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William Byron wins inaugural Cup race on new Atlanta

After decades of being an intermediate track, Atlanta Motor Speedway is now an oddity on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule: it is still an intermediate circuit length-wise at 1.5 miles, but its greatly elevated 28-degree banking—the result of an offseason reconfiguration project—has transformed it into a superspeedway. William Byron, whose first career Cup win came at a superspeedway (Daytona in 2020), is the first premier series winner on the new layout after holding off a late scramble by the field.

A rainout placed Phoenix winner Chase Briscoe on the pole while Harrison Burton was sent to the rear for two failed pre-race inspections.

Stages #1 and 2

Briscoe and Kyle Busch led the early laps before Noah Gragson crashed to bring out the first caution on lap 24. Ross Chastain became the leader on the ensuing restart and continued to lead through the lap 45 competition caution before being responsible for one himself when his right-rear tyre went down and sent him into the wall on lap 94.

The first stage ended under another yellow flag when a larger wreck occurred on lap 100, triggered by Austin Dillon getting clipped by Busch on the tri-oval and collecting Briscoe and Ty Dillon; both Dillon brothers retired from a Cup race for the first time since the 2017 Bristol Night Race. Byron was the leader when the crash happened and therefore received the stage win, with Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suárez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick, and Austin Cindric behind him.

The second stage commenced with Christopher Bell leading Cindric, though Kevin Harvick passed him for first on lap 122. Owing to the more superspeedway nature of the new course, the lead traded hands multiple times as Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Justin Haley, Stenhouse, and Byron worked their way to the front with drafting help.

On lap 145, chaos broke when Reddick got loose in turn four from a flat tyre and spun, ricocheting off Busch and into the outside wall. Larson went sideways and clipped Corey LaJoie, who went airbourne through the tri-oval grass, and other casualties included Cindric, Hamlin, Logano, and Cole Custer. Custer explained shortly after that “the track is so narrow here that they got together up front and everybody stacked up with nowhere to go, so we hit the wall. We didn’t really hit that hard, but it broke some of the right-rear suspension and put us out.”

The next restart led to two laps of racing before a caution for debris.

Byron lost the lead to Stenhouse on lap 185. However, Stenhouse’s day came to an end as the race crossed the 200-lap mark when a flat tyre caused him to spin down the track before being hit by a sliding Cindric; Harvick and Erik Jones also suffered damage in the crash. Ten laps later, Larson and Hamlin wrecked together across the start/finish line.

“I was just trying to help Kyle there and I just needed to let him go off turn four,” commented Hamlin. “The track gets light there, the car starts to lift up and that’s where I needed to back off of him and I just didn’t and spun him out. It is a shame. Our car was really fast. We definitely slowed after the first part of the damage—we were involved in that first wreck.”

The Hamlin/Larson accident ended the second stage under yellow. Blaney won the segment ahead of Elliott, Briscoe, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Suárez, Truex, Bubba Wallace, Byron, and Chastain.

Stage #3

Suárez and Truex paced the field to the start of the final stage. The former led the first twelve laps before Truex and Elliott spent time in front. A debris caution on lap 253 led to Almirola spending time in front before Byron cleared him on lap 262.

As the race entered the 300s, Todd Gilliland hit the wall and Greg Biffle turned Cody Ware as the group bunched up. Ware briefly went into the air, which prevented him from using his brakes as he slammed into the inside wall on the backstretch. Another restart on lap 306 saw just one lap before Almirola was spun through the tri-oval following a strong push from Trackhouse Racing Team‘s Chastain and Suárez.

The final restart came with thirteen laps remaining as Byron and Jones lined up on the inside while best friends Wallace and Blaney led the outside. The latter duo cleared the field which allowed Wallace to begin blocking both lanes for three circuits before Byron found a run on the inside groove to shoot to the lead at the ten-to-go mark.

The leaders organised into single file, though some drivers like Elliott tried to break formation and get a run to no avail. As they began the final lap, Wallace received a strong enough push from Blaney to keep pace with Byron while Chastain attempted his own move on the inside that shuffled Blaney back.

With two rows once again, Wallace’s hopes of winning disappeared when he got loose while trying to reconnect with Blaney on the outside which caused the two to brush the wall with Briscoe in tow. In the opposite lane, Bell dove down Chastain’s inside but went below the white line separating the track and apron, resulting in a penalty. With Bell and Chastain battling each other, Byron developed enough of a cushion to take his third career victory.

As the field reached the finish, Chris Buescher was hit by Haley while vying for sixth, causing him to shoot up into the pack while Haley collided with Wallace, with all three drivers slamming into the outside wall.

Although Bell beat Chastain for second, the penalty relegated him to twenty-third and the last car on the lead lap. Consequently, Chastain secured his third straight top-three finish. Kurt Busch, the last pre-reconfiguration Atlanta winner, was third and LaJoie secured a career-best fifth while sliding backwards after being caught in the wreck.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 12 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 325 Running
2 7 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 325 Running
3 9 45 Kurt Busch 23XI Racing Toyota 325 Running
4 13 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 325 Running
5 33 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 325 Running
6 6 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 325 Running
7 14 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 325 Running
8 26 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 325 Running
9 3 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 325 Running
10 11 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 325 Running
11 22 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 325 Running
12 24 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 325 Running
13 19 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 325 Running
14 23 43 Erik Jones Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet 325 Running
15 1 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 325 Running
16 36 77 Josh Bilicki* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 325 Running
17 2 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 325 Running
18 35 15 David Ragan Rick Ware Racing Ford 325 Running
19 34 78 B.J. McLeod Live Fast Motorsports Ford 325 Running
20 37 44 Greg Biffle NY Racing Team Chevrolet 325 Running
21 8 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 325 Running
22 10 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 325 Running
23 27 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 325 Running
24 29 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 321 Running
25 31 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 321 Running
26 32 51 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Ford 300 Accident
27 25 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 297 DVP
28 5 8 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 245 Accident
29 15 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 212 Accident
30 21 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 212 Accident
31 28 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 200 Accident
32 16 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 200 Accident
33 4 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 171 Accident
34 20 41 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 150 Accident
35 17 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 101 Accident
36 18 42 Ty Dillon Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet 101 Accident
37 30 16 Noah Gragson* Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 23 Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points

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