FORT WORTH, Tex. – William Byron’s victory in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 12 opener carried quite the impact for not just his playoff advancement but also for Hendrick Motorsports.
The victory was the historic 300th Cup Series win for the Rick Hendrick-owned organization. Two years after setting the record for most wins in the top series, Hendrick Motorsports now has become the first team ever to have 300 premier series wins. The triumph comes three weeks after the engine department earned its 500th national series win.
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"I don't know if I can even put it into words," Byron said of earning the 300th Cup Series win for Hendrick Motorsports. "I was such a Hendrick Motorsports fan growing up as a kid, watching Jimmie Johnson, and became really fond of Jeff Gordon as I got to know him.
"Just thankful for all the people and men and women back at Hendrick Motorsports and Mr. (Rick) Hendrick for his investment in me and telling me at 17 years old that he was going to take me to Cup racing. Just appreciate everything he's done for me and this is awesome. We're definitely going to enjoy this one."
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The team owner was on hand and excited that the landmark victory was reached.
"It feels good to get to 300," Hendrick said. "I'm proud of all the drivers that have driven at the company since we started because every one of them have participated in this 300 wins, so it's really good to see William get it.
"He's had a heck of a year. The whole organization is proud because we put these marks -- we have glass on the wall that every time we have a win, we put another flag up there. It's good to get to 300."
Byron’s win at Texas Motor Speedway locks him into the Round of 8, which carries extra importance in this round with wild-card tracks Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL remaining in this three-race segment.
The 25-year-old driver now has a series-best six wins on the season but didn’t lead for the first time until there were six laps remaining. Restarting on the second row of the inside lane from the third position, Byron was able to get a big run as Chase Briscoe and Bubba Wallace battled for the lead. The driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 drove past both of them to take the point position for good.
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It was a grind-it-out type of day for Byron, who started 18th. After staying out on a late caution in the opening segment to earn stage points, Byron found himself mired mid-pack and finished the stage in 15th. In the final stage, he continued to move his way up and was in the top six with 30 laps to go. From there, he continued to inch forward, setting himself up to grab the race win late.
"We just fought through traffic all day and our Liberty University Chevy was just tight back in traffic but had good pace," Byron said. "This was one of those hot days, it felt like I was playing football and went through two-a-days. It was a grind-it-out day and our team was there at the end. I'm really proud of this one as hot as it was and as tough as it was. We'll take it and go on to the next round."
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Chase Elliott finished 11th in the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevy. After starting 29th in the 267-lap event, the team used strategy in the opening 80 laps to earn stage points with a sixth-place result. The 27-year-old driver maintained a spot in the top eight for much of the second stage and finished once again in sixth. For nearly all of the final stage, Elliott was in the top 10 and found himself restarting on the outside of the second row – next to Byron. In the race to the finish, some with fresher tires got around him and Elliott finished 11th. The No. 9 team remains in contention for the owner championship, sitting two points outside the cutline in ninth.
Alex Bowman took home a 12th-place result in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. On lap 49, he spun in turn two, but there was no significant damage to the car. Throughout the early part of the race, he battled a tight race car. Bowman and the No. 48 crew continued to go to work to make gains on the car as the race continued, moving up to finish stage two in 15th. With three cautions over the final 24 laps, crew chief Blake Harris made multiple calls to stay out. That put Bowman up to seventh place in the running order, but he lost a few spots in the final six-lap sprint to the finish.
For much of the second half of the race, it looked like it was going to be Kyle Larson celebrating the milestone victory for Hendrick Motorsports. The 31-year-old driver started 11th and drove up to fourth in the first stage. A strategy call to pit during a late stage caution saw him finish the stage in 11th, but set him up to gain some track position for the stage two restart. A call for fresh tires on lap 115 under caution, while several others ahead of him took two tires, put Larson in position to grab the lead on a lengthy green-flag run. He did just that on lap 143 and proceeded to lead 99 of the next 104 laps, picking up his fifth stage win in the process.
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Following a restart on lap 248, Larson was battling Bubba Wallace for the lead when he went around in turn one. The damage to the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy was significant and the team eventually took the car behind the wall, ending their day with a 31st-place finish. With two races left in the Round of 12, Larson is plus-two on the elimination line to advance to the next round.
"I tried to open up and have my shape into (turn) one," Larson said of the incident that brought out a caution on lap 250. "With these cars, you normally don’t get sucked around like that, so I wasn’t really expecting that and thought that I would be fine. I just lost it and crashed.
"Pretty bummed, but happy for William (Byron) and happy for Mr. Hendrick for 300 wins, which is incredible. So, great night overall for our organization, and great for William and our team, too. We had a super-fast Chevy today. We have had a fast car for every race in the playoffs to start, so we will go to Talladega (Superspeedway), try to have a good day and have some good fortune."
On the day, all four drivers led laps: Larson (99), Byron (six), Bowman and Elliott (one each). Byron’s win marks the 57th for the team in the Cup Series playoffs, which is the top mark in the series. It is also the 11th victory for the team at Texas and the first there for Byron. In addition, Hendrick Motorsports now had a driver finish in the top five in each of the last eight races in 2023 – dating back to the August race at Michigan International Speedway.
PHOTOS: Every win for Hendrick Motorsports at Texas
Next up for the Cup Series are the high banks and high speeds of Talladega Superspeedway. The middle race of the Round of 12 will take place on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).