William Byron passed Bubba Wallace in a six-lap shootout in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400, winning Sunday’s opening race of NASCAR’s Round of 12 playoff at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Byron’s sixth win of 2023 secured the No. 24 driver a spot in the Round of 8. It was the 10th of his career.
The victory was the 300th for Hendrick Motorsports — the most by any team in NASCAR history.
“I finally got a good restart at the end,” said Byron, who restarted fourth. “We just fought through traffic all day. We were tight back in traffic, but we had good pace. … It was a grind-it-out day.”
Rounding out the top-five finishers were Ross Chastain, Wallace, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin.
Wallace led a career-high 111 laps but admitted he made a mistake by restarting in the top lane.
“The third time I fooled myself starting on top,” said the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota driver. “I’m just upset (with) myself. Really needed a win, good showing. … I know what I did, and I choked.”
Leader Kyle Larson lost the air of his Chevrolet and crashed while racing door-to-door with Wallace inside the final 20 laps and finished 31st.
Playoff competitor Kyle Busch spun by himself and finished 34th, leaving him in last place of the 12 championship-seeking drivers.
Wallace, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney and Busch occupy the bottom four spots outside the eight drivers who will advance after the next two races (Talladega, Charlotte road course).
Following his second career pole-winning starting spot, Wallace guided the field for most of Stage 1, which included the first caution period when Austin Dillon crashed Lap 42.
Disaster struck at the 1.5-mile slick speedway in the laps approaching the end of the 80-circuit segment.
Busch lost control of his No. 8 Chevrolet entering Turn 1 for the race’s fourth caution — driving it backwards on the apron over half a lap back to the pits.
After receiving pit service during the caution period, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Ty Gibbs made major contact on pit road.
A third JGR car, Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 19 Toyota, was then hit from behind after Stage 1 soon came to an end.
The segment’s bonus points went to Reddick, the defending race winner who stayed out earlier for track position while the front of the field pitted.
With just over 20 laps left in Stage 2, Larson maneuvered his No. 5 Chevrolet past Wallace on Lap 143 and raced on to the bonus points.
Larson used the point position and its clean air to set a very quick pace around TMS, which was hosting just one event for the third consecutive season.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver had a six-second lead when Daniel Suarez spun into the grass with 59 laps left.
–Field Level Media