The 2023 EchoPark Automotive Group 400 from Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday (Sept. 24) appeared decided with 21 laps to go. Kyle Larson appeared to have Hendrick Motorsports’ 300th win wrapped up.
Then the caution came out and as it tends to do in this sport, everything changed.
In the end, it was William Byron who captured the landmark win for the venerated race team. It’s Byron’s sixth win of the season and locked him into the next round of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, meaning he’ll have no worries at Talladega or the Charlotte ROVAL the next two weeks.
“Kyle really deserved this one, I gotta say. 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 fought through traffic all day and our Liberty University Chevrolet was just tight back in traffic, but had good pace,” Byron told NBC Sports.
“I’m really proud of this one, as hot as it was and as tough as it was, so we’ll take it and move on to the next round.”
Wallace, despite many pundits doubting his ability to transfer to the next round, was a threat to win all day long. His 111 laps led were a career high and he sits just below the cut line heading into one of his best tracks.
“I just hate it,” a disappointed Wallace told NBC Sports. “I should’ve just kept my line going into [turn] 3 and force William to get tight, but you’re so vulnerable in these cars right? I’m just upset with myself. Really needed a win there.”
The extreme heat in Texas wasn’t the only issue playoff drivers battled today, as several found themselves in big trouble heading into the next race.
There were 11 total cautions for cause on the day for 55 laps, and several involved those aforementioned playoff contenders.
Kyle Busch was the first to falter, as he spun his No. 8 Chevrolet on lap 74. He finished in dead last and is currently the driver furthest from the playoff cut line.
Larson spun on the restart and smashed the outside wall with 21 laps to go, failing to finish the event, leaving him barely over the cut line in eighth. He did, however, win stage two, which helped ease the blow to his postseason hopes a little.
Tyler Reddick won stage one, but a poorly-timed caution put him in a bad position late in the race. Reddick finished 25th.
Martin Truex Jr. again found himself trying to salvage his day at the end of stage one, when he was bumped as the field slowed down and spun into turn 1. Truex’s car had a little bit of diffuser damage that wasn’t serious, so he was able to continue on. He finished 17th, which has been par for the course lately for the 2017 champion.
Ryan Blaney was a casualty of the final caution of the day and finished nine laps down in 28th. He gathered some stage points, but that was about the only positive of the day for the No. 12 team, as their car was off the pace for much of the event.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday (Oct. 1). Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
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