William Byron Wins the Cup Race at the New Atlanta Motor Speedway

John Bazemore/AP Photo

William Byron survived many crashes and held off Ross Chastain on the final lap to win at Atlanta’s newly configured high banks.  Byron surged to the front, battling with Bubba Wallace side-by-side in the final laps after they lined up in the front row with just under 15 to go. Byron fended off the cars flanking him as others crashed coming to the checkered flag. Ross Chastain finished second. NASCAR ruled that Christopher Bell, who crossed the finish line in second, also crossed below the yellow line and he was bumped down to 23rd. Kurt Busch, Daniel Suárez and Corey LaJoie finished in the top five. Byron earned his third win in 149 Cup starts. The win also marked the third victory for Hendrick Motorsports with three different drivers this season.

As Chastain, Wallace, and the rest of the field jockeyed for position behind Byron, the side-by-side racing on the final lap prevented anyone from getting a run on the eventual winner, allowing him to take his third career Cup Series victory and his first since Homestead-Miami in February of 2021.

“Pretty wild,” Byron said. “I'm out of breath. It was crazy.”

The track was repaved in the off season with higher banks on the narrow speedway.  Wrecks happened early and often.  Some were tire issues and some were bad pushes.  The tire issues seemed to be right rear tires only affecting certain teams, but they brought other competitors with them.  Three times leaders blew tires towards the front of the pack to set off wrecks, the largest of which came in the second stage when Tyler Reddick cut a rear tire leading the outside lane and collected multiple cars. Thirteen were caught up in the wreck, but most teams were able to salvage their equipment without immediately heading to the garage.

The result was 46 lead changes among an Atlanta-record 20 drivers, a traffic jam of tightly bunched cars at the front of the field, wrecks taking out several top contenders, and a bunch of smashed-up race cars to lug home.

Christopher Bell appeared he crossed the line second, but NASCAR penalized him for dipping below the double white line on the backstretch of the last lap to get past Chastain. Bell was dropped to 23rd.

Chastain made quite a comeback after blowing a tire early in the race while leading. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also blew a tire while running up front. Reigning series champion Kyle Larson, the front of his No. 5 Chevrolet patched with tape, had just surrendered the top spot when Denny Hamlin bumped him from behind, looking to give him a helpful push — only to send him into a spin that knocked them both out of the race.

"Everyone is kind of hanging on for dear life,” Ryan Blaney said during a caution period.

Besides the ones already mentioned, Kyle Busch gave Austin Dillon a slight bump from behind entering the quad-oval, sending Dillon into the wall. Ty Dillon and Chase Briscoe spun behind them, leaving the younger Dillon with major damage as well.

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

“I was in the gas wide open and the 18 (Busch) pushed us and got me loose,” Austin Dillon said. “I don’t want to say any worse. My feelings are hurt. That’s the second week in a row I've been taken out.”

Byron picked up the Stage 1 win under yellow. Blaney did the same in Stage 2.

Next week, 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.

Unofficial Results, 64th Annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, March 20, 2022, Atlanta Motor Speedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1)
 12, William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet, 325, 1, 9, 8, 111, 6, 52, Running
2) 7, Ross Chastain, No. 1 Advent Health Chevrolet, 325, , 10, 5, 42, , 36, Running
3) 9, Kurt Busch, No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota, 325, 6, , 2, 4, , 39, Running
4) 13, Daniel Suarez, No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet, 325, 3, 6, 2, 13, , 46, Running
5) 33, Corey LaJoie, No. 7 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet, 325, , , , , , 32, Running
6) 6, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 325, , 2, 2, 29, , 40, Running
7) 14, Chris Buescher, No. 17 ITsavvy Ford, 325, , , , , , 30, Running
8) 26, Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, 325, , 7, 2, 5, , 33, Running
9) 3, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 325, , , 4, 12, , 28, Running
10) 11, Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, 325, 7, , , , , 31, Running
11) 22, Justin Haley, No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, 325, , , 1, 1, , 26, Running
12) 24, Brad Keselowski, No. 6 Kohler Generators Ford, 325, , 5, , , , 31, Running
13) 19, Bubba Wallace, No. 23 McDonald's Toyota, 325, , 8, 1, 3, , 27, Running
14) 23, Erik Jones, No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, 325, 5, , , , , 29, Running
15) 1, Chase Briscoe, No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford, 325, , 3, 1, 5, , 30, Running
16) 36, Josh Bilicki(i), No. 77 Zeigler Auto Group Chevrolet, 325, , , , , , 0, Running
17) 2, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 BodyArmor Ford, 325, , 1, 5, 15, 1, 30, Running
18) 35, David Ragan, No. 15 Select Blinds Ford, 325, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 34, BJ McLeod, No. 78 Celsius Ford, 325, , , 1, 2, , 18, Running
20) 37, * Greg Biffle, No. 44 Stillman College Chevrolet, 325, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 8, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford, 325, , , 2, 11, , 16, Running
22) 10, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 325, , 4, 1, 6, , 22, Running
23) 27, Christopher Bell, No. 20 DeWalt Toyota, 325, 10, , 1, 16, , 15, Running
24) 29, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Fr8Auctions.com Ford, 321, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 31, Harrison Burton #, No. 21 DEX Imaging Ford, 321, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 32, Cody Ware, No. 51 Nurtec ODT Ford, 300, , , , , , 11, Accident
27) 25, Todd Gilliland #, No. 38 Georgia Peanuts Ford, 297, , , , , , 10, DVP
28) 5, Tyler Reddick, No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet, 245, 8, , 1, 5, , 12, Accident
29) 15, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, 212, 2, , 1, 1, , 17, Accident
30) 21, Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, 212, 9, , 1, 1, , 9, Accident
31) 28, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger/SweetLeaf Chevrolet, 200, 4, , 3, 22, , 13, Accident
32) 16, Austin Cindric #, No. 2 Menards/Knauf Ford, 200, , , , , , 5, Accident
33) 4, Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's Toyota, 171, , , 2, 21, , 4, Accident
34) 20, Cole Custer, No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford, 150, , , , , , 3, Accident
35) 17, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet, 101, , , , , , 2, Accident
36) 18, Ty Dillon, No. 42 Alsco Uniforms Chevrolet, 101, , , , , , 1, Accident
37) 30, Noah Gragson(i), No. 16 chevyliners.com Chevrolet, 23, , , , , , 0, Accident

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie

Race Length: 325 Laps, 500.5 Miles
Time: 3 Hrs, 57 Mins, 14 Secs.
Average Speed: 126.584 MPH
Margin of Victory: .145 Second

Stage 1 Top 10: 24, 11, 99, 47, 43, 45, 48, 8, 5, 20
Stage 2 Top 10: 12, 9, 14, 10, 6, 99, 19, 23, 24, 1

Comments: William Byron won the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, his third career NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Prior to the start, the following cars dropped to the rear of the field for the reasons indicated: No. 6 (unapproved adjustments) and No. 21 (two inspection failures).

Cautions: 11 for 65 laps;
Laps: 25-30 (No. 16 Incident in Turn 2 [None]);
47-51 (Competition Caution [None]);
96-100 (No. 1 Incident in Turn 1 [51]);
102-110 (No. 3, 14, 18 and 42 Incident on the Frontstretch  [None]);
146-153 (No. 2, 5, 7, 8, 11, 20, 21, 22, 34. 38, 41, 45, 48 Inisdent on the Frontstretch [1]);
157-161 (Debris on the Frontstretch from No. 8 [1]);
202-207 (No. 2, 4, 43. 47 and 99 Incident in Turn 4 [22]);
210-216 (No. 5, 9 and 11 Incident on the Frontstretch  [48]);
255-259 (Debris in Turn 3 and 4 [15]);
302-306 (No. 38 and 51 Incident in Turn 2 [4]);
309-312 (No. 10 and 99 Incident on the Frontstretch  [4]).

Lead Changes: 46 among 20 drivers;
C. Briscoe 0;
R. Blaney 1;
C. Briscoe 2-6;
K. Busch 7-12;
C. Elliott 13-15;
K. Busch 16-30;
R. Chastain 31-34;
W. Byron 35-40;
R. Chastain 41-42;
W. Byron 43-45;
R. Chastain 46;
R. Blaney 47-48;
J. Logano 49-50;
D. Hamlin 51;
J. Logano 52-54;
R. Chastain 55-64;
J. Logano 65-69;
R. Chastain 70-94;
W. Byron 95-105;
C. Bell 106-121;
K. Harvick 122-124;
M. Truex Jr. 125;
J. Logano 126-127;
K. Busch 128-129;
R. Stenhouse Jr. 130;
K. Busch 131-132;
R. Stenhouse Jr. 133-137;
J. Haley 138;
T. Reddick 139-143;
W. Byron 144-148;
B. McLeod 149-150;
W. Byron 151-153;
K. Harvick 154-161;
W. Byron 162-183;
R. Blaney 184;
R. Stenhouse Jr. 185-200;
R. Blaney 201-207;
K. Larson 208;
R. Blaney 209-212;
D. Suarez 213-224;
M. Truex Jr. 225-228;
C. Elliott 229-254;
D. Suarez 255;
A. Almirola 256-261;
W. Byron 262-312;
B. Wallace 313-315;
W. Byron 316-325.

Ron Fleshman with John Davison

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2022, Issue 3, Posted 8:33 PM, 03.20.2022