The number 300 was the big number of the day for Hendrick Motorsports as William Byron capitalized on a six-lap shootout to deliver a milestone victory for HMS by winning the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 24.
The 25-year-old Byron from Charlotte, North Carolina, led the final six of 267-scheduled laps in an event where he started 18th and ground his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet through the sizzling temperatures and on-track action while being mired within and outside of the top 10 during the first two stage periods.
Then after methodically carving his way into the top 10 in the closing stretches, Byron benefitted on a late strategic pit call to remain on the track during a caution period with less than 25 laps remaining to move up into third place. Amid three late-race restarts and chaos that eliminated his teammate Kyle Larson from contention, Byron executed the final restart with six laps remaining in his favor as he overtook pole-sitter Bubba Wallace and Chase Briscoe before muscling away from Ross Chastain to grab his unprecedented sixth checkered flag of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, secure his spot into the Playoff’s Round of 8 and deliver the record-setting 300th win in NASCAR’s premier series for Hendrick Motorsports.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, September 23, Playoff contender Bubba Wallace notched his first Cup pole position of the season and the second of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 188.337 mph in 28.672 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Playoff contender Chris Buescher, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 188.081 mph in 28.711 seconds.
Prior to the event, BJ McLeod started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to his entry.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher dueled for the lead through the frontstretch, the first two turns and through the backstretch as the field behind fanned out. Then in Turn 3, Wallace used the inside lane to his advantage as he rocketed ahead of Buescher and cleared him entering the frontstretch as he led the first lap. With Wallace leading Buescher and Brad Keselowski, Playoff contender Ross Chastain was in fourth while rookie Ty Gibbs and AJ Allmendinger battled for fifth place in front of Kyle Busch.
Through the second to fifth lap and as the field continued to jostle early for positions, Wallace retained the lead within three-tenths of a second over Buescher as Keselowski, Chastain and Ty Gibbs followed suit in the top five. By then, Allmendinger settled in sixth ahead of Kyle Busch while Daniel Suarez, Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson were running in the top 10.
Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Wallace maintained the lead by two-tenths of a second over Buescher followed by Keselowski, Chastain and Ty Gibbs while Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Suarez, Bell and Larson were in the top 10. Behind, Denny Hamlin was in 11th ahead of Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and Tyler Reddick while Michael McDowell, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Carson Hocevar occupied the top 20. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick was in 22nd behind teammate Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. followed suit in 23rd, Ryan Blaney was back in 25th, Chase Elliott was in 29th behind Briscoe and Austin Cindric was mired in 35th.
Ten laps later, Wallace extended his advantage to more than a second over Buescher while third-place Keselowski also trailed by more than a second as Chastain and Ty Gibbs remained in the top five. As Wallace continued to lead by the Lap 25 mark, he along with Buescher, Chastain, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Larson and Hamlin were the Playoff contenders currently scored in the top 10 on the track while Bell, Reddick, Truex and Byron were mired within the top 20. Meanwhile, Blaney was still mired in 25th place.
At the Lap 35 mark, Wallace stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Buescher followed by Chastain while Kyle Busch moved up to fourth. By then, Ty Gibbs and Allmendinger were in the top six while Keselowski fell back to seventh in front of Suarez, Larson and Erik Jones.
Another lap later, the first cycle of green flag pit stops ignited as Playoff contender Bell pitted his No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota TRD Camry. A bevy of names that included Buescher, Chastain, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Larson, Reddick, Hocevar, BJ McLeod, Logano, Hocevar, Stenhouse and Ryan Preece would pit during the ensuing laps before Wallace surrendered the lead to pit by Lap 39. More names that included Ty Gibbs, Hamlin, Suarez, Erik Jones, Truex, McDowell, Byron and Harvick would pit along with Wallace. By Lap 40, more names that included Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola would pit.
Then on Lap 41, the first caution of the event flew when Austin Dillon, who had just pitted, snapped sideways in Turn 3 after the entire right-rear wheel came off of Dillon’s No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and wrecked against the outside wall before he slid down the track and came to a rest. During the caution period, the remaining competitors who had yet to pit, including Ty Dillon, Blaney, Elliott, Chase Briscoe, Corey LaJoie, Harrison Burton and Cindric, pitted while the rest of the field remained on the track, which handed the lead back to Wallace.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 48, where Wallace and Chastain occupied the front row, Wallace and Chastain dueled for the lead as the field stacked up to two tight lanes entering Turn 1. The caution, however, quickly returned when Bowman, who was running 14th, got sideways amid a three-wide battle between Hocevar and McDowell as he then made contact against Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang before both spun entering Turn 2 and proceeded without making any on-track contact.
During the proceeding restart on Lap 53, Kyle Busch attempted to make a three-wide move on Wallace and Chastain for the lead entering Turn 1, but he stepped out of the gas for the turn as Wallace managed to retain the lead from Chastain. In the process, Larson moved up to third followed by Buescher while Kyle Busch fell back to fifth ahead of Hamlin, Truex, Reddick and Keselowski. The caution, however, quickly returned again when Todd Gilliland spun and wrecked through the backstretch after losing a right-rear wheel.
As the event restarted under green on Lap 58, Wallace and Chastain again dueled for the lead, with Chastain briefly leading entering the backstretch until Wallace managed to fight back and reassume the top spot to lead the following lap. Then during the following lap and as the field continued to jostle for positions, Kyle Busch, who was running third, fell back to sixth after reporting a potential flat right-front tire to his No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Busch, though, remained on the track despite his issues during the proceeding laps as he was back in seventh while Wallace maintained the lead by half a second over Chastain with Buescher, Larson and Hamlin running in the top five.
By Lap 70, Wallace continued to lead by half a second over Chastain followed by Buescher, Larson and Hamlin while Reddick, Kyle Busch, Byron, Keselowski and Erik Jones were in the top 10, thus placing nine of 12 Playoff contenders in the top 10 on the track minus Jones. Meanwhile, Truex and Bell were back in 11th and 12th while Blaney was mired back in 24th behind LaJoie.
Then three laps later, the caution returned as Kyle Busch, who was in eighth, slipped sideways entering Turn 1 and spun backwards before he pounded the outside wall in Turn 2 and emerged with significant rear-end and left-side damage to his No. 8 entry. Following his incident, Busch reversed his damaged car from the apron in Turn 1 all the way back to his pit stall, where he would eventually retire from further competition as he overran the Damaged Vehicle Policy clock and took an early hit towards his quest of winning his third Cup title.
During the caution period, a majority of the field led by Wallace pitted while the rest led by Buescher remained on the track. Amid the pit stops, Ty Gibbs ran into the side of teammate Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry while trying to exit pit road, which forced Gibbs to make another pit stop for repairs and eventually retire while Hamlin remained on the track.
With the event restarting for a one-lap dash to the conclusion of the first stage period, Buescher and Reddick dueled for the lead until Reddick managed to muscle his No. 45 Jordan Brand Toyota TRD Camry ahead with the lead from the outside lane through the backstretch. Reddick then started to pull away from the field while the field behind jostled for positions. When the first stage period concluded on Lap 80, Reddick, who remained on the track, executed his early pit strategy to perfection as he captured his fifth Cup stage victory of the 2023 season. Buescher settled in second followed by Bell, Byron and McDowell while Elliott, Blaney, Briscoe, Hamlin and Wallace were scored in the top 10. Immediately after the first stage’s conclusion, trouble ignited as Erik Jones ran into the rear of Keselowski, who then collided with Truex as Truex spun.
Under the stage break, Bell and Byron pitted while the rest of the field led by Reddick remained on the track.
The second stage started on Lap 86 as Reddick and Buescher, both of whom remained on the track amid their pit strategy, occupied the front row. At the start, Reddick received a push from McDowell to retain the lead from the outside lane. With Reddick leading, McDowell challenged Buescher for the runner-up spot while Elliott and Briscoe were in the top five. Shortly after, Blaney battled Briscoe for fifth place ahead of Hamlin while Wallace followed suit in front of Larson and Chastain. Amid the battles within the top 10, Reddick extended his advantage to more than a second over McDowell by the Lap 90 mark.
Through the Lap 100 mark, Reddick continued to extend his advantage as he was leading by more than two seconds over McDowell while Buescher, Elliott and Hamlin were in the top five. Behind, Larson was in sixth ahead of Blaney, Chastain, Briscoe and Wallace while Erik Jones, Ryan Preece, Keselowski, Daniel Suarez and Allmendinger occupied the top 15 in front of Hocevar, Harvick, Bowman, Justin Haley and Ty Dillon. Meanwhile, Playoff contenders Truex, Byron and Bell were in 22nd, 25th and 27th, respectively.
Ten laps later, Reddick was leading by more than three seconds over his owner Hamlin, who continued to run strong with a wounded No. 11 Toyota, followed by Larson while McDowell dropped to fourth in front of Buescher. Shortly after, the caution flew when LaJoie spun and wrecked in Turn 2 as he then ripped the right-rear quarter panel off of his damaged No. 7 Gainbridge Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 after blowing his right-rear tire while limping it back to pit road.
During the caution period, the entire lead lap field led by Reddick pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Wallace returned to the lead after exiting pit road first and opting for a two-tire pit stop followed by Blaney, Keselowski and Suarez while Hamlin was the first competitor to exit pit road with four fresh tires in fifth place. Amid the pit stops, Zane Smith was sent to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 118, Wallace and Blaney dueled for the lead until Wallace used the inside lane to clear Blaney and muscle ahead from the field that was fanning out to three lanes prior to entering the backstretch. With Wallace back in the lead, Blaney maintained the runner-up spot in front of Hamlin and Keselowski while Suarez, Hamlin and Larson battled for fourth place in front of Elliott and Hocevar. Soon after, Truex and Buescher muscled their way toward the front and within the top 10 while Hocevar slid out of the top 10. Amid the battles ensuing within the top-10 mark, Wallace stretched his advantage to more than a second over Blaney by Lap 125 as Erik Jones cracked the top 10 while running ninth ahead of Truex.
At the halfway mark in between Laps 133 and 134, Wallace extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Blaney followed by Keselowski, Larson and Suarez while Hamlin, Elliott, Buescher, Erik Jones, Buescher and Chastain occupied the top 10 ahead of Truex, Hocevar, Allmendinger, Bowman, Preece, McDowell, Harvick, Bell, Byron and Briscoe. By then, Reddick was back in 22nd while 31 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap.
Then on Lap 142, Larson, racing on four fresh tires, overtook Wallace from the outside lane in Turn 2 and assumed the lead in his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. By then, Hamlin was in third while Blaney fell back to fourth ahead of Erik Jones. Blaney would be overtaken by Jones by Lap 143 as Keselowski, Elliott, Buescher, Suarez and Chastain were scored in the top 10.
By Lap 155, Larson stretched his advantage to more than five seconds over Hamlin and Jones, both of whom overtook Wallace for second and third six laps earlier, while Wallace fell back to fourth ahead of Blaney, Elliott, Buescher, Keselowski, Chastain and Suarez. By then, Truex was in 11th ahead of McDowell and Hocevar while Allmendinger, who was battling Truex for 11th place, slipped to 14th after getting loose.
When the second stage period concluded on Lap 165, Larson captured his fifth Cup stage victory of the 2023 season. Erik Jones muscled to a strong runner-up result ahead of Hamlin, Blaney, Buescher, Elliott, Keselowski and Chastain while Wallace dropped to ninth ahead of Suarez. By then, Playoff contenders Truex, Byron, Bell and Reddick were in 12th, 15th, 20th and 21st, respectively.
During the stage break, the lead lap field led by Larson pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Larson retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Jones, Hamlin, Blaney, Buescher, Keselowski and Wallace.
With 96 laps remaining, the final stage started as Larson and Jones occupied the front row. At the start, Larson and Jones dueled for the lead through the frontstretch, the first two turns and the backstretch until Larson managed to clear Jones’ No. 43 Legacy Motor Club entry through Turns 3 and 4 and retain the lead. With Larson, Jones settled in second followed by Hamlin while Blaney, Wallace and Keselowski occupied the top six in front of a side-by-side battle between Elliott and Buescher. With a series of late on-track battles ensuing, Larson stretched his advantage to more than a second over Jones with 90 laps remaining.
With 75 laps remaining, Larson continued to lead by more than three seconds over Erik Jones followed by Hamlin, Blaney and Keselowski while Wallace, Buescher, McDowell, Byron and Elliott were running in the top 10, thus placing seven of 12 Playoff contenders in the top 10 on the track minus Jones, McDowell and Elliott. Meanwhile, Playoff contenders Reddick, Truex and Bell were in 17th, 18th and 21st while Chastain, who stalled his car due to a throttle position sensor issue and went up the track a few laps earlier, was mired back in 29th after running within the top 10 earlier.
Fifteen laps later, Larson stabilized his lead to more than five seconds over Erik Jones while Hamlin, Blaney and Keselowski remained in the top five. Behind, Buescher was in sixth ahead of Wallace and Byron while McDowell and Elliott were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Reddick, Truex and Bell were back in 16th, 19th and 20th while Chastain was mired in 27th.
A lap later, the caution flew when Suarez spun while trying to enter pit road for service under green as his No. 99 Kubota Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 stalled towards the frontstretch grass before he proceeded. By then, Reddick made a pit stop under green but lost a lap in the process as he would use the wave around to cycle back on the lead lap and restart towards the tail end of the field. During the caution period, the lead lap field led by Larson pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Larson edged Jones off of pit road to retain the lead while Keselowski, Hamlin, Blaney, Wallace and Buescher followed suit. Amid the pit stops, Blaney was sent to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road.
With the race restarting with 53 laps remaining, Larson and Jones dueled for the lead through the frontstretch until Larson muscled ahead from the inside lane to clear Jones and lead from the first two turns through the backstretch. As Larson maintained the lead back to the frontstretch, Hamlin settled in third ahead of Keselowski while Wallace and Buescher battled for fifth in front of Byron and Briscoe. With Wallace stuck in between Keselowski and Buescher in fifth, Larson stretched his advantage to more than a second over Jones with 50 laps remaining.
With 35 laps remaining, Larson continued to extend his advantage as he was leading by more than four seconds over Erik Jones while Hamlin, Keselowski and Wallace were in the top five. Behind, Byron was in sixth ahead of Buescher while Briscoe, Harvick, Elliott, Chastain, Bowman, Preece, Bell and Reddick were running in the top 15. Meanwhile, Truex was in 17th and Blaney, following his late pit road speeding penalty, was mired in 23rd in between Allmendinger and McDowell.
Then with 25 laps remaining, the caution flew when JJ Yeley spun and wrecked entering the backstretch. During the caution period, some, led by Jones and including Hamlin, Buescher and Keselowski pitted while the rest led by Larson and including Wallace, Byron, Briscoe, Harvick, Elliott, Chastain, Bowman, Preece, Bell, Reddick, Harrison Burton, Stenhouse, McDowell and Cindric remained on the track.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Larson and Wallace dueled for the lead through the frontstretch, the first two turns and the backstretch as the field behind jostled for positions. Through Turns 3 and 4, Wallace and Larson remained dead even for the lead as Wallace barely led the following lap over Larson. Then entering Turn 1 and amid the tight side-by-side battle for the lead, Wallace took the air off of Larson’s car, which got Larson sideways as he spun backwards, pounded the outside wall and emerged with significant rear-end damage. With Larson limping his damaged No. 5 Chevrolet back to pit road, Wallace retained the lead ahead of Byron while Briscoe, Elliott and Preece were scored in the top five. Amid his pit crew’s attempt to repair the car, Larson overran the Damaged Vehicle Policy clock and was officially ruled out of the race.
“[Wallace] did a good job to stay with me on the restart through [Turns] 3 and 4,” Larson said in the infield care center. “I was trying to have my shape into [Turn] 1. With these cars, you don’t really get sucked around like that, so I wasn’t really expecting it. [I] Thought that I would be fine. We just went in there side-by-side and I lost it really quickly and crashed. Pretty bummed.”
Down to the final 13 laps of the event, the race restarted under green as Wallace and Byron occupied the front row. At the start, Wallace rocketed his No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota TRD Camry ahead with the lead from the outside lane while the field behind scrambled, fanned out and jostled for positions. Through the backstretch, Briscoe made his way into the runner-up spot while Elliott and Byron battled for third place. Then just as Wallace was making his way back to the frontstretch with a steady lead, the caution returned amid a multi-car wreck that started when both Reddick and Jones slid up and hit the outside wall, with Jones getting hit by Blaney as Zane Smith, Cindric, Allmendinger, Hocevar and Truex wrecked across the frontstretch.
During the following restart with six laps remaining, Wallace and Briscoe dueled for the lead entering Turns 1 and 2 before Briscoe nearly got loose underneath Wallace entering the backstretch. With both Wallace and Briscoe remaining dead even for the lead through the backstretch, Byron darted his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 beneath both and overtook Briscoe before nearly making contact with Wallace as Wallace tried to block entering Turn 3. Byron, though, used the inside lane to his advantage as he muscled past Wallace entering the frontstretch and assumed the lead.
During the following lap and with Byron leading, Chastain navigated his No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 past Wallace for the runner-up spot as Wallace went up the track and had to fend off Elliott for third place. In the process, Bell made his way up to fourth as he tried to challenge Wallace for third while Briscoe, Harvick, Hamlin and Elliott battled for fourth. Amid the battles, Byron stretched his advantage to more than a second over Chastain while Wallace and Bell tried to close back in for the spot. By then, Hamlin, racing on four fresh tires, was making his way into fifth place followed by Harvick, Keselowski and Briscoe.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Byron remained as the leader by more than a second over Chastain. With Chastain and Wallace unable to close the gap, Byron was able to rocket his way around the circuit for a final time and return to the frontstretch victorious by claiming the checkered flag for the sixth time in the 2023 Cup season.
With the victory, Byron notched his 10th career win in NASCAR’s premier series, his first at Texas Motor Speedway in the Cup circuit and his first since winning at Watkins Glen International in August. He also became the first Cup Playoff competitor to punch his ticket into the Round of 8 as he continues his quest to contend for his first Cup Series championship.
Above all, Byron bestowed Hendrick Motorsports, which is in its 40th season in competition and stands as the winningest team in NASCAR history, its 300th Cup Series victory. The 300th Cup victory for HMS occurred more than 11 years after Jimmie Johnson recorded the team’s 200th Cup victory at Darlington Raceway and more than five years after Chase Elliott crowned the team’s 250th victory at Watkins Glen International.
“Man, that’s badass,” Byron said on USA Network. “I finally got a good restart at the end. Number 300 for Hendrick Motorsports. Kyle [Larson] really deserved this one. Those guys were really fast all day. Hate it for them at the end, but man, it was awesome to get our car to the front. It loved clean air. We just fought through traffic all day. Our Liberty University Chevy was just tight back in traffic but had good pace. It was a grind-it-out day. 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.”
“I don’t know if I could even put it into words [on delivering win No. 300 for Hendrick Motorsports],” Byron added. “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, men and women back at Hendrick Motorsports and Mr. Hendrick for his investment into me and telling me at 17 years old that he was gonna take me to Cup racing. This is awesome. We’re definitely gonna enjoy this one.”
While Byron celebrated the milestone victory on the frontstretch and in Victory Lane, Bubba Wallace, who ended up in third place behind Ross Chastain, was left disappointed on pit road after falling six laps short of winning and grabbing an early ticket into the Round of 8 amid his strong performance from start to finish. Nonetheless, the third-place result, which marks Wallace’s fifth top-five result of the season and his highest-recorded finish of this season thus far, currently places him and his No. 23 23XI Racing team in ninth place in the Playoff standings and two points below the top-eight cutline.
“Third time, I fooled myself, starting on top [lane],” Wallace said. “These guys gave me the right information. [Briscoe]’s tight and he sent it off in there, wasn’t gonna stick, but it’s what he’s got to do. We’re racing for a win. Just hate it. I should’ve just kept my line into [Turn] 3 and forced William [Byron] to get tight, but you’re so vulnerable in these cars. Just upset with myself. [I] Really needed a win there. It’s a good showing. I know what I did and I choked. We grinded, come out with a good solid points day, so appreciate everybody’s support and effort. We’ll go on to Talladega.”
Teammates Bell and Hamlin finished in the top five behind Byron, Chastain and Wallace, thus placing five Playoff contenders in the top-five finishing order on the track. Harvick, who was eliminated from the Playoffs last weekend, came home in sixth place while Keselowski, Suarez, Stenhouse and Briscoe completed the top 10 on the track.
Notably, Buescher ended up 14th, Truex settled in 17th, Reddick finished 25th while being the last competitor on the lead lap and Blaney retired in 28th place amid the late multi-car wreck.
There were 22 lead changes for 13 different leaders. The race featured 11 cautions for 55 laps. In addition, 25 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.
1. William Byron, six laps led
2. Ross Chastain, one lap led
3. Bubba Wallace, 111 laps led
4. Christopher Bell
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Daniel Suarez
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10. Chase Briscoe
11. Chase Elliott, one lap led
12. Alex Bowman, one lap led
13. Justin Haley
14. Chris Buescher, two laps led
15. Michael McDowell
16. Carson Hocevar
17. Martin Truex Jr.
18. Aric Almirola
19. Ty Dillon, three laps led
20. Harrison Burton
21. Joey Logano
22. BJ McLeod
23. Ryan Preece
24. Zane Smith
25. Tyler Reddick, 36 laps led, Stage 1 winner
26. Corey LaJoie, five laps down
27. Austin Cindric – OUT, Accident, one lap led
28. Ryan Blaney – OUT, Accident
29. AJ Allmendinger – OUT, Accident, one lap led
30. Erik Jones – OUT, Accident, Accident, three laps led
31. Kyle Larson – OUT, Accident, 99 laps led, Stage 2 winner
32. JJ Yeley – OUT, Accident, two laps led
33. Ty Gibbs – OUT, Accident
34. Kyle Busch – OUT, Dvp
35. Todd Gilliland – OUT, Accident
36. Austin Dillon – OUT, Accident
*Bold indicates Playoff contenders
1. William Byron – Advanced
2. Denny Hamlin +37
3. Chris Buescher +22
4. Christopher Bell +20
5. Martin Truex Jr. +19
6. Ross Chastain +12
7. Brad Keselowski +8
8. Kyle Larson +2
9. Bubba Wallace -2
10. Tyler Reddick -3
11. Ryan Blaney -11
12. Kyle Busch -17
The second Round of 12 event in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is set to occur next Sunday, October 1, at Talladega Superspeedway. The event’s broadcast is slated to occur at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.