HAMPTON, Ga. – On Sunday evening, William Byron took home his fourth win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The victory marks the second time the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has tasted victory in "The Peach State" in his Cup career. The race was called after 185 laps completed due to inclement weather.
Starting in the 18th position, Byron was on a mission early in the race. Halfway through stage one, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had managed to maneuver his way inside the top 10, working together with teammate Kyle Larson. After surviving a three-wide battle inside the top 10, Byron ended stage one in the fifth position.
During the stage break, Byron was penalized for a safety violation on pit road. The infraction sent the No. 24 entry to the rear of the field. On lap 80, Byron spun on the frontstretch, and the team lost a lap to fix the damage. With another caution coming on lap 93, the team got back on the lead lap. The move of the race came out under yellow on lap 124. Crew chief Rudy Fugle brought his driver into the pits for two tires while many others stayed out. Although the team finished 16th in stage two, Byron stayed out under the stage break to earn valuable track position.
For the start of the final stage, Byron chose fourth for the restart and quickly drove to the front of the pack as the field was racing against inclement weather that was nearby. The driver of the No. 24 Chevy held off a hard-charging list of competitors to keep the point position over the final 19 laps. An on-track incident brought out the caution flag on lap 179 and the field came down pit road on lap 186 due to lightning in the area. Shortly after that, the race was called.
"It’s cool – we went through so much throughout the night," Byron said of his series-leading fourth win. "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. Rudy (Fugle) made a good call to pit there and then stay out. Once we got towards the front, it was OK. We could honestly make the right decisions. Got the lead from AJ (Allmendinger) and just was able to manage the run. Just a crazy night."
This win has major playoff implications for Byron and the No. 24 team. In addition to moving into the points standings lead and holding a 21-marker advantage on Martin Truex Jr., he now has 22 playoff points -- the most in the series.
Chase Elliott rolled off the grid in the 23rd position in the No. 9 NAPA/Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Chevy. As Elliott learned the grip level of the track early in the race, he finished stage one in 18th. In stage two, Elliott worked his way through the field and avoided a late-stage accident s competitors crashed near the No. 9. He ended stage two in 12th and finished the race in 13th. With seven races left in the regular season, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native is now 60 points outside the provisional playoff picture.
Alex Bowman took the green flag in the 36th spot. By lap 22, the No. 48 Ally Chevy had gained 12 positions on track, the third-most of any driver in the race up to that point. He finished stage one in the 15th spot. In stage two, Bowman drove his way inside the top five before settling in the top 10. As the intensity picked up throughout the pack near the end of the stage, he got loose, resulting in an incident on the frontstretch. While the contact was not terminal, it did cause damage to the right front. Bowman finished the stage in 30th but got back on the lead lap in the final stage and finished 26th.
Kyle Larson rolled off the grid in the eighth position. As the first stage progressed, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy ran steadily inside the top 10 with a mostly single-file field. Late in the first segment, he was able to maneuver his way into the top-five spots and briefly held the lead before ultimately finishing second in the opening stage to Ryan Blaney. On lap 92, Larson was involved in an on-track incident in turn four. He did not make contact with any other cars after spinning, but his right front-tire blew. The resulting damage sent Larson garage on lap 115, resulting in a 36th-place result.
"Hate that I made the mistake there to put us in this position, but I was having fun up until the spin," Larson said. "I thought I was doing a decent job – finishing second in the stage. Just wish I could have got to the end. Most of the time I feel like it's other people's fault why I DNF, but tonight it was my fault. Little bit of a bummer."
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As an organization, Hendrick Motorsports has claimed three of the four events contested on Atlanta's newly reconfigured design. The team has 17 wins at the 1.54-mile track, with Byron becoming the third driver to win multiple times at the Georgia venue. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have five wins at Atlanta, while Darrell Waltrip, Ken Schrader, Jerry Nadeau, Kasey Kahne and Elliott each have one win for the Rick Hendrick-owned squad.
Byron's win came in the 2,000th Cup Series race in Goodyear history. To honor the occasion, he was presented with a special trophy. Gordon won the 1,000th race in Goodyear history in 1995.
Next weekend, the Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 20th race of the season. Tune in on Sunday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).