. We are just stuck.” At the time of the lap 41 caution for Martin Truex Jr., Bowman was scored in 16th. He pitted for service and restarted 15th on lap 45 and was up to 13th when a second caution came out on lap 50. Ives kept his driver out to maintain track position for the lap 55 restart and Bowman was scored in 14th when the third caution flew on lap 57 and stayed out for the lap 61 restart. The Tucson, Arizona, native was creeping close to the top 10 as he ran 11th on lap 65 and got to 10th place at the time of the fourth caution of the day on lap 79. The driver radioed that he was “pretty happy with the car.” Bowman stayed out to restart 10th on lap 84 and a strong restart saw him move up to eighth two laps later. On lap 98, Bowman hit the wall in turn four as a right-rear tire was going down. The car went around as he got into the upper groove while the 29-year-old was running in the top 10. The team worked feverishly to make repairs and beat the 10-minute damaged vehicle clock and Bowman was able to rejoin the race – eight laps down in 34th.
Stage two: Bowman rejoined the race – scored in the 34th position – and with over 220 laps to go, the team had an opportunity to pick up spots if there was attrition throughout the final two stages. He reported a vibration and came back down pit road on lap 120 for four tires. Under the race’s seventh caution, he took the wave around as everyone else pitted. Trouble for Christopher Bell allowed Bowman to pick up a spot in the running order during this stage. He got another spot when major crash damage to Cody Ware’s car saw his day end and another when teammate Chase Elliott had an accident that also ended his race. Bowman finished stage two in 31st, eight laps down.
Final stage: Bowman earned the free pass for the second straight caution to be seven laps down. The team planned to continue to log laps in an effort to pick up a few more spots in the final running order – much like he was able to do in stage two. The No. 48 came down pit road for four tires and some quick work before the race went back green for a finish under the lights. Under the race’s 12th caution on lap 243, the No. 48 received the free pass to go six laps down and the crew continued to work on the damage to the car. Damage from a spin for Chris Buescher allowed Bowman to jump him on the running order and the same occurred when Truex Jr. had an issue from the lead. He picked up another free pass on lap 301 to move to five laps down on the day. In the end, Bowman finished in 29th.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 32nd
Stage one: Elliott lined up sixth for the 334-lap race. He lost a spot at the start of the race and settled into seventh. The regular-season champion radioed in that he was tight at the start and the front end isn’t great. On lap 31, he lost seventh to teammate Kyle Larson and was scored in eighth at the time of the first caution on lap 41. Crew chief Alan Gustafson called Elliott down pit road for four tires and fuel. Thanks to the No. 9’s crew fast work with a 10.14-second stop, the 2020 champion picked up four spots on pit road to restart third on lap 45. Off the restart, Elliott slipped back to sixth and was scored there at the time of the second caution of the day on lap 50. The 26-year-old told his team “that the back of the car was sketchy” just before Kyle Busch had an incident in turn four. Elliott stayed out to restart sixth on lap 55 and remained in that position on the third caution at lap 57. He restarted sixth on lap 61 restart and was still there when the fourth caution came out on lap 79. The four-time winner in 2022 stayed out to restart sixth on lap 84 and was running there when a caution came out involving teammate Alex Bowman on lap 98. Gustafson had Elliott pit for four tires, fuel and one round in the left rear to better set them up for stage two. He restarted 12th with three laps to go in stage one – highest among those to pit. Elliott finished stage one in 13th.
Stage two: Elliott stayed out under the stage break caution and the decision to pit toward the end of stage one saw them cycle up to fifth for the lap 112 restart. He was up to third on lap 117 – the highest running playoff driver at this point in the race. Running the low line, he was stalking the lead from Harrison Burton after working around Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for second on lap 124. At the time of seventh caution on lap 138, he was still running second to Burton and pitted from that position. Gustafson called for four tires and fuel and thanks to a stop of 10.34 seconds, the No. 9 crew got their driver the lead off of pit road. Elliott chose the inside lane for the lap 142 restart with Ross Chastain to his outside. He was able to clear Chastain a lap later as he began to build a lead on his fellow Chevrolet driver. The driver of the No. 9 led the next 27 laps before the eighth caution came out on lap 169. Gustafson kept Elliott out to keep control of the lead for the lap 178 restart with Ryan Blaney lined up to his outside. From the lead, Elliott hit the wall in turn four as a tire was going down on lap 184 and suffered significant damage to his car. That damage would end his race.